Like a punch to the head, Foes of Ali comes swinging at you from EA as the 3DO’s premiere 3D fighter. Chronicling the career of Muhammad Ali, players are able to recreate his most famous fights to some degree and throw some punches as the greatest himself.
To say that you will be recreating Ali’s most famous fights is a bit tenuous as you will find out when you boot up the game. After selecting “Career” mode, players are able to fight all of Ali’s most famous foes in chronological order. It’s really quite interesting to hear Tim Gammon telling you the history of the fights when you ask for some historical perspective pre-fight and players are given background on the fighting style of each pugilist.
Upon beginning the fights you begin to notice that they’re all basically the same. While fighters all look different and act slightly different you’ll find that the same strategy applies to every fight; mash buttons. They become tiresome after a while as you haphazardly mash buttons and attempt to actually employ features in the game like faking only to find that they basically don’t work. All that works is mashing and hoping that the Joe Frazier look-a-like in front of you kisses the mat before your thumb has to endure 10 rounds of pure muscle tearing button pounding.
I didn’t really feel like Muhammad Ali while I was playing Foes. The incredibly agile footwork and devastating hooks of the champ has been reduced to awkward circling and impotent jabbing. Hits lack impact and you feel overwhelmed at times by the competence of the AI while you struggle to respond with your own awkward combinations. The game is fun to a degree. When you lash out and manage to nail your opponent in the face with a wicked combination and follow up with a gut punch, it feels quite satisfying. However, this satisfaction dwindles quickly when you realise your hundred punches to your opponents head means very little, however a couple of punches to the stomach can knock them out. It’s bizarre and inconsistent.
Graphically, Foes of Ali is something of a showcase. High polygon models marry with excellent particle effects and blood decals on the mat while the game zips a long at a respectable clip.
Textures are fantastic with every fighter looking very convincing and animating fairly well. Textures are incredibly crisp, clean and detailed and when you begin to notice subtle graphical effects such as your vision blurring when you take too many hits to the head, or your eye being blacked out during a fight you really appreciate the attention to detail in the graphics engine. The 3DO is a very powerful platform and games like Foes of Ali really show how graphically competent they are.
Sound, on the other hand is incredibly uninspired. Generic rock music plays over the menus without any quotes or sound bytes from Ali himself while Tim Gammon tries to keep your eyes happy with his entertaining voice and inconsistent commentating during bouts. Occasionally the crowd will chant as well but it is very uncommon. Foes just doesn’t sound good.
I really, really wanted to love Foes of Ali and thought it would be a game I could use to show people little hidden gems on the 3DO that tends to be overlooked. All you get in Foes is a very inconsistent game that features short bursts of fun amongst mostly baffling game design. Punching is all over the place with seemingly random damage being done to an opponent, footwork is awkward and totally ruins the illusion of being Muhammad Ali and every fighter is virtually identical in practice. The graphics engine is fantastic, but that only does so much to distract from the absolutely lackluster gameplay. The greatest? Perhaps the greatest missed opportunity.