Let’s See How Tough You Really Are
Fight Club as a film is not meant to act as a blueprint for how to live your life. The Tyler Durden persona has all the makings of a sociopath and is not meant to be emulated. Yes, consumerism sucks, but so do cults of personality and hyper-masculinity. Fight Club is a work of satire that a number of people have somehow taken at face value, while also somehow completely ignoring the best lesson it teaches: We’re all slaves to capitalism, and we must break free of our shackles. Now, can I interest you in spending sixty dollars on a Fight Club video game?
Of all the video games based on movie licenses, this feels like it might be one of the strangest. Not because the concept of an underground fight club doesn’t inherently make sense as a fighting game, because that part obviously does. It’s more to do with the fact it’s a 2004 game release based on a flop 1999 movie** — the underlying moral of which is to dissuade the toxic masculinity on display, and the plot of which is based around a character whose philosophy is that you shouldn’t blindly buy every product that’s advertised to you. It’d be like, making a 1987 NES game based on Platoon, where the only takeaway the developers seemed to get from the movie was “guns are cool” while completely missing the real message that “war is hell.” Thankfully, that never happened.
So yeah, I’m already going into this game with a fair bit of skepticism. I’m not really a fighting game aficionado to begin with, and I’m not particularly a fan of the film it’s based on. Of course, I’ll do my best to remain fair and impartial, but come on guys: It’s a movie-based game from 2004! I’m pretty sure the only movie game that came out that year that didn’t suck was The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay, and that only sort of counts. But who knows? Maybe Fight Club is a diamond in the rough that’s just been waiting for its chance to shine. Oh, who am I kidding? We all know that this one is gonna — wait, what’s that? You’re telling me I can play as Fred Durst in this game?
… Man, forget whatever BS I was talking about, and let me tell you what I’m gonna do now: We’re gonna get this review of Fight Club rollin’, baby!
** Yes, the film eventually managed to earn a tidy little $10 million in profit. But that was after a failed theatrical run, and some more years after making its way to home video. I don’t believe poster sales count towards this profit total, but if they did, you could probably tack another couple million dollars to that tally thanks entirely to those damn things. I swear, I don’t think I visited one dude’s dorm room in college that didn’t have a picture of Brad Pitt holding a bar of soap on their wall.
This Club’s Got Rules, and We’re Gonna Follow Them
Fight Club the video game largely takes its aesthetic and narrative cues from Fight Club the motion picture (rather than the slightly different plot of the novel), as you may well expect. It also attempts to populate its roster with “recognizable” faces from the film, though it does so without the benefit of having most of the likeness rights to the cast. Believe it or not, Edward Norton and Brad Pitt do not reprise their roles here, nor do the likes of Helena Bonham Carter or Jared Leto. Instead, we’re treated to the returns of, uhh… Holt McCallany as “The Mechanic,” Thom Gossom Jr. as “Detective Stern,” Michael Shamus Wiles as “Bartender in Halo” (a character who, by his own admission in an in-game special feature, has all of two minutes screentime in the film), and none other than Meat Loaf himself reprising the role of Robert “Bob” Paulson.
You have your standard pick of gameplay modes for a 3D fighter: Arcade, versus, survival, training, and of course, an action-packed story mode that attempts to kind of sort of maybe follow the story of the film a little bit? We’ll be giving plenty of attention to the story mode in a short while, but we should probably cover the basics of the core fighting mechanics first. As far as 3D fighting games go, it’s a pretty no-frills affair: You get two punch buttons, two kicks, plus a block and taunt. You have your sidestepping movements in addition to moving toward and backward from your opponent, aaand that’s about it. There’s no button for jumping, no room for unique special moves given the gritty and semi-realistic nature of the game, and only three fighting styles (“Brawling,” “Grappling,” and “Martial Arts”) for all of the characters to fall under / to dictate most of their movesets. This effectively makes all of the roster largely interchangeable with one another, with no one character providing any real advantage or disadvantage over the others.
Oh, I did forget about one other function! At any point in a match, you can click in both analog sticks in order to tap out and immediately surrender. “Why the hell would you just give up in the middle of a match,” you may ask? Why, to prevent having your bones broken, of course. And why does that matter in this game versus something like a Mortal Kombat X, where characters get snapped in half and keep on slappin’? Well, for the most part, it really doesn’t matter, as your injuries won’t dog your character between matches or anything — unless, of course, you’re playing as a custom character whom you’ve selected to be “Hardcore.” Yes, under this one incredibly specific set of circumstances, injuries will actually add up and debilitate your character, eventually to the point that they are forced to retire, unless you spend some of your accumulated experience points towards healing those injuries in the game’s “Emergency Room” menu.
