Fighters Uncaged marks Kinect’s first foray into the underground street-fighting genre, using full body tracking to allow you to punch dudes with all the limp-wristed apathy you can muster. After a lengthy and unskippable practice sequence with your brain-damaged trainer (which takes the best part of a half hour to burn through,) you’re expected to use the immense power of your own spindly body to introduce an array of scumbag stereotypes to the ground, but the more likely scenario is that you’ll end up in the foetal position after pulling a hamstring.
The back of the game’s box boasts that there are ‘over 70 brutal attacks to master’, and while this statement is technically accurate, the horrendous tracking will make all but the most simple of moves almost impossible to pull off. Fighters Uncaged seems to have a lot of trouble differentiating kicks from punches, and you will run into a lot of situations where a kick of your leg will somehow translate to an uppercut on screen. Anyone hoping to just step right in and windmill until the other guy kisses the dirt are also going to find disappointment. Much of the actual gameplay is built on a simple block and evade system that sees you avoiding strikes (by leaning back or lifting your knees) until your opponent is worn out, opening up opportunities for you to throw some hesitant punches and kicks when his guard is down. This seems to detract from the nature of street fighting as a vicious, brutal bloodsport, turning it into more a game of patience and tactics that soon outstays it’s welcome.
The steep difficulty curve is bound to turn most people off after the initial novelty of pseudo-physical violence wears off. At some of the higher tiers, the enemies skill and speed became so physically demanding that the only thing I wanted to punch was the developers face. The main problem is that there seems to be no direct link between you and what’s happening on screen. Often, you’ll pull off one of your special moves without ever knowing how you did it.
If you look real closely beneath the uneven game-play and the charmingly ostentatious battle cries (‘Show me your MOVES!’ and ‘Watch out for my fist!’ being two of the best,) a halfway-decent fighting game is lurking down there somewhere. There is most definitely some auxiliary fun to be had with Fighters Uncaged‘s broken tracking system, mostly coming from winning fights by flailing like an epileptic squid, but not even these belly laughs can stop Ubisoft’s punch-em-up from aiming well above it’s weight class.