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Overview

One of the few "core" games in the original release lineup for the Xbox Kinect, Fighters Uncaged brings Kinect's controller-free gameplay to the world of fighting games.  Players battle twelve different opponents, using 70 different attacks and combos to debilitate their opponent and advance in an underground tournament.  Fights take place in twenty different locations all throughout the unnamed city, and include rainy alleyways, rooftops, and docks.  Moves are based on realistic martial arts (no fireballs), against opponents with different styles, temperaments, and weak points.
 
No multiplayer is available. Aside from training/sparring, the tournament is the only game mode.  After completing the game, the player fights in an "Open League" which is tracked on the Xbox Live leaderboards. 
 

Plot

Plot is sparse, and not a central feature of the game.  As detailed only in the manual, the player controls Simon, a 24-year-old delivery man whose father is in debt to a local underground fighting kingpin.  To "pay up," Simon must use the fighting skills his father taught him to win the kingpin's fighting tournament.
 

Gameplay

Fighters Uncaged is not prompt-based, nor is it exactly a 1:1 simulator.  Controls are most similar to gesture-based systems, with the player's body - literally - acting as the controller.  The sensor looks for specific movements (throwing a cross, lifting a knee), which then trigger specific in-game actions, as if the player had pressed the appropriate button.  The player is not prompted to perform the next attack, and can choose to attack with any of the moves in the character's arsenal. However, they cannot simply jump in and free fight, nor is their body or movements tracked and accurately mapped to the character in real-time.
 
A lengthy training mode introduces the player to the game's mechanics, as well as the long list of moves and gestures required to perform them.  These mimic real-life movements when possible, so throwing a straight punch is the same movement needed to throw a straight punch in the game.  More elaborate moves, like a spinning heel kick, ask the player to simply move one foot behind the other and lean forward, which triggers the character to spin and kick.  Similarly, a jump kick merely requires the player to jump up with one knee raised.  Actually jumping and kicking will confuse the game.
 
Just like its Move-enabled counterpart, The Fight, Fighters Uncaged requires the player to stand in one place with both feet planted firmly on the ground.  Moving inside the game arena is handled automatically, though this can be influenced by certain charging or retreating attacks.  Unlike The Fight, there are no additional moves to unlock, and no customization options to spend earned points on.
 
The tournament is divided into 3 leagues, which contain a randomized roster of the twelve available fighters.  The relatively low number of possible opponents means a defeated fighter is never knocked out of the tournament completely, and the player will face them again in a later league.  The player earns a score for each fight based on their performance, which is boosted significantly by building combos or diversifying their strikes.  The player's highest score is stored as a personal best.  Each time the player wins a fight, or beats their personal best, they earn a crown.  The player must earn a set number of crowns (in the hundreds) to advance to the next league and progress toward the end of the game.
 

Fighting System

Blocking and ducking are heavily encouraged, and mostly required to win higher-league fights.  If the player holds their fists at shoulder-level, the game considers them "on guard."  In this mode, straight punches do no damage, and head strikes do less damage.  There are no active blocks for upper body attacks - guard mode is block in this case.  For lower body and leg attacks, the player may lift their knee to deflect the strike.  Timing this successfully will block all damage, and set up the opponent for a sweep attack.
 
Upper body attacks can also be ducked and dodged.  The player must duck or lean back at the correct time to completely avoid the attack, which also leaves their opponent open to counters.  Lower body attacks cannot be dodged, as the player is expected to stand in one place during the fight.
 
Aside from deflecting damage, avoiding attacks has two useful effects - they will lower the opponent's "Focus" meter, while building the player's "Super-strike" meter.  The "Focus" meter exists only for the opponent, and could roughly be considered a measure of their  frustration.  At full focus, the opponent will block and dodge attacks easily.  As the bar empties, they become more aggressive, sloppy, and open to counters.  The "Super-strike" meter allows for a power attack when fully charged, and is triggered by shouting (yes, seriously) while performing a standard attack.  Both of these factors reward the player for blocking and fighting "smart."
 
Fighters Uncaged also features a "range" system, divided into Long, Medium, and Close.  Certain attacks are more effective at a specific range (like kicks at long range), with others are modified or simply unavailable (elbows and headbutts cannot be thrown at long range).  Opponents are usually best at a specific range, and will try to influence the fight to stay within that range.  The player can counter this, or transition to a particular range, by using certain strikes at certain ranges (for example, a knee strike moves from close to medium).
 
Finally, there are a series of temporary states that the player can inflict upon their opponent.  The triggers for these vary by opponent, but generally involve repeated strikes to the intended area:
 
  • Blinded  -  Opponent won't defend themselves at close or medium range
  • Groggy  -  The opponent is briefly stunned
  • Stagger  -  The opponent is stunned for a longer time than Groggy
  • Breathless  -  The opponent doubles over and won't attack
  • Leg Pain  -  The opponent won't defend themselves at long range
 
Each opponent also has a unique "weak point" for the player to discover.  Certain strikes, or strikes to this area, have a higher chance of going through unblocked and/or inflicting a debilitated state.

Reception

Early reviews of Fighters Uncaged are generally unfavorable, with reviewers mainly criticizing the poor and inaccurate registering of moves, the lengthy and uninteresting tutorial, the limited A.I. of computer opponents, and the small selection of characters to act as opponents.  
 
Some reviewers were more positive, stating that despite it's short-comings, it is fun initially, but becomes frustrating at the harder levels because of inaccurate move registering.  As with most Kinect games, the heightened activity level is also praised as a good, fun workout. 
 
It has been stated that Kinect games that do not use the player's XBOX Live avatar present a challenge to developers.  The Kinect tool set only supports Microsoft's Avatars, and companies wanting to map a player's movements to their own characters must create custom tools themselves. It is suggested that non XBOX-Live avatar games are expected to be less accurate in move registration because of this, and may contribute to perceived tracking issues in Fighters Uncaged.

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