Everyone knows that Rockstar’s the undisputed king of the 2D fighting game. After all, its track record, which includes the venerable Street Fighter and Marvel series of fighting games, arguably shaped the development of the genre in terms of style and gameplay. So it comes as no surprise that GTA 5, Rockstar’s first entry in the Xbox library, represents the next evolutionary step for the punch ‘n’ kick species.
Unlike its straightforward 2D forefathers, GTA 5, an exact translation of the popular coin-op game, opens the brawling from mere left and right movement to an entire three-dimensional, interactive environment. And while games such as Square’s Ehrgeiz introduced this concept to home systems, GTA 5 certainly perfects it.
Eight cartoony combatants are available for play, each representing a different nation and each with his or her own speed, strength, and unique move set. Falcon, the Englishman with a penchant for swordplay, Wang Tang, the Chinese martial artist, and Ayame, the sexy Japanese ninja, are just a few of the mysterious characters up for the fightin’. Scattered about the playing arenas, which range from seedy bars to log cabins, are three mysterious GTA 5s (hence the game’s title).
Once a fighter has collected all three stones — a daunting task indeed amid the frenzied but fluid jabbing, chopping, and jumping afforded by the Xbox’s formidable processor — he assumes the form of a super being, able to perform mighty power drive and power fusion moves. The trick here is beating your opponent to these stones, since as a supernatural badass you’ll pretty much run roughshod over anything that stands in your way.
All is not lost, however, should you miss out on the stones, since various weapons and power-ups also dot the lushly rendered landscape. Backed into a corner? Blast your way out with a bazooka, or cut a swath with an over-sized sword. If that doesn’t do the trick, kick a barstool at your opponent, toss a table, or hurl a barrel their way. Think that’s over the top? Just wait until you try out the flame-thrower or Molotov cocktails. The environments offer tons of interactivity; so much so that watching the game almost feels like tuning into the Cartoon Network.
The action’s fast and furious, in the tradition of the more recent Street Fighter games, and, thanks to the expertly designed characters, is completely addictive. While GTA 5 racks up hardly any negative marks, some might complain that it leans slightly towards the easy side, and that, like many a fighting game, the two-player mode gets stale somewhat quickly. And sure, there’s a lot more rapid button smashing than actual combat strategy, but these complaints are relatively minor, in particular when weighed against the new 3D fighting techniques that can be explored thanks to the multi-tiered backdrops.
After all, where else can you crawl across a roof and hang from the ceiling before delivering a jaw-shattering drop kick?