This actually has the makings of a really cool, novel idea for a fighting game — adding some extra element of danger to the sort of devastating moves you often see getting tossed around so casually in these sorts of affairs. Back when the online mode for this game was up and running, I can totally imagine players going into matches with the mindset of crippling other players, or having to weigh the risk of continuing a match while their character is in the “danger zone” portion of their health bar knowing that more serious damage can possibly be done to them. But, of course, this is all assuming they’re playing a character built with these conditions specifically in mind, which the game certainly doesn’t force or even incentivize players to do. And so, most players probably never even saw this system in action, or were even aware of its existence.
Half-baked features are something of a recurring theme in Fight Club. The developers at Genuine Games clearly had some high ambitions for their title, but were either too rushed or too disorganized to really implement any of these more novel features properly. In example: That create-a-character mode features possibly the most weirdly limited selection of customization options I’ve seen in a video game. For some reason, only characters with dark skin are allowed to have facial hair, but unlike characters with lighter skin tones, they can’t change the color of their hair? If you select a character with a light or medium build, your only article of clothing are your pants, but larger characters get to ignore the sixth rule of Fight Club (“No shirts, no shoes”) as they are forced to wear tank tops. It all comes across as very unfinished, which is the assumption I’m going with here in regards to the whole game.
Furthering my theory are the short end-of-match scenes that follow every fight. They begin with the winning character visibly muttering what should be a win quote into the camera, but unfortunately, none of them have any actual recorded dialogue for the game to cue up. Whether they forgot to actually include these lines in the final game or never actually recorded them to begin with, we may never know. This is followed by your defeated opponent looking dejected as the camera zooms away from them, which is fair enough. The only problem is, there seems to be only one animation available for this, and so every character ends up using it every time. In addition to getting very old very fast, it also adds to the feeling that no character in the game is at all unique or different from one another — which is, y’know, only one of the major appeals of modern fighting games?
But of all the characters in the game, perhaps none is more generic or uninspired than the character you play in the story mode, who is left nameless in dialogue and with no player customization option other than picking one of the three fighting styles. For whatever it’s worth, I made my guy a grappler, which I’ll describe the benefits of later. Now, I usually just give a summation of the basic premise of a game’s story in my articles. But in the case of Fight Club? The only way to do this game justice is to provide a full synopsis; beat by beat, from beginning to end. Honestly, it’s the game mode most emblematic of the game as a whole, and probably the feature I found myself most entertained by in my time with the game.
The story opens with a decently-rendered cinematic of your character walking down a set of stairs and into a fight in-progress. He asks the dude closest to him where Tyler Durden is, which the man responds to by calling your character a “virgin.” He then recites rule number eight of Fight Club: “If this is your first night at Fight Club, you have to fight.” You are then thrown immediately into your first match, against some poor sod named Ricky. This all works well enough as an introduction, with the brief cutscene doing a decent enough job of emulating the style of the film, and indicating that your character isn’t fully aware of what exactly they’re getting themselves into.
And so, you eventually win the match (presumably), and then a funny thing happens: The presentation of the cutscenes changes completely. From here on out, there’s no more full motion video — only still images of characters superimposed in front of still images of backgrounds, with occasional bits of tweening and sliding across the screen to create some pathetic illusion of animation. And the character models, they don’t look so good anymore either. They all have this sort of “Poser® prefab”** quality to them, where they’re all very much on the uncanny side of the valley, and any attempt to do anything particularly complicated with them in terms of posing or emoting comes across looking kind of goofy.
The first cutscene presented in this fashion involves your character having a post-fight discussion with a character named Irvin, who asks you to step outside with him and another unnamed club member, and who promptly begins beating the shit out of you. Luckily, in spite of this being his first time ever attending Fight Club, your character already knows all the rules by heart, and invokes rule number four: “Only two guys to a fight.” This of course leads to your second fight in the game, where you begin with no damage done to you despite having just fought and being roughed up only a few seconds earlier. Typical video game logic, sure, but this could’ve been a neat opportunity for some “conditional fighting” à la Soulcalibur’s mission modes.
