I was in the middle of the boss battle with the Vega wannabe assassin, locked in a gritty, abandoned subway station, when I realized that Beat Down could have been as popular as Metal Gear Solid if it wasn't trying so damn hard to be the next Grand Theft Auto.
There was no gimmick to beating him, or awkward control scheme to fight against. Sure, the steak knives jutting from his wrists in Wolverine fashion weren't exactly kosher, but there were makeshift weapons scattered over the tiled floor to even the odds if I hadn't brought any with me. I didn't. I brought two big jars of healing pills, which was closer to "cheating" than anything he ever did. I'm playing the part of a criminal and a fugitive though, so what's the point of fighting fair?
Just like a bad marriage, fighting is all you ever do.
"Capcom-style fighting" on the back of the case is a blatant lie, though remembering Street Fighter EX, it's a good lie. Like nearly every half decent 3D fighter, Beat Down's fighting system finds its roots in Sega's Virtua Fighter series. Punch, kick, block, grab. It's all in the mind. Combined with directional taps yield special moves, some available at the start, others gained by leveling up and learning them from allies. Moves that can be belted out during one on one fights or multi-opponent melees, aided by whatever two members of your growing gang you happen to be rolling with at the time. With high, mid, and low attacks and the ability to use two items in mid battle it's no VF4, but it's still a step above the simplistic fighting style found in most beat 'em ups.
Certain fights will also have a pride meter, and wearing this down allows you to interrogate the thug, force him into your gang, or unleash a murderous beat down to add to your rep. In order to do this you need to use negotiate...and that's where it all falls apart. Wearing down pride always leaves your opponent near death, and sneezing has priority over negotiate. I've even had an enemy in a stunned state and still failed to connect with it. What this does is leave you grabbing at air while the thug belts you with a big combo. Hitting you brings back up his pride meter, but not his health, so now you've got to taunt him from a safe distance while avoiding hitting him or getting hit by him, and hope your negotiate actually connects this time. Even when there's a save point placed right next to him, this is way more frustrating than it should be.