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The creator of the UFC, Art Davie, is putting out a new combat sport early next year called XARM. In the meantime, we get a playable preview in XARM F.U., a new fighting game based on the upcoming franchise from OTF Digital Media and friends. The “F.U.”, stands for “Fighting Unleashed” just so we’re clear on that. It’s a solid game with decent production values, but it has some issues bogging it down.
Now to explain just what the noble and gentlemanly sport of XARM actually is... Well, two fighters are tethered to a table by the waist, and then their hands are bound in an arm wrestling position. The two men then proceed to wail on each other for three one-minute rounds with the victor being decided by KO, TKO, or judge’s decision. It’s definitely a strange mixture of combat forms, and frankly looks pretty silly at first, but is it fun to play? For the most part, yes.
When you start the game up, you’ll be able to choose between six different fighters, though you can only afford a few of them from the get go. As far as I can tell, initial stats don’t really matter. As you fight, your stats will drain, and you’ll need to buy power bars and health drinks to replenish them, making it possible to max everything out anyway. You then take your chosen fighter through a list of opponents, hunting down the weakest and puniest guys before fighting them.
The game splits the controls into four quadrants, and swiping within and between the different quadrants bring about different attacks. You’ve got two striking quadrants, a kicking quadrant, and a blocking one, with various grapples performed by swiping through different quadrants. The controls aren’t all that responsive a lot of the time, and it can be hard to throw the exact move you’re looking for. When you have to time your moves during your opponent’s windows of vulnerability, this can make it pretty difficult. You’ll want to devolve into a swipe crazy flurry of moves and play the game like a button masher, but doing so will cause you to lose, and lose frequently.
I found it a rare occurrence that I would win by knockout. Usually it fell to the judges’ decision, and they base their score on things like accuracy and how many pins were made, meaning even if you mercilessly beat your opponent within an inch of his life and you yourself remain mostly unharmed, you will lose the match because of the computers more accurate and well-timed strikes. You can cheat the system fairly easily by getting in one good combo of moves early on, and then just blocking until the round is over, but that isn’t very fun. Winning matches results in experience points and credits, while losing results in a small amount of experience and no credits.
When it comes to building up your fighter and learning new moves, the game seems to fall short. You can purchase new moves with credits, and even view professional videos explaining the moves. You also buy the stat replenishing snacks and customize your fighter’s appearance with credits. Basing everything around the credits system makes the game much weaker. If you don’t win every single fight, you’ll rarely have enough credits for new moves, let alone cosmetic changes, because you’ll be too busy spending those credits on stat boosters.
The leveling system in the game determines the difficulty of your opponents, as well as which moves are available for purchase, but you still have to purchase everything. Upon leveling, you get a credit bonus, but it’s always a paltry 250 credits. You can purchase more credits in-app, but the exchange rate seems a lot lower than it should be. This credits system is my main gripe with the game, as it is actually a lot of fun otherwise, even with the occasionally difficult controls. The game is more repetitive than it needs to be because I’m not learning many new moves.
All in all, this is a pretty cool game. The graphics and sound are pretty good. Regardless of your feelings on this unique new sport, it’s still fun to play, and the quadrant system is intuitive, innovative, and fun once you get used to it. The game is iOS universal, and there’s no harm in trying it out, as it’s completely free. Unfortunately, a Facebook account is required to log in, just FYI. Try it and decide for yourself if this really is the future of combat sports.