Saturday, December 01, 2007

Cease Fire Review

Cease Fire, developed and published by Alpha-Tauri Interactive.
The Good: Distinctive graphics, fast pace, lots of moves to execute, range of characters
The Not So Good: Awkward keyboard-only controls, high level of difficulty, multiplayer limited to LAN and same computer
What say you? A unique theme makes this a notable fighting game: 6/8

For whatever reason, fighting games are quite rare on the PC. The staple of the evil consoles has been poorly represented at best on the superior platform. Maybe it’s because PC gamers demand more sophisticated genres, but there is always room for some fast-paced pugilism. I guess we, like Indiana Jones, would rather shoot people than fight them. Cease Fire is a classic 2-D fighting game, with all of the hot button-pushing action that is present in the genre.

The most significant part of Cease Fire is the outstanding visuals. Though this is a 2-D game, it looks very good thanks to some characteristic graphics. The game is supposed to take place in the 1940’s, and the engine does a good job of looking old (in a good way). Each portion of the game is given a “film effect” that makes Cease Fire appear dated. The characters themselves are real sprites done by human actors: some people might find this corny, but I actually enjoy it as it adds an air of realism (if you could consider a fighting game realistic) to the environments. The 2-D sprites look way better than 3-D character would have for this independent game. The static backgrounds also look like real locations as well. The end result is a nice package in terms of visuals. The sound is along the same lines: although the character voices are repetitive, the background music is very memorable and well done, fitting the 1940’s theme of Cease Fire. This is about as good as a 2-D fighter will look and sound, especially coming from an independent developer.

Cease Fire is a fast-paced fighting game, where you spend most of your time mashing buttons and using combo moves. There are 13 characters to choose from that have different special moves (otherwise they are identical) and a number of game modes to pick. There is a tournament where you engage progressively more powerful enemies, multiplayer on the same computer or over a LAN (but no Internet play), single AI matches, or a training mode where you can set a number of parameters for the AI (such as reaction time, offensive, and defensive capabilities). The controls are straightforward: arrow keys plus six button (high and low kicks and punches, plus block and extra). Cease Fire only uses the keyboard: a severe limitation. I would like to have the option to use a gamepad to make fighting easier, as it takes a lot of practice to get adept at using the keyboard. Plus, it would mean less crowding for same-computer multiplayer matches.

Most matches take around thirty seconds to complete. You will need to memorize the ten special moves each character has in order to have any change at the AI, even at easy level. While they are simple to execute, remembering back-extra-low kick for Sergei’s low anvil shot takes some time. I guess that goes for any fighting game, so be prepared to spend some time with Cease Fire in order to become competitive. The AI in the game is a good challenge and should test even the most veteran players at the highest settings. New users will have a tough time getting past the second or third enemy in the tournament mode until you get the special moves committed to memory, but like most things practice makes perfect. Cease Fire is certainly fun, fast-paced, and it stands out against the horde or generic fighting games.

Cease Fire has about the same amount of replay value as any other fighting game: if you like the genre, then Cease Fire is a good title. There are a couple of features I would like to see improved: adding Internet multiplayer and gamepad support. But these are relatively minor additions and the basic gameplay is entertaining if you enjoy fighting games. What sets Cease Fire apart is the presentation: the game looks great for a 2-D title. The combination of quality graphics and decent gameplay makes Cease Fire a noteworthy title on the PC.