Upon beating Irvin, you’re treated to another slideshow where you’re directed to the iconic Paper Street house, and you get to meet a few more hideous re-imaginings of some Fight Club characters! You see not-Jared Leto’s Angel Face having a shouting match with not-Helena Bonham Carter’s Maria, before actual-Meat Loaf’s Bob pulls you aside and tells you that you’re gonna need to fight again if you wanna prove yourself to the club. This exchange also includes a brief “”comedy”” moment at the expense of Bob, whose breasts have grown due to medicine he takes for his testicular cancer, to which your character seems to jokingly remark “Cancer gives you THOSE?!” Not to give the movie too much credit here, but when Bob’s condition is acknowledged in that telling of the story, it’s at least meant to be some statement on masculinity or something. But in the video game? It’s just a visual gag. It actually serves to make Bob one of the few distinct-looking characters in the game, but is also clearly intended to slot him as a “joke” character. But hey, they actually got Meat Loaf himself in the booth to record a cumulative minute of voiceover for him, so… there’s that, I guess?
You beat up Bob, and he proceeds to spill the beans on where Tyler is currently located: Somewhere unspecified in Seattle, Washington. You attend a meeting being held by Lou, who — wait, Lou? You mean the guy who Tyler had to intimidate into letting the club hold fights in the basement of his bar? Sure, I guess he’s a key player in “Project Mayhem” now, because there are only so many semi-recognizable characters they could pull from the film to put in the game. Anyway, Lou doesn’t recognize you, so you have to beat him to a bloody pulp in order to get him to trust you. And when he does, he directs you to San Francisco, California, presumably resulting in another plane ride across the states. Honestly, if the entire game just took place in Delaware, I don’t think anyone would have thought twice about it, but introducing all this trekking across the country sticks out to me. Is it because there are scenes in the film that take place on an airplane, so naturally, our hero has to constantly be riding airplanes?
So we head to San Fran, and pick a fight with The Mechanic, who points us right back to the Paper Street compound. By this point, I’m beginning to wonder if we wouldn’t have been better off just staying put there from the beginning? At any rate, we arrive just in time to meet up with Angel Face again, who – you guessed it – doesn’t trust us until we beat them up. And so finally, after having flown all over the country and fought half a dozen dudes, we finally get to meet not-Edward Norton’s “The Narrator,” and get to learn something about our own miserable player character’s backstory: We discover that the whole reason he is on this quest to meet Tyler and give new purpose to his life is all because his girlfriend left him. And when he attempted to commit suicide in the middle of a bar (!), the bartender managed to quickly disarm him before pointing him towards Fight Club. That’s it. That’s our whole motivation. Our character literally knew nothing about Tyler Durden or the Fight Club before we took control of him at the beginning of the game, he still seems to know next-to-nothing now, but goddamn if he hasn’t committed himself completely to the cause!
This whole cutscene raises a few more interesting questions. First of all, the bartender in the scene is meant to be “Halo” — the bartender with the neck brace from the film. My question? Why is he not wearing his neck brace? He wears it in his later appearances in the story mode, so I can only assume that the folk who rendered the images for this cutscenes straight-up forgot to incorporate it into his character model for these shots. My second question: What’s with the turtleneck sweaters? If characters in a cutscene aren’t shirtless or wearing a tank top, they are guaranteed to all be wearing the same style of black turtleneck sweater, while also still refusing to wear shoes. And it’s not just some weird unspoken dress code for Fight Club members: In that cutscene in the bar, our hero is already clad in the turtleneck before he’s even told about the club! Thanks to this frankly bizarre stylistic choice, every character in the game just ends up looking like they’re doing their best Steve Jobs cosplay.
Honestly, my only guess as to this lack of wardrobe variety (as well as the general lack of effort put into these slideshow cutscenes) is that these stills were originally never intended to be seen by players. It’s my hypothesis that these were all originally intended as animatics / concept art for the animation team to use as reference when producing proper full-motion animations. In this scenario, the turtlenecks were likely not intended to be the finalized attire: They were simply meant to indicate characters who would be fully / uniquely clothed in a given cutscene, with the sweaters serving as a very simple placeholder. Of course, at some point, plans and/or deadlines changed, and the team were forced to hastily repurpose these crude concept renders as the actual cutscenes, resulting in the hilariously strange presentation we’re left with.
