KO, Not OK.
Yet despite its overseas popularity, the sport never seemed to take off in
the States. Instead, mixed martial arts events like UFC
and Pride have appeased our bloodlust by offering
all kinds of broken bones, bloody noses and even the occasional chokeout.
actually dates back to 1992, making it the oldest of the popular martial arts
circuits (the UFC started in 1993), but the event hasn't gotten much gaming
attention with only a few weak offerings over the years. K-1: World Grand
Prix is the first next-generation version of the sport, but it will also
likely be the last. This is a lackluster brawler that's more in love with the
fighters than the fighting.
And unless you're a big fan of K-1 already, you won't know who any of these
guys are. I recognized a few of them thanks to ESPN at 2 a.m., but for the most
part it's strictly hard-to-pronounce international fighters galore.
But the fighting system is woefully unprepared to enter the ring. You can pull
off a few pre-set combos for each fighter by pressing the "Combo" button along
with an attack, but it's so dumbed down it feels cheap. There's also a "KO"
button that throws a big shot when coupled with an attack button, but these
aren't very interesting and the different fighters don't have many unique attacks.
No quarter-circles? No actual button combos? No alternate stances? No fun.
The thing is, you won't really need much of that, as you can do remarkably well with some strategic button-mashing from start to finish. The AI has a hard time when you mix it up, and you can basically go undefeated by alternating between low and high attacks until your thumbs hurt.
There are plenty of modes in K-1, but all roads lead to the same stale
fighting. Grand Prix lets you fight for a while until you win the title, Exhibition
lets you set up matches however you see fit, and basic Time Trial and Endurance
modes crop up for good measure. There's also a Revival mode that lets you relive
famous rounds in K-1 history, though they sure don't look very memorable when
you watch the accompanying videos. Nice body blow, Jorgen.
game's most notable mode, Champion's Revolution, is one of the worst Career
modes I've ever seen. There is no option to create a fighter; rather, you just
take one of the K-1 guys through the Grand Prix mode, beefing up stats along
the way by engaging in boring little training sessions. I suppose this could
have been tolerable, but after about 6 or 7 fights you'll reach the Championship
tournament, after which you take on fighter after fighter without going back
to the stats screen to buff out your guy. So essentially the interesting part
ends after fewer than 10 fights, leading to a shorter career than the Dell
Plus, it's just not hard enough. I beat the Grand Prix mode in about an hour and a half on my first try. I completed Champion's Revolution in the same time without losing one fight. I beat 21 straight opponents in my first shot at the Ironman endurance mode. You can up the difficulty, but the standard level should have been far more challenging.
K-1's delivery is also less than stellar. Though the framerate is fine
and the animations are decent, the backgrounds are cheap and there is no damage
modeling whatsoever. No blood, sweat, or teeth - just the occasional cheek bruise,
unless that's just a smudge on my TV. I'd love to figure that one out for you,
but there's no instant replay aside from a short repeat of the knockout punch.
As this is a Konami game born in Japan, the music is mainly canned heavy metal
thunder. The ring announcer speaks so slowly, I swear he was an extra in "Awakenings."
The K-1 tournament might be a big hit internationally, but this game cannot
hold its own against the likes of Tekken, DOA
and Virtua Fighter, not to mention the soon-to-be-classic
Soul Calibur 2. Diehard fans of the sport who already know these fighters'
names by heart will probably get some kicks out of it, but the rest of you should
just kick it to the curb.