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Graphics: Fur Fighters presents a minor feast of visual delights. Though the texture detailing certainly won’t be replacing other third-person offerings such as Deep Space Nine: The Fallen from the top rung, they sufficiently establish the game’s strangely humorous mood. In fact, it could be said that Fur Fighters has a level of detail easily on par with that of products like Mario 64 and Hype: The Time Quest. While its character textures and level designs are nothing to write home about, Fur Fighters is not trying to innovate with its presentation. Instead, the developers rely almost entirely on conceptual originality.
Interface: Fur Fighters has a very friendly console-like interface, which should come as no surprise since it was developed simultaneously for both the PC and the Sega Dreamcast. From the opening title screens to the token tallying system, Fur Fighters is designed for simplicity. Video and sound options can be easily adjusted from the in-game menu, allowing resolution and positional audio tweaks to be made quickly. Health and ammo are displayed in a small section of the screen’s bottom portion, where they can easily be read. The camera system is, for the most part, fixed at a slight distance behind your character. When you turn a tight corner or duck into a small room, the camera will automatically zoom in and out, adjusting to keep the action visible.
Gameplay: Regardless of the generic motifs in the storyline, the concept of plush animals beating the stuffing out of each other ends up being quite humorous. The gameplay is very entertaining, with the offbeat tone and quirky character swapping creating a unique experience. Nowhere else are you going to be able to find a title where you dash about using stuffed kangaroos and dogs to beat up gangs of roving bears who look and sound like the weasels from the film, “Who Framed Roger Rabbit.” The entire experience is a mind-trip. Fur Fighters is not in the same dark and hideous vein as Alice, but it does have a wacky, snicker-inspiring feel.
Your progress is automatically recorded whenever you change characters or enter a new level. Since you will be frequently flipping back and forth between characters, the lack of a save option is nothing more than a minor gripe. Unfortunately, effecting a change causes all of the level’s destroyed enemies to return, and you are set upon almost instantly if you hit a save point in the middle of a city. There were several instances where, upon changing characters, the level reloaded and I was immediately killed by four or five shotgun-toting bears. In games like Doom or Quake, you expect an endless onslaught of demons and machines. However, it is not welcome in action-adventure titles like Fur Fighters.
Multiplayer: Fluffmatch, as Fur Fighters‘ version of deathmatch is called, is easy to accomplish using Gamespy Arcade or a local area connection. Up to 16 players can go head-to-head in this entertaining version of third-person multiplayer fun. Unfortunately, nothing exists here that hasn’t been done before, and Fluffmatching action isn’t likely to draw players away from their Counterstrike games for long.
Sound FX: One facet of the audio system in Fur Fighters stands out beyond any other component: Instead of giving the characters spoken dialogue, Bizarre Creations uses strange forms of animal gibberish to express the feelings and thoughts of the different creatures. While the translated version of the speech is displayed on the screen, each speaking character will be making a plethora of odd noises deemed appropriate to its species. This animal talk is very cool — for the first 20 minutes. After digging into the title, it becomes apparent that the “speech” engine has its limitations, as each sentence seems to follow a very structured format, taking about 15 samples and stringing them together to form the various sentences. These limitations cause the latter levels to become very monotonous whenever dialogue is presented, and will have most players furiously tapping the keyboard to advance the story. Aside from the problematic speech, Fur Fighters does a very satisfactory job with the audio, with each character and weapon having distinctive, high-quality sounds.
Musical Score: “Wacky” is the best word to relate the feelings aroused by the strange mix of tunes present in Fur Fighters. Some of the music tracks sound almost techno, especially those in the opening menu. The style that seems to dominate the game is almost unidentifiable, and “Jazz” is the closest approximation I can make for the bulk of the melodies. Wherever the music rests stylistically, it does quite well in enhancing the off-beat ambience that is the game’s signature trait.
Intelligence & Difficulty: The A.I. in Fur Fighters is of very high quality. Though your opponents are portrayed as having an almost lemming-like stupidity, they certainly do not act that way. When you first start shooting bears in the wide open spaces at the beginning of the game, you are fooled into believing they are easy to pick off. However, once you get into a tight area littered with objects, it becomes painfully obvious just how good these bears are at their jobs. Ducking and rolling are two actions you will frequently see them perform, and hitting the bears while they are performing these moves is almost impossible with conventional weapons. Even if they aren’t able to duck or roll, the bears will use objects in the environment as cover from your weaponry. Seeing an enemy strafe behind a building while you are trying to shoot it is a frightening experience — even if it is just a cute looking teddy bear dressed in Mafia wear.
Overall: One thing you certainly can’t accuse the developers at Bizarre Creations of is unoriginality. Fur Fighters is one of the more unique titles I have had the pleasure of playing in recent years; the entire concept is, for lack of a better term, bizarre. A game such as this has the potential to be set amongst the dust-gatherers on many reviewers’ shelves due to its sometimes goofy nature, and to be honest, Fur Fighters shouldn’t be as addictive as it is. If the subject matter weren’t enough to raise the ire of hardcore gamers, then certainly the incessant blabber coming from the characters’ mouths would dampen one’s enjoyment. But somehow, Fur Fighters manages to slip through the shackles that should be binding it to mediocrity, rising instead to become an engrosing game. Plus, Fur Fighters is a product with appeal for gamers of all ages. Parents or guardians can rest peacefully, knowing that with Fur Fighters, the only gibs flying through the air will be comprised of cotton stuffing.
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