We strap on some gloves and beat up some ugly dudes in Sony's pocket fighter.
Sony's taking an awful big chance with their forthcoming release of The Con, the first portable brawling game made specifically for the system. On one hand, it's a bit smarter than most fighting games on the market, as you have to focus on the politics surrounding underground street fighting and "con" your way to a better cash flow, all the while maintaining your physical health and stamina so you can remain in these fights. On the other though, it concentrates more on those elements rather than just the straight-up fighting, which may turn off many fans of the genre that are just looking to jump in and throw fisticuffs.
The game does have some appeal to it. You choose from a number of struggling brawlers and then can either jump into a detailed story mode where you begin your rise to power, or a quick game of beat-em-up just to get the hang of the controls. In the story mode, you'll learn the power of the con game, where you can bet on yourself to win or lose, but still have to maintain a hell of a fight to come away a winner.
One thing that must be focused on throughout your con game is your injuries. As you proceed in each fight, you don't want to become overconfident and ego-laden, as that will make people think you aren't a sure bet. By the same token, however, you don't want to just go in and get beaten down like a slab of meat, walking away from a fight trying to smile with the teeth you got left, as some members of the audience will obviously figure out there's a con going on. It's up to you to maintain some kind of balance in the fight to get the results that you want.
The game looks fine. Developer Think & Feel has employed some great animation and detailed backgrounds into the game, as well as an odd third-person camera view that's been placed behind your fighter. There are some dramatic replays here and there to heighten the experience as well, and the angle changes depending on if you can land a multi-hit combo. I'm not so sure about the view selected here, but the game has the looks down pat.
As for fighting controls, I find them a bit annoying. There's multiple button layouts selected for each fighter, although the movement seems a little strict. Furthermore, when you try to go for any kind of special move, half the time the computer AI opponent steps in to catch you off guard. The game does support versus fights with one-on-one play, but the fights don't really come off as anything dynamic, just a quick time-waster.
The Con looks to be an interesting title, to say the least. That's not to say it's going to be a failure, as it will obviously find an audience. However, those expecting a straight-up fighter will probably be surprised at the result. Look for it to release later this month, followed by a review and a deeper explanation of the "con" if one is necessary.