First impressions aren't always right, as has been proved so brilliantly this month by Capcom's street-brawling nonsense-a-thon, Beatdown. At first we thought this steaming bowl of chop-sockey would stink to high heaven. It's got all the wrong ingredients, after all. There's the repetitive gameplay, for example, and the strange perma-night setting. There's the badly lipsynched characters and overly simple execution of even the most complicated fight moves. All the classic hallmarks of a pile of crap. BUT! It's actually quite good. In parts, it even becomes VERY good.
We won't even pretend to understand what the story is about - it's so thinly implemented and heavily smattered with gore and bone-breaking that it doesn't matter anyway. What we did grasp between the endless waves of neck-breaking and flesh-stabbing was that Beatdown is basically Pokémon played out with street thugs rather than bug-eyed soft toys. You stalk the streets, beating up random people - once defeated, you can then either interrogate them for info (locations of the best bars, fight clubs and that), rob them, or recruit them to join your gang.
Give them a kicking, then offer them a choice. Eventually, you'll end up with about half a dozen colourful characters following you around like a multi-limbed violence machine. You can continue to recruit though, keeping goons on call for their varying abilities, and bringing them into the action when someone gets killed ('sent to the hospital').
Of course, all this fighting eventually attracts the attention of the cops, who'll shoot at you if your fight rating reaches the higher percentages. You can kill them dead with their own guns if you must, but it's usually best to scarper and find some dodgy back-street outfit willing to alter your appearance. It's GTA's respray shop, but on a much grander scale, where you can be transformed from hard-ass street-punk to hard-ass button-nosed transsexual. Cross-dress, get a bit of lipo and a new FF-cup rack, then hit the streets and smash some more faces in.
And that, in a nutshell, is Beatdown. There's the odd mission to break up the endless fighting too, and at times you'll be bombing it through town trying to stop a serial killer from murdering your mates, but we won't say any more for fear of ruining the wafer-thin plot. All you need to know is that this is like Def Jam meets Streets of Rage (with plenty of nods to Resident Evil too - the police station's more or less a copy of Resi 2's cop shop). Just roam the streets with your gang, cause as much mayhem as you like, do a few side-quests such as, oh, 'fighting' and more 'fighting' to earn cash, then spend it on togs to look hard.
Fists of Vengeance makes no pretence at being anything close to intelligent - it happily revels in its shameless idiocy, but it's fun through and through. DOA fans won't like it as there's little skill involved in the combat, and GTA enthusiasts will probably find it a bit too linear. But for pure, unapologetic, button-mashing, nose-breaking violence, not to mention some rather slinky bra-and-panty combo sets, this doesn't go far wrong. Street-fighting trannies of the world - your game has arrived!
Dress up and kick some heads in! So totally without depth, its shallowness actually becomes its strength.