K1 World Grand Prix
With nothing more than two chiseled combatants and a buxom card girl onscreen, fighting sims ought to look sharp. So what's with K-1's lethargic brawlers and barely animated ladies who couldn't titillate a death row inmate? An authentic slugfest should also emphasize the punishing force behind simple punches--because, let's face it, without stylish fighting-game-style special moves, plain punches and kicks are all K-1 has to offer. Its spongy blows feel incapable of cracking eye sockets or ending careers, nor are there enough moves to consistently entertain. What you're left with are ugly, repetitive squabbles lacking the thrill of a brutal beat-down. Sure, kickboxing connoisseurs could point to unlockable perks such as the Revival bouts in which you reenact classic matches to earn movie clips, but unless you're a fan, you really won't care. And even the faithful will cry foul when they find the game lacks recognizable American K-1 greats like the beastly Bob Sapp. In the end, K-1's pared-down approach is forgivable, but its bland execution is not.
I'm sure the cross-smidgen of gamers who also happen to be fans of obscure mixed martial arts (like Milkman, apparently) will appreciate K-Ts roster of international kick-brawlers and the agonizingly lengthy ceremonial pomp that precedes each fight (even if you flick off the intro movies). But if you're not in that fight club, you're left with a decent basic fighter that doesn't demand much time to master yet doesn't give you much reason to give a crap, either. Give it a rent, at least, to see some brutally fun K.O.s.
Unlike a reality-deprived buffoon like Shawn, I can accept the fact that human beings like Ray Sefo, Jerome Le Banner, and Mike Bernardo (of the real-life K-1 League) don't do flying guillotine crotch attacks like his favorite Soul Calibur fantasy-friend, Voldo. Know that K-1 is an arcadey sports sim with real-life characters who don't have 18,000 crazy moves. Once you come to grips with that, you'll find yourself enjoying a well-rounded brawler. A true sleeper hit.