It's taken long enough, but full marks to SNK for finally dragging its venerable two-dimensional King of Fighters series kicking and screaming (literally) into the 21st century. In a world where mobile phones are rapidly approaching the size of grains of rice and plans are being drawn up for holiday parks on the moon, King of Fighters has finally seen fit to enter the futuristic world of 'three-dee' images.
Not that everybody will be happy about it. Hardcore KOF fans won't like it - to them it'll be nothing short of newfangled witchcraftery - but for the rest of the world, a world already wallowing in the accumulated love drizzle of both Soul Calibur II and Dead or Alive Ultimate, this is exactly what the doctor ordered. Mai Shiranui's heaving bosom redesigned to fully utilise the immense funbag recreating power of the Xbox? Lead on, good sir, lead on.
Admittedly, there are problems, number one of which is the fact that Maximum Impact looks distinctly rough around the edges - prop it up against the stunningly beautiful DOA Ultimate and it looks positively sketchy in comparison - but let's not be put off too much. Like all good fighting games it's the fisticuffs that's important here and KOF: MIM boasts a decent combat system. Mixing fast chain combos with more traditional 2D fighting game techniques (Street Fighter fans take note, we're talking quarter circle fireball moves here) it feels both familiar and different. Better yet, it's very fast (far more so than DOA Ultimate) and refreshingly easy to pick up, making it ideally suited for the button-mashing, fighting game novices.
It's also fully Live playable as well, which, as we've seen from the DOA Ultimate phenomena, is a massive lifespan extender for any one-on-one fighter these days. But beyond the multiplayer, the single player arcade mode, a perilously brief mission mode and a few multiplayer tweaks, there's very little else to Maximum Impact, and that's its biggest failing. Without a ridiculously long list of unlocks to pick through or endless Soul Calibur II-style quest modes to hack away at, the game ends up with very little to differentiate it from all the other one-on-one fighters out there.
Battles are buzzy, entertaining affairs, full of energy and outrageous special moves, but as a complete package this falls way short of what we'd expect, especially when for the same money (thirty quid) you could probably pick up DOA Ultimate or Soul Calibur II. Or both even. Entertaining then, but by no means essential.
A fast, fun, easy to pick up fighter that's high on energy, but a little lacking in substance and presentation.