Sweep the leg? I can’t, Sensei. I’m using Kinect.

When I look at the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 hardware, there’s not the largely noticeable jump that defined previous generational transitions. One piece of tech that was supposed to help embody the little bit of change we did receive, however, was the new Kinect sensor. Whereas the original Kinect needed all your playing conditions to be just right in order to work (and even then, it failed at times), the next-gen model was supposed to alleviate many of these problems.

Space and lighting issues would be a thing of the past, and the sensor would pick up the slightest movements—right down to your tiniest finger twitch. While the voice-command recognition can be tested via the Xbox One’s menus, we wouldn’t be able to see the most needed improvements until we actually got a game specifically designed for the peripheral. Unfortunately, if Fighter Within was supposed to show off how far Microsoft’s Kinect technology has come, then new-gen motion controls might be in trouble.

Issues to which first-generation Kinect users have become accustomed—such as inaccurate motion tracking and input lag—are prevalent in Fighter Within. You can’t even navigate the game’s menus effectively, because the recognition is so piss poor. I’d often have to use my controller to move through the wretchedly clunky user interface, since my body movements and voice commands were completely ignored outside of fights.

Once you manage to get past the menus, you’ll find the game has two modes. The first of these is your standard arcade-type option. You pick one of the game’s 12 fighters and move up a ladder comprised of eight of the other fighters (there are no mirror matches).

The other is a story mode called Initiation that follows a street urchin named Matt through 21 fights that are supposed to tie his tale together. I wish I could tell you something more about Matt and his journey, but there aren’t any cutscenes until the very end, and the between-bout dialogue is so devoid of personality that I quickly stopped caring. Oh, Matt’s father was a drunk boxer! And his opponent’s mother a disgraced Olympian! I wasn’t sure if I should use the Kinect to help determine a winner in brutal one-on-one combat or ask my Xbox One to find them a good therapist.

Then, finally, you get into actual combat, and it’s here that any fleeting hopes for Fighter Within at least being a fun tech demo are thrown out the window. The game does offer an interesting variety of moves for a motion-control game: standard punches and kicks, picking up sticks to whack your opponent in the face, jumping off scenery in the level, and even special powers—and you’ll need to go through Initiation mode just to be slowly introduced to everything your fighter can do. Of course, even with the added tutorials, it can be a bit much to take it all in, and you’ll find yourself falling in love with just a handful of moves that are more than enough to work your way through the ranks.

Still, this is all contingent on the Kinect sensor actually picking up your movements. Straight punches and kicks aren’t a problem, but the more complex the maneuver, the less likely the game will accurately translate it onscreen. Often, my grab and throw attempts turned into straight punches, kicks turned into wasted special moves, and raising my arms above my head for one special turned into nothing but a high block. And if you move too quickly, the delay between your actions and what happens onscreen becomes more prevalent. There’s nothing more frustrating in Fighter Within than watching your character throw extra punches into a blocking opponent after you’ve stopped—and then being helpless as the computer takes advantage.

It might not be entirely fair to condemn the new Kinect, because after playing this game for several hours, I think Fighter Within just may be one of the most poorly designed motion-control games we’ve seen yet. Simply put, it’s a complete mess. It almost feels like this was a game meant for the motion-tracking technology of the original Kinect, but because nothing was in the pipeline for the Xbox One’s launch window to show off what its new sensor can do beyond dancing and workout games, the project was shuffled from one platform to the other. That’s still no excuse, however, for this being one of the worst launch games I’ve ever had to play, and it should be avoided at all costs.

Developer: Daoka • Publisher: Ubisoft • ESRB: T – Teen • Release Date: 11.22.13
Fighter Within was buried under the rest of the Xbox One launch lineup for a reason. This one-on-one fighter is a throwback to the problems of the first Kinect—and does nothing but sow seeds of doubt that the next-gen Kinect sensor is any different from its predecessor.
The Good Interesting array of moves, including arena interaction. 
The Bad Input lag can be pretty terrible; lack of overall movement recognition, navigating the menus.
The Ugly How winded I was after some of the fights.
Fighter Within is a Xbox One exclusive.