Beat Down: Fists of Vengeance Update

We check out an updated version of the PlayStation 2 game, and we get our hands on the Xbox version too.

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Beat Down: Fists of Vengeance
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We got our first look at Capcom's upcoming Beat Down: Fists of Vengeance earlier this year in Las Vegas at the publisher's January press event. The third-person-action game, developed in conjunction with Cavia, appeared to be a mix of the brawling that called to mind old-school classics such as Capcom's own Final Fight series. It also included more-modern touches, such as character customization, and elements more akin to an action RPG. Though the work-in-progress PlayStation 2 game we tried out at the event offered a decent teaser, we were fortunate enough to play an updated version of the PS2 game, as well as the Xbox version for the first time.

The PlayStation 2 version was in a much more complete state than it was in Las Vegas, and it incorporated a number of cinematics that set the stage for Beat Down's gritty tale of vengeance. The opening cinematic introduced us to the principle characters in Beat Down's narrative: top members of a Mafia cartel who get a deadly pink slip. The five pros are double-crossed by their boss, the ruthless Zanetti, and nearly killed when he sets them up. Your goal is to kick a lot of ass on your way to taking Zanetti down. Of course, taking down a kingpin like Zanetti isn't going to be easy, so you'll have to find the right mix of brains and brawn to make it happen.

The game's mission-based structure is a good fit for the long road to taking down your former boss. Your home base will be a local bar called The Hole, where you'll hang out and manage your characters. When you're ready to move on, you can get a mission and set out to do your business. You'll build up a crew to run with and be able to do some self-improvement, both externally and internally, along the way. You'll start out as an infamous "nobody" that the police and rival cartels are eager to kill. Aside from your four comrades, you're out of luck when it comes to company at the start of the game. The whole gang parts ways in order to avoid its rivals and the law, which forces you to build yourself a new collection of folks anxious for some revenge and some crime on the streets of Las Sombras.

In terms of content, Beat Down will offer the same basic experience on both the PlayStation 2 and the Xbox. The updated version of the PS2 game we checked out was in a much more complete state than when we saw it in Las Vegas, and this time it featured a number of new elements. The roster of playable characters now featured all five members of the cast. Raven and Aaron, the two male characters we saw in Vegas, were joined by two ladies, Gina and Lola, and Jason G, an African American. Each one features a unique fighting style that can be upgraded as you make your way through the game and earn experience.

You'll get to exact bloody vengeance on the Mafia boss who wronged you.
You'll get to exact bloody vengeance on the Mafia boss who wronged you.

The updated version also featured some new elements to the heads-up display, namely the Mafia and police bars. Each bar represents your notoriety with those groups in the game. The higher the percentage of one group, the easier it will be for them to spot you, which will lead to much violence and mayhem. You'll have to be careful of your actions while on a mission, because if you're careless you could have both groups angry at you, which will make your life very difficult. If you happen to get on everyone's bad side--and odds are you will once you start getting a taste for the mayhem you can cause while out and about--you can choose to lay low until everyone mellows out, visit the local shop and buy yourself a new set of threads, or visit the hospital . While the local Mafia and police may be irked at the punk in the jeans and T-shirt who was acting like a fool, they'll be indifferent to the dude with the pimping outfit and all-new face.

When you do get into fights, Beat Down handles well on both platforms, thanks to a basic array of attacks that you can combine into more-powerful combos. Each character will be able to punch, kick, and throw an enemy, although the speed, reach, and animation will vary according to the fighter's stats. Mixing up your attacks will yield combos that will dole out a useful amount of damage. You'll also be able to perform special moves that pack a more-powerful punch.

The battles you'll engage in will come in different varieties that call for different approaches. When walking the streets you'll face off against mobs made up of three or more characters, which will require you to divide your attention among assorted foes. In other cases, you'll face off in one-on-one combat that plays out like a traditional fighting game with the camera pulled in close. Thankfully, you'll be able to pick up just about anything that's handy, like bats, girders--you name it--and get your beat on. At the end of certain fights you'll have the option to either beat, rob, or ask your opponent to join your crew. The ability to roll with up to two other friends helps greatly during some of the more-intense battles you'll find yourself in. If your main character should fall in battle, you'll be able to fight on using one of the other members of your crew who's currently with you, which is nice.

The visuals in both games weren't quite in sync with one another yet. The PS2 version was farther along than its Xbox cousin and featured a richer look. The environments were more detailed and the characters looked a little sharper in the PS2 game. We were also able to get a better look at the city you'll be roaming through in the game's 10 chapters. There's also a solid amount of variety in the game considering its city setting. Frame rate was solid on both platforms and should stay good and smooth in the final game. Though the Xbox game trailed a bit, we expect it to look on par with, if not slightly better than, its PS2 counterpart.

Keep an eye out for Beat Down when it hits shelves later this year.
Keep an eye out for Beat Down when it hits shelves later this year.

Based on what we've seen so far, Beat Down is shaping up to be a unique offering from Capcom, which is definitely a change of pace from standard beat-'em-ups. The brawling aspect of the game is fun, and the leveling up and customization elements are good too. Both the PlayStation 2 and Xbox games are coming along well and should be something that brawler fans will want to keep an eye out for. The lack of any multiplayer option is a downer, but there's still a lot to like here. Beat Down: Fists of Vengeance is currently slated to ship later this year for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox.

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