This has taken me far too long. And not even, I think, because I’ve been spending my days in an office and my evenings asleep; I’ve taken so much time over this particular review because this is the first game towards which my opinion has shifted violently the more that I’ve played. I’m pretty bad at games that involve both patience and skill, and can usually only muster one or the other, but when I watched the trailer for boss-battling fighter game Furi, I felt like I could give it a go. After all, how hard can timing a defensive swipe whilst planning your next attack be?
Furi is a title that is not meant for the fainthearted. It is comprised of several fights against unique, equally deadly opponents, interspersed with an awful lot of walking from one location to the next as you, the protagonist, attempt to escape from your permanent confines with the help of a sort of man-bunny-from-space (who I’m convinced is just a figment of your imagination). Each fight is more challenging than the next, and requires that you remain thoroughly on your toes, often ditching the standard, “if you concentrate you’ll notice a pattern” routine in favor of seemingly random assaults.
Your character is equipped with a sabre, designed for close quarters combat, and a laser weapon, which deals little damage unless fully charged but is useful for long-range engagement. I found this to be a nicely poised balance, as it dictates the pace of the battle: when you engage an enemy with your sword, the camera occasionally shifts from its standard top-down view to allow an almost Tekken-esque period of combat. This is a game that requires endless darting around, and cannot be approached without caution; the dodge mechanic is designed to provide the most brutal counter-attacks, if used correctly, which I thought was a necessary addition to what might otherwise have been a bit of a button-masher.
What really sets Furi apart, though, is the manner in which the game will fool you into thinking you’re winning, and then send you plummeting into a pit of frustration as it snatches hope from you like a jealous child. I had moments of ebullience, for sure, but they were few and far between: if you lose a life, the enemy regains their health, meaning that you essentially need to secure a bit of a killstreak. And I’ll be honest, I lost a lot of lives.
Obviously, this is rather the point, and I have no issue with that. The one thing that did slide from acceptably infuriating to a negative aspect of the game was that there was no sense that, even if you’d died after a long streak of near-invincibility, you’d made any real impact upon your opposition. It doesn’t exactly scream “keep playing!”, especially not for those of us who are good enough to not turn down the difficulty (something of a forfeit in Furi) but who get fed up of playing the same level over and over again.
To summarize the plot of Furi would be to begin addressing another aspect of the gameplay – bizarrely enough – because, as I mentioned earlier, the game is filled with moments of sheer traversal. These are the moments when your imaginary psychedelic bunny-dude starts chatting away, explaining with vigor who you’re about to face and why solitary confinement might be counterproductive for those of a more fragile mental nature. It’s a patchy attempt at an underlying story, to be sure, but then the premise is a very simple one, and so I feel like a basic plot will do.
What won’t do, however, is the way in which this basic plot is ruined almost entirely by the most boring and yet challenging aspect of the game; your character will spent a vast portion of his time walking with no real purpose toward his next fight, and in spite of the in-flight entertainment from Mr. Rabbit I found myself quickly wondering whether I was even in the same game. The camera shifts, but the controls do not, which is confusing and slows the process further still; I was left feeling drained and pleading for the “skip” option that just never appeared.
One of the reasons that the trailer for Furi grabbed me was that it was visually quite unique. The design of the game is a cross between Tron and 47 Ronin, offering a blend of futuristic landscape and neo-traditional décor, and the characters themselves are rendered in a pleasingly simplistic, brightly colored style. Animations are rapid, as they ought to be in a combat game of this complexity, and if you manage to land a solid counter, the ensuing motions are always bad-ass (for want of a better term). Oh, and everything glows with a neon hue, which I happen to think looks very cool, even if I do feel that this occasionally restricted the often chaotic gameplay. The arenas themselves are all as unique as their inhabitants, who are perhaps more frightening than the bunny-man: one that stuck in my mind was the crazy woman with a spotlight for a head and a scythe for a weapon. It’s a twisted world of gravity-defiance, laser-beams, and psychiatric patients from the imagination, and at times it makes little sense. But oh boy, does it catch the eye.
I’ve already spoken about how infuriating the level design is (you thought I wouldn’t get that pun in, didn’t you?) in some detail; the fact that such ferocious action has been heavily diluted by unrivaled tedium is by this point pretty clear. I will respect the concept though: Furi feels as though it is one, never-ending gauntlet, as minimal loading screens and maximum continuity means that you’re either slogging it out with a boss or walking slowly toward the next one. All irksome features aside, this was a good idea. The game design allows the player to forget that they’re essentially playing a Street-fighter-style title, with the sense that there is a singular world within which all action takes place.
Et voila. I struggled with all my might to actually make a dent in Furi, and it took me about a month of intermittent play to make it to boss number 4. This is, naturally, a testament to a game that is a rare thing: genuinely challenging. This is also where the game excels, and I’d recommend it based on little more than its difficulty alone, because even though I have some complaints, the “just one more shot” feeling was strong with this one.
This review is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.
REVIEW / Furi (PS4)
Gameplay - 8/10
Plot - 6/10
Design - 6/10
A Furi-ously fast paced fighter
Living up to its name, Furioffers frantic combat that takes no prisoners and requires an unbounded amount of both patience and skill. The game does not, however, manage to keep the tempo high: periods of action drought that endure for far too long mean that the frustration that comes from being unable to defeat an enemy is far surpassed by that of wishing everything would just hurry the heck up.