The Con's fighting isn't strong enough on its own, but the betting concept is compelling enough to draw you in a little deeper than you might otherwise be drawn.
- Interesting betting mechanic
- Good counter system.
- Fights against the AI are a little predictable
- Goofy music doesn't mesh with gameplay
- Story is pretty dumb.
While you might take a quick look at The Con and assume it's a standard 3D fighting game, there's both less and more to it than that, depending on which aspect you're looking at. The actual fighting is more like a boxing game--your feet are firmly planted, and your movement is limited to ducks and sways. But the whole point of The Con is that you're betting on all the fights. And you don't necessarily have to bet on yourself to win.
The shady aspect of The Con comes up in its story mode, where you're controlling a team of three fighters--custom-built using a fairly robust character creation system--and attempting to rise through the street-fighting ranks to reach "the big time." To get to the top, you'll need to raise your respect level by winning fights. But you'll also need a large chunk of cash. How you earn that cash, and how long it takes you to stack a grip, depends on how you play the game. Earning money is accomplished by betting on the fights, but how and when you bet on those fights is the difference between chump change and some serious cash. Before each fight, you're shown the odds for each fighter, and you can bet on either one. So if the other fighter is a bit of a long shot, you can bet on him and then throw the fight. But you can also attempt to pump the odds in either direction, because the odds change during the fight. You can opt to hold the bet off well into the fight, which gives you time to either look really sharp early on so you can take a fall at the end, or take a bunch of shots early on and then come back and win after the bet is placed.
Doing this effectively requires you to put on a good show, and the L trigger is used for those sorts of theatrics. Holding L while fighting makes your hits do next to no damage to the other fighter. Tapping L just as you're hit causes you to drop your guard and take the hit as hard as you possibly can, doing extra damage and selling the fake fight to the crowd. The odds and betting aspects are interesting pieces of The Con, though since you're trying to earn respect while you fight, and winning fights is how you earn that respect, throwing fights isn't such a hot idea. Losing also tends to do more damage to your fighters, which means you'll have to rest them more between fights, instead of constantly training up their statistics. There's a story to be found in the story mode, but it's the sort of bad that makes you want to immediately ignore it and focus on the raw numbers of your cash flow, fighter statistics, and rank.
Fighting your way to the top requires a lot of fights. The action in The Con is just good enough to keep you interested, but once you get the hang of it, it's not terribly exciting. The action is set up like a boxing game, and the only movement control you have is for swaying and ducks. The four face buttons are mapped to left and right shots that can come in either high or low. The game has a combo system, and when you're building a custom fighter, you can go in and edit these combos to make them longer and more damaging as you progress. Defense is mostly done by either dodging attacks or attempting to counter them with the R trigger. The system is similar to the Just Defend system in Mark of the Wolves, so you have to time your guard just right to shove an attack aside, which usually leaves you with an opening. If you time your button press perfectly, you get an autocounter that does a big, flashy move. You can also attempt and counter throws. The entire system is easy to learn and, as it turns out, pretty easy to master, too. You'll just need to figure out what the attacks and combos from the game's various fighting styles look like as they're coming in, so you'll know when to time your counters.
In addition to fighting in story mode, you can use your created character or some premade characters in a quick fight mode, which has survival and time attack offshoots. The game also has ad hoc multiplayer, so two players can go at it. If both players own the game, you can wager some of the items you've purchased in the story mode. But you can also play with one copy via game sharing. Since human players tend to be less predictable than the game's artificially intelligent fighters, playing with someone is a little more entertaining.
The game's behind-the-back, almost Punch-Out!!-like presentation looks nice, but it doesn't always work so well in terms of showcasing the action. Your fighter will become transparent when blocking your view of the other fighter, but it's still sometimes a little hard to get a feel for how you should time your counters against kicks, since the game doesn't do a great job with perspective. The leg just sort of sticks out, and you aren't given a very good view of how it's moving. Regardless, the characters look nice and bulky, like big street fighters should. They animate reasonably well, and the game runs at a good pace.
The sound in The Con is subpar. That's mostly the fault of the cheesy, fake-sounding funk that makes up the majority of the game's soundtrack. The cutscenes in the story mode show off some speech, but most of it's pretty lousy. The hits and smacks that come from the fights sound OK, but overall, it's not a particularly good-sounding game.
All in all, The Con's fighting isn't strong enough on its own, but the betting concept is compelling enough to draw you in a little deeper than you might otherwise be drawn. Unfortunately, the game's story is pretty weak, so unless you're into leveling up fighters for the sake of it, The Con's not a game you'll spend too much time with.