Rather than build on the already solid analog control scheme they’d honed to near perfection, EA took Facebreaker in a totally different direction and mapped all the action to the face buttons on the controller. Even worse, the game plays out as a giant game of Ro-Sham-Bo, meaning heavy swings get interrupted by light hits, etc. Even things such as dodging or parrying your opponents punishing blows are mapped to the same buttons as your attack. For example, if you are in the middle of receiving a flurry of punches from your opponent (this happens a lot) the way you break their flow is by holding down the punch button that you think they are attacking with. So if they are hitting up high, you hold down your high punch button and pray that you chose correctly – if you didn’t be prepared for at least three more shots to connect with your face or body before your character recovers. Yes, this means that matches can end in seconds if you time your shots correctly and work out a perfect pattern of dodging and punching. Sadly this usually means taking a severe beating many times which amps up frustration levels to controller snapping levels. But I will admit, when you figure out a pattern and take down an opponent, it’s a satisfying experience – too bad it’s so few and far between even on medium.
The game features a single player campaign where you work though various belt levels to win that particular championship. Each of these ladder challenges get extremely difficult and thanks to the imposed limit on number of times you may get a rematch, you might find yourself starting at the beginning of a belt challenge more often than you will find yourself actually in the championship bout. Online play is also present, but sadly the number of players must have been quite small and connecting to an online opponent was a futile exercise for the most part, but when you do connect it is a chaotic battle of button mashing, with the fun factor quite low.
Graphically Facebreaker removed the photo realism that the Fight Night series had and replaces it with an exaggerated cell-shaded look. For the most part this works wonderfully thanks to the high level of facial distortion that occurs as boxing matches progress, with one small caveat. The game also features the option to import your own face into the game via the Xbox Live Camera or a preexisting photo that you upload to the EA servers, not unlike the process that Tiger Woods 2009 uses. In fact, I used the same image that already was on the server for this title and it worked out great. The issue here is that the cartoony graphic style mixed with the importing of your own face makes for a strange combination of visual styles, and it’s a little disconcerting to watch your own face get distorted and bruised beyond recognition when you inevitably get pummeled.
The audio is nothing really to get overly excited about, the soundtrack is generic and a non-entity really with boring rock and hip-hop playing while you’re getting your ass kicked. The punches however do really demonstrate the impact, and you feel each and every shot providing you’ve got a subwoofer hooked up to your system. The voice work is merely adequate for the game with stereotypical voices for the characters and some cheesy commentary by the ring announcer.
The achievements for Facebreaker are extremely difficult to obtain – such as complete Brawl for it All (a mode of play) without being knocked down on a very tough level. This is going to be something that requires a lot of practice and effort to obtain. A small portion of the points will be obtained by simply playing the game in its normal modes but the real high value points will be very difficult for most gamers to get – thanks to the high frustration levels this title has.
If you’re looking for a good boxing title, Fight Night Round 3 still takes the cake until the next version comes out. Facebreaker should be reserved to only the very dedicated and level headed gamer, as the enjoyment level goes from quite high to excruciatingly not fun in a matter of seconds. Personally, I would advise people to avoid this title as I found it plain and simply not a fun game to play, but some sadists out there might get some pleasure from it. But I say skip it.