Kung Fu Live PreviewPlatform: PS3 Exclusive
Sony via PSN
It’s hard not to feel like a bloody idiot sometimes, especially when you’re surrounded by your peers at a posh press event watching you flail around like a loon. The words ‘unfit’ and ‘games journalist’ are pretty much synonyms, so Kung Fu Live wasn’t a game I was exactly looking forward to playing.
My first impressions of the game weren’t exactly good either. A developer explained how Kung Fu Live uses the PlayStation Eye camera to transpose player movement into the game without controllers, and my reaction was plain ambivalence. Sure, that idea sounds
good, but there’s been other games which have tried it before and have been held back by usability issues
A short demonstration didn’t do much to allay my fears. While Kung Fu Live managed to interpret player movements just as the developers had claimed, the production values for the rest of the game were noticeably lacking. The graphics were terrible and enemies seemed slow and unchallenging, with levels limited to small arenas that could only be clumsily navigated.
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Everything changed when I went fists-on, however.
What you have to bear in mind about Kung Fu Live is that, despite all its faults, it is still a very fun game. The graphics may look like they were thrown together in under five minutes and the B-movie/comic aesthetic might only be there to disguise these failings, but it’s still a lot of fun to play. It’s so fun that all the other faults don’t matter.
The actual player controls are incredibly simple, with combatants simply moving forwards and back in front of the camera, lashing out with fists and feet at any on-screen enemy. Damage is determined by the speed of the virtual collision and you aren’t limited to just using your feet, which means you can pick up things to use as weapons if you fancy a change of pace – everything from swords and bo-staffs to cushions and small children. Or big children, if you’re strong enough.
Better than weapon wielding, however, is the way that Kung Fu Live tells it’s story – a basic parody of Kung Fu and superhero tropes – through comic book panels. Before every cut-scene you’re prompted to make a certain pose, which is then captured by the PlayStation Eye and dropped into these panels. It’s an incredibly simple effect and while it's slightly spoiled by the way pace is inevitably staggered, it’s clever and interesting enough to remain appealing.
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That’s a sentiment that seems to sum up Kung Fu Live as a whole, in fact – flawed out of necessity, but still charming in its own rough kind of way. Judged by the screenshots, Kung Fu Live is low-fi, dated, clunky and dull. Judged by the actual player experience, it manages to be engaging, innovative, responsive and enjoyable.
It’s not all glowing - if caveat-riddled - praise, however. There are a few definite weak spots in Kung Fu’s technique, such as the lack of depth to the combat and the limited array of special moves (which are activated by assuming a specific pose). There’s no physical multiplayer either, probably for safety reasons, though extra players can join in on controllers in some modes.
None of these issues really hold Kung Fu Live back all that much though, especially as it will be buoyed up by a downloadable-game price point and a wicked sense of humour. I still don’t expect Kung Fu Live to revolutionise the face of the industry, let alone be a game that we’ll be playing for weeks after it is released, but is this better than I expected? Is this a game which could be worth picking up? Yeah, it looks like.