Version tested: PlayStation 2
So Ignition and SNK have seen fit to release a pair of new King Of Fighters games on the same day. We're not sure what the logic behind this move was but we will say this - error. Presumably the idea was to satisfy both fans of more traditional 2D battling while simultaneously laying something on for those fully immersed in the deluded concept that polygons are synonymous with quality. With so many advances in the 3D fighting market since its creation, the extra dimension is far from the only difference between the two - games like Virtua Fighter simply cannot be compared to Street Fighter and its ilk because the two are excellent in their own very different fields. The mistake that Maximum Impact 2 makes is overlooking the now gaping divide between 2D and 3D beat-'em-ups and, for this folly, it pays a pretty steep price.
Rather than slotting in alongside the best 3D fighters of today, Maximum Impact 2 harks back to the early days of the PSone when pretty much every developer coughed up an ugly blocky fighting game based on classic Street Fighter principles. To try and distance itself from this wash of horrific memories, SNK has loaded MI2 with Tekken-style chain combos to really complicate matters. These can all be linked very easily into special moves and supers, meaning that all the game really entails is two people trading needlessly flashy strings of attacks that can't be avoided after the first cheeky jab invariably lands. This in turn waves goodbye to the feeling of accomplishment you get from pulling off a tricky chain with Akira in VF or a dazzling display of Dudley skills in 3rd Strike - anyone can do the most technical stuff on offer here and even newcomers will do so accidentally from time to time.
Given how well most modern fighters make use of that extra dimension, button press sidesteps have become an anachronism and aside from getting out of the way of fireballs or sluggish attacks, these serve little purpose. Despite what the name might suggest, this really isn't a King Of Fighters game. There are characters and moves present from SNK's iconic series, sure, but cluttered as it is with unnecessary inclusions and horrific voice work, this really isn't how fans will want to see their favourite fighters portrayed. Horrible chitter-chatter fills most matches with ear-splitting noise and many of the fighters, particularly in their 'Another' costumes, just look plain wrong. Seminal badass Rock Howard is re-imagined with metre-wide shoulders while even mystery man Iori can't keep quiet, babbling away with constant cries of 'What's wrong?' and 'That's it?' reminding us of Raphael in Soul Calibur III's amazing arsenal of taunts such as 'Where are you going?' and 'What a joke!' The key difference here is that Raphael's quips were there to provoke opponents, while Iori and co just have chronic verbal diarrhoea.
Story mode is as you might expect from such a retro fighting game, with your chosen fighter finding various arbitrary reason to get into a scrap until you reach a suitably overpowered boss. The Challenge menu, meanwhile, houses far more interesting options, from unique one-off events like trashing a Metal Slug to more traditional beat-'em-up staples like time attack and survival modes. Many of these will unlock extra costume colours for the character used, and there are a hell of a lot of these palette changes to earn for those with the will to do so. Amusing in the short term, certainly, but even these extra options can't save what is fundamentally a poor fighting game.
Maximum Impact 2 feels so incredibly sloppy and dated that the only real benefit of its existence is highlighting just how great sister title KOF XI really is by comparison. The fact that no 2D fighting series has yet embraced a third dimension with any real degree of success remains unchanged by this rather poor brawler, but at least fans of the series have XI to entertain them as they ignore this lacklustre alternative.
As we mentioned before, it's just not King Of Fighters. Series fans will pick up on this in moments while those less familiar with SNK's long-running franchise have no reason to put down Virtua Fighter, Tekken or Soul Calibur as Maximum Impact 2 offers absolutely nothing over these great existing examples of the genre. It's better than the first Maximum Impact, which is something, but only the most sheltered of gamer will be able to spend anything more than a couple of hours with this before reaching for something substantially more polished, versatile and enjoyable.
4 / 10