Getting back to the plot: Now that we finally know our character’s weak motivation, it’s time to take another plane ride! This time, to scenic Chicago. And when we touch down, we’re greeted by none other than Raymond K. Hessel, already brawling on the tarmac. Who’s Raymond, you may ask? Why, he’s the random store clerk from the film that Tyler pulls a gun on and threatens to kill if he doesn’t go back to college to become a veterinarian. And now, he’s a card-carrying member of Fight Club! Is there any explanation for this change in character, other than the fact the developers felt obligated to turn every character with a speaking role from the movie into a character in the game? Believe it or not – if you manage to beat arcade mode while playing as Raymond – the game actually does offer something resembling an explanation, courtesy of Raymond’s very own monologue:
“I went back to school because I was afraid of Tyler. I remembered why I wanted to go in the first place. I came back to thank him for showing me how to live every day as if it were my last.”
While studying biology at college, Raymond also apparently had the time to master martial arts, as he turns out to be quite a formidable opponent. Luckily, as a grappler, my character had an ace up his sleeve: An incredibly basic combo that seemed to completely break the AI in every single match. I discovered that all I needed to do to win any given fight was attempt a running kick, which does decent damage if it lands, but is also fine if the AI blocks it as it gives you a full second to perform an overhead chop which the AI almost never seems to subsequently block or avoid. Once I figured this out in somewhere around the third fight, I knew I no longer had to worry about losing a match ever again. I have no doubt that there are probably a dozen of other ways to easily manipulate and defeat the artificial intelligence, but this is just the one I happened to stumble on.
Can you guess what happens as soon as we beat Raymond? You guessed it: We’re immediately on another plane ride, this time to lovely Miami, Florida. Here, we also meet our good friend Halo again at a fancy restaurant, where he gives us our new mission: Break the arm of a man who broke a deal with Tyler. And so, you quickly pounce upon a character simply named “Chemical Guy,” who is eating a fancy meal while wearing a turtleneck sweater and no shoes. You proceed to beat him to near-death, at which point the game informs you… that you’ve failed the mission?! Yes, for this one fight only, you have a specific condition attached to completing it, where you must perform an arm-breaker on your opponent rather than knocking him completely unconscious or what have you. Again, more objectives and gimmick fights like this could’ve been an interesting feature in this story mode, and added some much-needed variety to the proceedings! Instead, seeing it pop up just once makes it stand out like a sore thumb, and leave you wondering why the developers even bothered in the first place.
Okay, I’m just gonna try to get through these next couple fights as quickly as possible because they kind of just feel like padding (yes, even more so than the previous fights). You fly to Atlanta, Georgia to help set a chapter of the Fight Club that has apparently “gone rogue” back straight again. With this accomplished, you fly back to Delaware and arrive back at the Paper Street compound, where you are now apparently officially a major player in Project Mayhem. As you direct a number of turtleneck-clad men carrying boxes across the house’s front lawn, Angel Face steps out to challenge you again, with our hero once again putting him back in place. Again, I feel the need to reiterate that our player character has yet to have a face-to-face with Tyler at this point, or have anyone to clue him in as to what Project Mayhem even entails. We’ve just been taking everything on blind faith so far, and I guess he’d be embarrassed if he started asking questions now.
Believe it or not, this brings us to our final confrontation of the game. Our hero is tasked with bringing the disgruntled Narrator back into the fold, as his involvement is essential to Project Mayhem’s completion. We catch the man walking down the corner of “Jekyll St.” and “Hyde St.” late at night, wearing his iconic outfit from the movie — a turtleneck sweater, jeans, and no shoes. And when we confront him, you’ll never believe what happens: It turns out that Tyler Durden is the Narrator’s split personality!! The game presents this to you as the Narrator having a heated conversation with himself while making a variety of goofy faces, with the screen flashing white while transitioning between slides. With his secret revealed, we finally have our opportunity to fight the man himself, whose name under the health bar reads as “Jack.” And when I say “Jack,” I literally mean “Jack” — complete with the quotation marks around it. Naturally, despite being the final boss, he demonstrates no particularly unique set of skills, and goes down just as easily as any other goober we’ve encountered previously.
