Final Fight: Streetwise Hands-On
We reacquaint ourselves with an old friend or two as we check out a work-in-progress version of Capcom's upcoming brawler.
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Final Fight: Streetwise is a third-person action game that promises to combine the accessible beat-'em-up gameplay for which the Final Fight series is known with a strong narrative and a living, breathing Metro City to explore. You'll assume the role of a young and gifted pit fighter named Kyle, who's the brother of Final Fight lifer Cody. We recently had an opportunity to spend some time with a work-in-progress demo version of the game and, although the code was more than a little rough around the edges, we had some fun with it and are really intrigued to see how the game finishes up.
Moments after stepping into Kyle's shoes, you'll find yourself in the middle of a Fight Club-style pit fight against a mountain of a man named Handsome Bob. Bob isn't nearly as tough as he looks, and we found that, although our demo version of Final Fight: Streetwise didn't feature a tutorial of any description, the encounter afforded us ample opportunity to get a feel for the game's uncomplicated controls. After beating Bob to a pulp, we were treated to a cutscene in which Cody's vague response to one of Kyle's questions suggests that he has gotten himself into some kind of trouble. The brothers part company and arrange to meet up later at a bar at the end of the scene, at which point you'll have your first opportunity to explore and meet the inhabitants of Metro City.
In our demo version of Final Fight: Streetwise, we were only able to explore a relatively small area of the city known as "Kyle's Hood," but we have no doubt that the subway station there will be used to travel to other neighborhoods in the finished game, including Pier District, Japantown, and Little Italy. The area of the city that we were free to roam around boasted plenty of dimly lit alleys for gangs of thugs to jump us in, and a handful of stores and other buildings that we could enter. Some of the buildings, such as the bar (where Cody gets into trouble), the diner (where you can play a cockroach-stomping minigame), and the porn theater, really only serve a purpose when the storyline dictates that you visit them. Others, such as the gym (where you can purchase new moves and stat upgrades), the pawn shop (specializing in weapons), and the electronics store (which sells additional songs for the licensed soundtrack), can be visited anytime that the time of day in-game means they're open.
One of the most interesting features of Metro City is undoubtedly its population, which in the area that we explored appeared to be composed primarily of gang members, businessmen, homeless drunks, and hookers. There were plenty of generic-looking nobodies wandering the streets as well, but since they rarely had anything more interesting than "Wassup, playa?" to say, we tried to ignore them for the most part. The more interesting characters that we encountered--regardless of the fact that their actions were clearly scripted--were those who really appeared to be going about their everyday (illegal) activities when we happened across them. Memorable examples from our time with the game included two guys in the middle of a drug deal, a thug snatching a woman's purse, and a gang of three thugs beating up a young guy. On each of those occasions we received a modest amount of money for intervening, and subsequently saw Kyle's level of respect in the neighborhood improve.
Quite how large a part respect will play in the finished version of Final Fight: Streetwise isn't clear at this time, but we can report that its effect on many of the Metro City inhabitants in our demo was quite noticeable--almost to the point of being irritating. At the start of the game, most of the non-player characters we encountered were content to go about their business of aimlessly wandering around the city and leave us alone. As their respect for Kyle's fighting skills and demeanor improved, though, they seemed compelled to approach and say hello at almost every opportunity. There's nothing wrong with people being friendly, of course, and it'll make a nice change from every guy in Metro City trying to start a fight, if it happens only occasionally in the finished game. It happens quite frequently in the demo version, though, and the result is that friendly characters can end up getting accidentally clobbered, which has a negative effect on your respect level. Red and green arrows above the heads of potentially dangerous and harmless characters, respectively, make it easy to identify threats as you walk around, but in the heat of a fight it can be a little trickier.
To talk much more about Final Fight: Streetwise's main single-player mode would be to risk giving away what we know of its storyline. What we can tell you, though, is that if the very thought of a story-driven Final Fight in a free-roaming environment turns you off for some reason, you might prefer the game's more conventional arcade mode for one or two players. Devoid of conversations, side quests, and such, the arcade mode uses the same environments as the story mode, but forces you to fight your way through them in a linear fashion as Kyle, Cody, or one of two unlockable characters. You'll still get to collect weapons, food, and valuable items dropped by enemies along the way, but the gameplay is more fast-paced and, changing camera angles aside, it's quite reminiscent of the original arcade game.
Final Fight: Streetwise is currently scheduled for release on the PlayStation 2 and the Xbox in February. We'll bring you more information on the game as soon as it becomes available.