Wednesday, September 12, 2007

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King of Fighters XI vs MI

Product Number: 194
How Much: £19.99 Each
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The debate over 2D and 3D gaming is one that has been going strong for the past ten years, and it’s something that could be talked about in length for an entire book. But none of us really have the time to read something that long (and possibly boring) so let’s sum things up in less than 500 words by taking a look at the two latest additions to the King of Fighters series, one of which is in 2D and the other in 3D.

Firstly there’s Maximum Impact 2, the latest attempt at bringing the 2D flat sprites of the arcade in to 3D motion for your living room. From a marketing point of view that should have been a brilliant concept, but sadly there’s an overall lack of confidence all around. The first sign of weakness comes from the back of the box which only features screenshots from a rather limited ‘Extra Missions mode’. This mode includes four short mini games encouraging you to trash a car (because we didn’t do that 10 years ago in Street Fighter), push back a steamroller and even beat the tank from Metal Slug. The saddest part of all is that this really is the most enjoyable part of the game.

No doubt the marketers decided not to include shots of the actual fighting in action because character models lack the same charm they do in 2D and because the fighting moves themselves have no visual gratification at all. Punches make contact with an odd yellow flash, so there’s no sense of contact and fighters hands and feet can pass through their opponents, with generally poor collision detection in place.

The only real saving grace is a nice mixture of characters and an incredibly rich challenge mode which offers some variety for those who stick with the game. Mostly this involves short battles forcing you to only fight using specific attacks, dodges and guards, all of which helps to improve awareness of the combo system and will make you a better fighter.

Challenge mode also features prominently in King of Fighters XI, and it too promotes awareness of the combo and battle systems with your ultimate goal being to nail a 204 hit combo. Unlike its 3D brother the visuals in XI are superb and although the sprites look dated (you can still spot the individual polygons that make up each fighter) their animations and actions are brilliant to watch. Whilst Maximum Impact only offers the most basic of visual flair, XI offers characters that fight by throwing cards, swinging knives and flicking yoyos. Even when not fighting the characters in XI swing their bodies from side to side as if to mock their opponents, something which has become a classic touch of the old 2D series, and yet bizarrely something which is lacking in Maximum Impact.

In case you already have a King of Fighters in 2D, there’s an excellent 3 vs. 3 battle system in place, multiple story endings, new combos to master and new characters to unlock for the diehard. Maximum Impact 2 also offers a number of unlock able characters, harder challenges (including stronger tanks to fight!) and a nice number of combos to master.

Whilst at their heart King of Fighters XI and Maximum Impact 2 do share a number of similarities in combo systems, challenge modes and characters it all comes down to visual impact. Which makes it all the worse is that the ‘old’ grainy visuals of XI completely trounce the floor with the more up to date visuals in Maximum Impact 2. Don’t be swayed by the prospect of fighting a 3D tank, there’s much more fun to be had fighting from left to right.

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