King Fu High Impact
A groundbreaking fighting game that will set the standard of future Kinect Exercise games
Kung Fu High Impact introduces something innovative to the world of video games: instead of using an avatar or a cartoon representation of you, YOU yourself are the actor in the video game. Your real-time video image is used as you kick, punch, and jump your way through a comic book world of villains and enemies. For me, it’s my #1 pick for the best Xbox Fitness game, mainly because it’s so fun you don’t want to stop playing, and you never realize until after punching out dozens of enemies that you’ve just gotten a great workout. Highly recommended.
A few months ago a game called Kung Fu Live was quietly introduced for the PS3. It was launched without a lot of fanfare, and yet it introduced a lot of technology and concepts which were groundbreaking at the time. But because of technological issues with the PS3’s camera, it didn’t get a lot of attention.
Kung Fu High Impact is the successor to Kung Fu Live, and this time it’s available exclusively on the Xbox. And thanks to the Kinect, the game is living up to the potential it first showed on the PS3–in a big way.
The best way I can describe Kung Fu Live is that it’s a fighting game like Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat. Only instead of using a game controller, you use your body. That’s right, just your body. You kick in any direction and your on-screen character kicks. You punch, and your on-screen character punches.
Of course, that describes a lot of Kinect games. But where Kung Fu Live really shines is the on-screen character it uses. It’s YOU. That’s right, not an avatar, not a cartoon version of you, but YOUR actual video image on the screen that you control with one-to-one precision. You can punch, kick, dodge, jump, do flips, and do other moves just by making perfectly natural motions. On-screen, you’ll see yourself interacting with the virtual enemies and objects on the screen in real time. You can even kick boxes and objects that are lying on the ground and use them as projectile weapons.
The premise of the game is that you’re a character in a comic book consisting of multiple chapters. In the first “Chapter” you’re brought to a tutorial where you learn how to fight. The moves are very intuitive. To punch to the left or right, you punch. To kick to the left or right, you kick. There’s no “right” or “wrong” way to punch and kick, you just do what feels natural and the game responds. For example, I found myself kicking and punching an enemy in front of me. When I saw one sneaking up behind me, I instinctively let go with what I believe is called a traditional back kick and knocked him out. The system is phenomenal in terms of determining whether your on-screen image “makes contact” with the enemy.
You can move your onscreen character left and right by either punching in or slightly moving your body in that direction. To jump, you jump. To dodge, you duck your body below or jump above the path of your enemy’s attack (displayed in yellow). To block attacks, you protect your face with your arms or your lower body with your knees. To do a somersault, you jump, angling your body forward or backward while in the air. As you progress through the game, there are other more complex moves to unlock, all of which are still very intuitive. A “power punch” can be done by punching with both fists. A “ground shaker” can be done by jumping up and the pounding the ground with your fist. You can shoot lightning by raising one hand in the air and pointing the other to your opponent. You can slow down time by raising your hands in a “V” shape. There’s a “magic bow” you can use by drawing an imaginary bow with your two hands. You can even fly by spreading your arms outward when you’re standing above updrafts. Again, as you do it in real life, you see your ACTUAL image doing it in the game.
In Chapter 2 and onward, you proceed to defeat waves of attackers using all the moves you learned. As with traditional fighting games, a gauge will show you how much health you have versus your attackers. The game gets progressively harder as you move through it, but again, I always felt in control. As I got more confident, I’d unleash new attacks like combo moves and air attacks and punching and kicking high and low.
The story continues through more chapters. I didn’t want to stop playing, the only thing that stopped me was that I was exhausted!
Kung Fu Live immediately introduces a lot of new improvements over the PS3 version. First, and foremost, the lighting issues that made your image on the PS3 blotchy and difficult to use is non-existent with the Kinect–the video image of your body is picked up perfectly by the Kinect camera, allowing you to truly star as the main character in the game. Second, if you don’t want to play the story mode you can set up custom fights between family and friends (in a particularly hilarious move, they’ve made it so that up to four players can use Xbox controllers to control enemy characters fighting against one player using Kinect), or you can challenge yourself in survival trials of varying degrees of difficulty. Third, there’s also a “my stats” option where you can view your achievements and personal statistics, including number of enemies defeated and total score.
Is the game a workout? I’ll say it is! I was kicking and punching opponents left and right and having a grand old time. And the game was surprisingly competitive, but never once did I feel I wasn’t in full control (I can’t even say that all the time with “real” fighting games that use controllers). And when each round was finished, I was sweating and panting as if I’d just gotten out of a real street fight!
The game is incredibly creative and the developers clearly have a very, very good sense of humor. One of my favorite features came as a surprise to me. The game asks you to “pose” in various ways-an outline of a body would appear on the screen and you have to match it. For example, sometimes you need to pose with your arms stretched out, sometimes you need to get closer to the camera for a closeup, and so on. I realized later while watching the “comic book pages” that make up the cut-scenes between each chapter, they actually include your image WITHIN the comic book pages, so you are literally a part of the story. The clever ways that your images are used are genius-when I first saw them I couldn’t stop laughing. Again, it’s a use of innovative creativity that makes those “hey look at how funny you look” videos after Kinect games look almost passe.
If I had one slight gripe about the game, it’s the same I have with a lot of Kinect games–you do need at least 7-9 feet of space to enjoy the game fully, a luxury many of us in small apartments don’t have. Having said that, unlike other Kinect games with that same issue, this game still plays well with only 6 feet of space–your feet are cut off so you can’t really do kicking motions, but you can have just as much fun with the hand motions.
If you’ve ever played a fighting game and wondered what it’d be like to actually be the character on the screen, you need wonder no more–this game lets you experience it. I suspect ten years from now people will look back at Kung Fu Live and point back to it as ushering a whole new way to think about video games. While other Kinect games producers are still spewing out sub-par games with sluggish controls and annoying avatars no different than the first generation of games last year, the developer of this game, Virtual Air Guitar, is truly pushing the platform forward with innovation and unbridled fun. I wholeheartedly give it five stars for quality and five stars for fun, and hope to see a lot more from them in the future.