XBLA Review: The Deadliest Warrior

For those living under a rock for the past couple of years, Deadliest Warrior is a television show on Spike, which takes some of the most debated upon match-ups between the most fearsome combatants in the history of civilization, confers with experts and declares a victor in the "battle" at the end of the show.

Now, for those living under a rock for the past month and a half, Deadliest Warrior is also an Xbox Live Arcade release by Spike Games that has very much divided the gaming community. While some praise it's simplicity, others have bashed it's tendency to reward button-mashing and bare-bones design. We felt it was only necessary that we give our take on this controversial, yet popular title.

From the get-go, Deadliest Warrior will remind you of the 3-D Mortal Kombat titles. From the battles that see blood spraying everywhere to the way the characters rotate around eachother, the only thing really missing is the iconic announcer declaring "Finish Him!" as Scorpion engulfs his enemy in flames. Even a form of fatalities exist that rival the sheer brutality of those that made the Mortal Kombat series so popular.

Unfortunately, the game is not very rich in features. You have an arcade mode, where you choose a warrior and fight through all of the adversaries in the game, back to back. There are no bosses, but there are "Test Your Might" type of challenges, that fall somewhat short of the car-punching challenge in Street Fighter.

One challenge will require you to run through a meat-locker, slicing up all of the hanging pieces of meat. This activity falls short of being fun or challenging, but one where players face off against one enemy head-on, where each blow leads in some form of dismemberment, is much more fun, if not way too quick.

When facing the AI in arcade mode, the game has a very steep learning curve and will often frustrate when not on the easiest levels. The game takes full advantage of it's knowledge of the fighting engine and uses various one-hit kills and dismembering blows to take you down quickly and relentlessly.

While the single player may be a bit monotonous after a few run-throughs, the multiplayer is a blast if you have a few people watching and commenting. The yells of "ohh!" will definitely add to the competition more so than they would another title or genre. There's just something about watching characters decimate one another in a group setting.

The number one issue that has divided players and critics on this title, however, is the core gameplay. The game's defining aspect is that it sacrifices combat-system depth for "realism", in that it relies heavily on one-hit deaths and a single combo taking down a player for good. This works well in that context, but the lack of overall depth will leave many fighting game vets longing for more.

Another issue is in regards to the fact that many fights will just break down into the players button mashing their way to victory. While other franchises, like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat, have found a way to neutralize that breed of player for the most part, in Deadliest Warrior, players of that nature tend to thrive.

The movement can a little off and artificial, particularly when the characters run in an opposite direction of the enemy and don't auto-turn to face the enemy. This is a key flaw in the overall gameplay and will, more times than not, end up hurting the player who is attempting to honestly evade attacks (a key component to this title).

The graphics look dated, but at the same time, they aren't awful when you consider that this title is a $15 download. The game really looks about on par with the previous generation Mortal Kombat titles. The blood spurts out nicely and the character models look great. Of course, it's always nice to have destructible environments, which this game does have to an extent. Having a pirate hiding in the bamboo forest, only to run in with your samurai and chop that forest to the ground, along with him, is very satisfying.

The Deadliest Warrior is going to be very hit or miss for you, depending on what you're looking for. If you want depth and fights that always seem "fair", then you might want to skip on this title. However, if you want a title that is fun, satisfying and fully backed by it's developer (the promise of new DLC characters coming soon has been stated over and over again by Spike Games), then you'll definitely want to check out The Deadliest Warrior on Xbox Live Arcade.