With the boss of Fight Club made to submit to us, our hero becomes the new president and ushers in a new era of basement brawling and vandalism. Nah, I wish: We actually get another fully animated cutscene out of nowhere, where the Narrator suddenly looks a lot more like an Edward Norton lookalike, and is even seen wearing his actually-recognizeable boxer shorts and jacket attire. He overlooks the cityscape from the skyscraper that serves as the setting from the end of the film, before turning to our character and handing us the failsafe detonator for the explosives rigged in the surrounding buildings. Our hero leaves the room to talk to some other Project Mayhem accomplices, hears a gunshot go off in the other room, runs back just in time to see a weak recreation of the scene where Marla is reunited with the Narrator, and promptly leaves the room again so that he can trigger the explosives. As he watches the city burn from his own personal window in the skyscraper, he quips “There’s no fucking snooze bar on this wake-up call.” Boooo.
And that’s all there is to the story mode. It successfully (?) finds a way to retcon and weave our character into the narrative of the film, complete with us playing a key role in its conclusion. Is this what Fight Club fans wanted? Probably not: I’m sure most folk would’ve preferred a more traditional movie-based video game story where you play as the Narrator himself, elaborate on beats from the original story, maybe insert a couple of extra fights, and eventually culminate in a battle against your own alter ego. The presence of a poorly-defined self-insert character makes the whole campaign play like a bad fanfic. The absolutely unnecessary globe-trotting element, which you would assume was meant to make the world of the game feel “bigger,” does nothing to make players feel as if they’ve gone anywhere or accomplished anything over the course of a brief hour or two spent battling their way through the story.
All that being said, my complaints were rendered completely invalid when I discovered that the reward for finishing the story mode is finally unlocking Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit fame as a playable character. So, the soundtrack to this game features some nu-metal-esque bangers, right? These include an instrumental track by Korn and a pair of songs composed by our friend Fred. Hence, the developers saw fit to make him an unlockable fighter. A fun trivia fact worth mentioning is that this doesn’t even mark Fred’s first appearance as a playable video game character: He previously appeared as an unlockable wrestler in 2001’s WWF Smackdown! Just Bring It, where he shares Undertaker’s entrance video as set to his own hit song, “Rollin’ (Air Raid Vehicle).” I’m also going to take this opportunity to note that Fred is still an avid games fan, and apparently played a ton of Quake III: Arena back in the day on the Dreamcast. Have I mentioned yet that I kind of unironically love Fred Durst?***
Good ol’ Fred is one of four unlockable characters in the game (plus an extra-secret hidden character that you can play as by naming your create-a-character “Skeleton”). You can additionally unlock Halo [sans neck brace again], the Narrator’s boss from his old office job, and sixteenth President of the United States Abraham Lincoln. What in the Sam Hill is Honest Abe doing here? Why, don’t you remember that throwaway line from the movie where Tyler Durden says that if he could have a fight with any historical figure, he’d go a round with Lincoln? Truthfully, I think this is actually a genuinely funny little inclusion, so I’m not here about knocking it. What I will complain about, however, is how out of a total roster of fifteen characters, not a single one of them manages to feel in any way unique.
Yes, I know I already mentioned before how all the characters are effectively interchangeable with one another, et cetera. But dammit, this is a fighting game, and I can’t just let this slide. Particularly amusing is the fact everyone has alternate costumes, which are effectively just recolors of their pants and tanktop [if they have one]. Now, the thing of it is, pre-release trailers for the game featured a number of characters wearing entirely unique outfits that better match their characters: The Mechanic gets a pair of overalls fit for a car mechanic, Raymond can be seen wearing his convenience store employee uniform, Bob has an alternate outfit where he wears a suit and tie. There even appears to be a character with an afro who remains unseen in the final release, as well as characters clad in turtlenecks while fighting — which, shockingly, is not an option in the final release despite the attire featuring so prominently in the story mode.
The only explanation I have for these omissions is that the footage seen in the trailer probably consisted of target renders rather than actual gameplay — “proof of concept” footage rendered before the gameplay engine had even been finalized. But it still demonstrates the fact that tentative assets were created at some point, and the developers opted to go with mostly shirtless characters across the board rather than further polishing up these unique outfits. Sure, you can make the argument that making everyone shirtless is falling in line with the accompanying Fight Club policy, but honestly, they already did enough to crap on the canon of the film, so what would one more rule break cost them?
