Capcom, the original masters of fighting games has released a free roam beat em' up game aptly titled, Beat Down: Fists of Vengeance. If you've ever wanted to experience running through a corrupt city taking out the trash one punch at a time, now is your chance. Step into the shoes of one of five brash fighting machines in Las Sombras.

The Game
Beat Down: Fists of Vengeance is the newest attempt to put the beat em' up genre back on top like it was back in the late 80s, early 90s with Streets of Rage and Double Dragon. Of course Beat Down leaps past these two in gaming ideas and presentation, but one area where it couldn't make the jump is in gameplay. It's the real reason any game works and unfortunately hardcore fighting fans will immediately notice it's the weakest area of Beat Down.

Even though the fighting system drags the game down I was intrigued by the story. I know the plot has the cheese, it's the standard revenge story from any action movie, but it had me! It could be the style or maybe I just needed to have my fun kicking someone's teeth in. Beat Down's plot goes like this. Your character worked for the Zanetti Cartel until you got set up for murder and being a traitor to the family. You're on the run from the law and the underground scum in the Zanetti gang are after you. Finding salvation in a local watering whole called "The Hole", you gather your resources and go out to lay the Beat Down and get Vengeance. Basically you beat people senseless, no side perks, or damsel in distress.

The character you play is up to you, Beat Down features five main characters. First on the block is the slick hair "Raven". Raven reminds me of Gavin Rossdale of Bush, or Gwen Stefanie fame. Raven was the character I used on my first play through. Then we have "The Big G" Jason G. He is the obligatory big guy in the game. "The Dark Horse" Gina is the third character. Her character has the famous X-Stripper turned assassin background. She is quick and a good character to use starting off. Lola "Target Eliminator" is next on the list. This gal is not a stripper, but a expect in guerrilla warfare. What's after the mercs? well the mob of course! Lastly the game has Aaron "Drug Lords Love Child". ouch... say that with a straight face! Aaron is Zanetti's son and that doesn't help his chances here. Aaron with his triple punch and kick moves is a good candidate to easily score some points. There are more then the main characters to fight with in the game, so even if you get bored with these there is more variety once you get rolling.

You navigate in the game by running, or driving a stolen car to a few different sections on the Las Sombras map. It seems really cool at first to do all the traveling, but it slowly becomes a pain. You'll know what I mean when you in the mission protecting your friends. I'm not sure if I prefer the free roam system in Beat Down or being let through a game like most other beat em' up games. If you're not doing the main storyline mission you can also acquire side missions from the bartender. These missions are a plenty and are the only real way to make big bucks. This part adds a lot to the game and I found myself jumping between a story mission and a side bet. I'd half to say most of these side missions are more amusing then the main mission, minus the story.

Beat Down is a mature title and you'll know it right of the bat. These dudes swear up a storm, the story deals with death and drugs and then you end up walking around as a bruised and beaten meat bag. There is an option to turn off the character bruising, but that would spoil half the fun. Beat Down wouldn't be the same with the violence turned down.

Even though these are not the greatest examples Beat Down reminds me of 'Narc' and 'Fight Club,' two bad games which could have been cooler. Although there is way more then game ideas then fighting which I will cover more in the innovative section. Capcom could have had a contender with all these ideas in the hat, but like I mentioned earlier the gameplay pulled this one down. Beat Down was fun for me; it's too bad it wasn't polished up a little more.

Graphics & Sound
Beat Down is more stylish then graphically impressive. The game keeps the tones turned towards the grays, but also adds a lot of urban style to the characters. The atmosphere is a little forced at times, but it works as a whole. The character models are the highlight compared to the average environments. Closely resembling Def Jam, the characters are customizable, and have that big, overly tough look to them. The game does a great job adding in bruises and blood on the characters if they get pummeled in a fight, it's a nice touch and has been developed well in Beat Down. The graphics run at a steady frame rate and have no lag which might be attributed to frequent loading screens.

The sound in the game performs below the graphics and suffers from overused one liners. I really wished they would have varied the one-liners after a fight, or taken them out all together. Besides that the voice acting is weak, but it works with the cheese factor of the story. I liked Raven's British accent, even though I heard "wanker" and "shite" a thousand times. The music is low-key bass and drum alternative type deal which was grooving for a while, but then it gets old. just like the voice acting.

Ambition runs through the code of Beat Down: Fists of Vengeance. Although I know some people might not agree, this game has an innovative spark. The ideas might be borrowed in some areas, but for the most part they tried to make the most of some neat ideas. The first idea which really struck me was the Negotiation System. Negotiation with another character can take place in battle and in normal conversation on the street. During battle you have to ware down their pride before you can successfully negotiate with them. The negotiation menu has the following selections recruit, rob, interrogate, and beatdown (in battle only). The recruit is the coolest feature which adds the new character to your blacklist and can be called up to join your gang. In different missions you'll be required to use the negotiation system a fair amount.

Another interesting feature in Beat Down is your wanted level which is indicated at the top of the screen. There are two levels one for the Zanetti gang and the other for the police. If you change up your look often you will have a better chance to remain unnoticeable to each faction. When the level hits 100% you will have to enter combat when passing by a member of the police or Zanetti gang. It's a pretty cool idea in a fighting game, but the system could have utilized better and honestly I didn't find much use for it unless a mission specifies a certain outfit, or avoiding people.

Having a gang up to three other characters is another cool feature in Beat Down. You get these characters by default, or recruiting them. Each character has different traits like Pickpocket or Car Thief which are used to steal in the game. The NPC's are all at different experience levels which increase during the game and have varied fighting styles. When you're in a VS. fight it becomes important to have backup because when you're defeated they can step in.

Some other features which added to Beat Down are the multiple endings, ability to change your look with plastic surgery or all the clothing options. They also have a neat feature where you suffer trauma if you loose a fight. To gain your wits back, you have to visit the hospital, or defeat the person who caused you the pain. Beat Down: Fists of Vengeance has some great ideas for a fighting game, and hopefully some of Beat Down features will be revamped and used in Capcom games in the feature.

The mojo vibes rides the subway down to the streets of vengeance. Streets has a cool atmosphere, a interesting cast, and some fun beat em' up action. I really dug how the pulled away the restrictions gave us an environment free to beat down anyone we want. I actually liked the characters and their one liners, like Raven's "You'll always be a wanker!" All you need to do is let go of your expectations and you will flow with Beat Down's mojo.

Beat Down: Fists of Vengeance comes out swinging and ends up a little short. The games attempt at innovating the beat em' up genre is applauded, but in the last round it's the iffy controls that push this into the rent category. Test it out and see if you're digging the beat down vibe.

Gameplay: 7, Graphics/Sound: 6, Innovation: 8, Mojo: 7. Final: 7 /10

Reviewed by Downtown Jimmy | Sept. 13th 2005

Beat Down: Fists of Vengeance
Beat Em' Up
Aug. 2005