First, the good news: Fighters Uncaged Prodcuer Luc Verdier recognizes that there have been too many casual, family-oriented games announced for the Kinect thus far, and says the game is his attempt to fix this. Now the bad news: based on a recent demo of the game at Gamescom, Fighters Uncaged utterly fails in this attempt.
As you can see in this live demonstration video, the movement recognition for Fighters Uncaged is far from perfect at this point. Punches can be completely finished and retracted in the real world before they even start in the game, making it hard to string together quick combinations of moves. In fact, Verdier said combos in the final game would actually be activated using a quick-time event system, asking players to string together preset poses for an unblockable chain of attacks. A similar match-the-on-screen-pose system is already in place to dodge or block incoming attacks, and feels incredibly unwieldy. Even if the motion recognition were perfect, though, the vision of fighting presented in Fighters Uncaged is anything but hardcore. The careful positioning and dancing of a real fighting game is replaced by two fighters that stand rigidly facing one another. You can change the range between you and your computerized opponent (Verdier said the game won't support competitive multiplayer either online or in-person) only by awkwardly performing three specific moves that toggle -- again, awkwardly -- between long, medium and short ranges.
While certain moves like the uppercut can only connect at close range, there doesn't seem to be much practical difference between these choices. At each distance, I felt like I was doing the motion control equivalent of button mashing -- simply flailing about to throw out as many attacks as possible on my unwary opponent. That opponent was incredibly accommodating in this effort, taking the punishment I dished out while rarely throwing any attacks of his own. Despite the dark graphics and violent content intended for the "hardcore," actually playing the game felt more like casual fare -- shallow and sloppy.
The most impressive feature of the Gamescom demo was the sheer number of different moves that the game recognized, from jabs and hooks to overhead smashes, sweeps and even a spinning jump kick (which is activated lamely with an odd shuffling sidestep). That said, the input delay and canned animations for each of these moves detract heavily from the feeling of being in control of a true bad-ass street fighter. Compared to the tightness and immediacy of The Fight, or even the frenetic randomness of Wii Sports boxing, Fighters Uncaged just feels slow and messy.
With the game set for launch alongside the Kinect in November, the development team doesn't have much time to polish up this pre-beta experience. Let's hope they make the most of it.