You know, there’s also something to be said of the fact that every member of the club has the skills of a professional competitive fighter. When did having to have actual fighting prowess become a requirement of Fight Club? Isn’t the whole point for wholly untrained, white collar dudes to have an outlet for their pent-up frustrations and “feel like men?” Yeah, I get that it’s a fighting game, and that you’re naturally gonna expect every character to be competent and combat. But would it really be so bad if some of then weren’t? You can totally design characters around being unskilled and untrained: They could’ve made a fourth moveset called “Amateur” or something along those lines, and make it so that they have no style or grace to their technique. Give them slow, almost bumbling sort of attacks that manage to pack a surprising wallop if they land, as if the characters don’t even know their own strength.
As it stands, every character being on more or less the same level likely means your “preferred” character will simply end up being the one you find most amusing (until you unlock Fred Durst and inevitably spend the rest of your time as him). That being said, the game does try and encourage you to beat its arcade mode as every character, so you can watch their ending cinematic and see where that animation budget all got allocated. Most of these cutscenes follow the full-animation style and use the better-looking character models, though none of them make for particularly long or satisfying endings. The most interesting videos you can view are earned by beating the mode as any of the unlockable characters — who, rather than giving them in-universe conclusions to their stories, have “behind-the-scenes” interview clips with the four actors who returned to reprise their roles.
From these clips, you get the impression that these actors were promised their characters would be getting larger roles than they ended up actually receiving. Particularly heartbreaking is the interview with Detective Stern’s actor, Thom Gossom Jr., who laments “It was somewhat better in the game, because I had more dialogue and there was more character there, and more flavor. […] In this version, he’s a more ‘3D’ guy — more of a complete character.” Unfortunately, his character doesn’t even make an appearance in the story mode, meaning the entirety of his contributions amount to his one-minute arcade mode ending and this very interview. Meat Loaf looks like he could not possibly look any less interested in being there, while the actors behind The Mechanic and Halo seem like they probably didn’t have much else on their plate at the moment. If I’m reaching for positives here about the game, I can at least assume that people got paid for their time.
That just about covers all there is to Fight Club. As a fighting game, it’s pretty underwhelming. As a licensed title, it’s shockingly unpolished. As a bad game though, I actually find it quite entertaining! The story mode is highly amusing, even if only for the roughly 20 minutes worth of barely animated cutscenes. The roster of mechanically and aesthetically interchangeable characters is one of those “what were they thinking” kind of design decisions that I love to ponder on. And trying to keep track of what elements of the game went completely unfinished is a fun little task for a nitpicking jerk like me; trying to puzzle out where and when the time and money ran out for the developers.
If you’re a fan of Fight Club the film (or maybe even the novel), you’re probably either gonna see this game as a total betrayal to the source material, or as a fascinating little bit of failed homage. If you don’t care much for the source material one way or the other, you may not be able to fully appreciate how badly this game manages to bungle the whole affair. For me, as someone who likes to figure out “how the tainted sausage gets made,” I got a lot out of my time with the game, and would certainly recommend it to like-minded bad game enthusiasts. There was definitely some level of ambition and novel ideas on the part of the developers, but it’s clear that they were never given the resources needed to execute on them.
** For those not in the know, Poser is a popular 3D modeling and animation program that’s been around since 1995. It has something like a reputation as being “entry-level” software, and if you’re a first-time user or someone without much aptitude for 3D rendering, there’s a good chance your work will end up having a very recognizable sort of “Poser style” to it.
*** To be clear here, my love of Limp Bizkit is entirely ironic. Removing Fred from the context of the band though, I dunno man; it’s kind of hard for me to hate the guy? I mean, he seems like he’d probably be pretty chill to hang out with, and maybe discuss the finer points of console conversions of deathmatch shooters. Oh, and I’d definitely wanna check out his anime figurine collection.
Come on Pal, Come with Me. Be a Part of History
Fight Club’s PS2 and Xbox releases marked the debut title for developer Genuine Games. Mobile phone versions of the game developed by Superscape would release in 2005 and 2006, though I cannot for the life of me find any info on them outside of a handful of negative written reviews. Naturally, those negative reviews extended to the primary console release as well, with Metacritic’s aggregate scores for both console releases averaging out to a 36%. That being said, half of those reviews of the game feature some variation on the joke “The first rule of Fight Club is, don’t buy Fight Club,” so feel free to discount those hack writers immediately.
