Cool Concept, Lousy Execution
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When I think of fighting games with role playing elements mixed in, only three words come to mind: River City Ransom. By far one of the best (and most underrated) games to ever come out for the Nintendo Entertainment System, RCR allowed the two main characters to build up their attributes and special moves.
While it might seem a bit like micromanagement, RCR made it simple, and most importantly, it was just fun. Even the Game Boy Advance remake was able to keep the enjoyment high.
That, however, cannot be said for Capcom's Beatdown: Fist of Vengeance. For a game that tries to mix fighting with RPG, it does so well. The only problem is, it's nowhere near as fun as RCR.
Players assume the role of one of five ex-mobsters. As far as the story goes, the mobster the player chooses has been betrayed and one or more of the others (that you are not playing at the time) might be a traitor. Whatever the case, it's time for some serious payback. All the while, the player is trying to hide from both the police and the Zanetti mob, who they used to work for before being setup to take a fall in a big way.
Most of the action takes place in a town square setting. It might look a little like running around in the GTA series, but the locales are much smaller and new areas require loading time. NPC characters will either talk to you, or depending on the wanted levels, might end up attacking you.
Fights take place either as a one on one conflict, or a gang based attack. During one on one fights, there is also a pride meter that when drained can offer a choice of options. You can recruit a weakened foe to your gang, rob them of their money, interrogate them for critical information, or execute a "beatdown" (we have a title here!). The last command will pummel the foe to death, but will also cause the authorities to come after you. I like to do the beatdowns when I am at 100 percent warrant levels anyway, because there is no real penalty.
But its probably better to rob people, since they will be alive later to rob again, or to recruit them. Other NPCs can be recruited to join your gang (up to two NPCs can join at any time), and are accessible via a black list. Once recruited, gang members can be selected at will. They run around and will participate in gang fights, so if you can manage to beat up one of the stronger characters in the game, it will be a big advantage to you moving forward cause they will then work for you.
As your wanted meter goes up (both for the police and the Zanetti mob), it can be lowered by changing your clothing or physical appearance. Surely this is another idea taken from the GTA series, but doesn't work as well. The same can be said about the actual fighting. The camera is constantly spinning around and makes concentrating on attacks a pain. Capcom fighters are usually quite deep but accessible. Sadly this is not the case here. The back of the case actually states "Capcom Style Fighting at it's most intense."
Sadly there is no fine print stating "Not available in this game."
The overall appearance to the game is drab. While the game is very fast, there is little depth in the background. Characters have some acceptable detail, but they all look the same.
Limitation affects the soundtrack as well. There is almost no variety at all. Voiceacting is hilarious; in this case is hilariously bad. Anyone who thought Capcom couldn't do any worse in acting than the original Resident Evil needs to hear this.
While I do like the idea of a fighter with RPG elements, Beatdown just doesn't cut it. Those who want to enjoy an excellent Capcom fighting game, stick with the original Final Fight arcade game. Those who want RPG in their fighting game, either locate an NES or GBA copy of River City Ransom. It is a better offer than Beatdown can ever be.
Todd Hargosh is GiN's Product Testing Manager. He enjoys any game that gets his adrenaline pumping. Todd can be contacted at : firstname.lastname@example.org.