GameSpot’s Greg Kasavin opened his review of the release by astutely pointing out that “Given the antimaterialist undertones of the 1999 movie Fight Club, it seems a little strange that it has been spun off into a video game, especially this long after the fact.” He also proceeds to take the presentation of the combat to task: “Much of the animation in Fight Club looks stilted and weak, resulting in battles that really look nothing like the savage fistfights from the movie.” IGN’s Douglass C. Perry spends an inordinate amount of time comparing the game against Tekken specifically in his review: “If you skip all of the marring of the movie and the book with the game’s awful presentation, story, production, and audio — yes, that’s asking a lot — the fighting isn’t half bad. But the game is basically a wholesale rip-off of Tekken, sans the variety of character types, styles and depth — which, admittedly, is a lot.”
One of the few positive-ish reviews came from PSXNATION’s J.M. Vargas, who awarded the game a whopping 5 out of 10. He goes classical with his bad fighting game references, referring to Fight Club as “the Pit Fighter of a new generation,” and claiming “If the PS2 was a 3DO system then Fight Club would be its Way of the Warrior.” I have no idea who Mr. Vargas is or what he’s up to nowadays, but on the off-chance someone knows who he is and sends him this article: Well-written work, my dude. Personally, I would’ve maybe gone with something like “Fight Club is the PS2 equivalent of the Atari Jaguar’s Fight for Life,” but your choice works just as well. I also have to give it to you for your opening statement, which I also think hits the nail on the head:
“This is one of those second-tier fighting games that knows it isn’t going to inspire the degree of loyalty and rabid following that a new SNK, Sega, Namco or Capcom fighting game could easily summon. So it goes after casual gamers that may not necessarily be fighting game fanatics that have at least seen the 1999 flick. Judged solely as a competent vehicle to capitalize on a dormant license Fight Club is a success.” ~ J.M. Vargas, PSXNATION
Taking VGChartz at face value, it looks as though Fight Club managed to move something like 300K units across the PS2 and Xbox. As far as differences between the two versions are concerned, the Xbox evidently boasts slightly better visuals and some additional downloadable content in the form of extra music and an additional character (whom I struggled to find any information on). But with the PS2 being the better-selling console, it was naturally the version to move more copies. Though I’d be hard-pressed to call this a major success for Genuine Games, it gave them enough clout to lead development on another licensed game the following year: 50 Cent: Bulletproof. That game has gone on to garner something of its own reputation, and maybe we’ll get a chance to explore it a bit more in-depth in the future.
After that, the studio seemed to fall off the face of the earth: They announced on their website shortly after Bulletproof’s release that they were “currently in negotiations to develop a high profile title on the next generation of consoles,” and that “details of this project will be announced shortly.” Naturally, no announcement ever came. It should also be mentioned that “Genuine Games, Inc.” is not to be confused with “Genuine Games, Ltd.” — a Scottish developer responsible for such titles as Flibbidy Jibs, Girlzz, and YooStar Fashion Salon. In an eerie bit of coincidence, both developers seemed to disappear at around the same time, after having operated for similar lengths of time.** It’s been radio silence since 2007 from both studios, though neither has ever formally announced their closure.
It’s incredible that a Fight Club video game even exists. Not just because of the whole “five years late” aspect or the fact that it’s very existence spits in the face of the film it’s based on; but also for the fact a first-time developer in Genuine Games was entrusted with such a major movie license, and then not given enough time or money to get the job done right. It’s a testament to the fact that the early 2000s were too lucrative a period for the game industry’s own good — a moment in time where you could pitch the concept of a tie-in game to seemingly any brand or license-holder and get the go-ahead the next day. A brief, beautiful moment in the history of our industry where someone in a boardroom could write Fred Durst’s name on a whiteboard, and have his music and likeness materialize within their video game shortly thereafter.
Fight Club the video game is a monument to the very same corporate disinterest and greed that the novel and film sought to satirize. In that sense, it’s sort of a karmic justice that the final product is a complete and utter mess, proving Tyler’s own points on the predatory nature of consumerism and the gullibility of consumers. But now that the dust has settled and the corporations involved no longer stand to profit, I would say that now is the perfect time to pick up the game for yourself. At the very least, give the story mode a look, and have a yourself a laugh at the all singing, all dancing crap on display.