And the winner for worse environment in a videogame is...
The city of Las Sombras is the size of a shoebox, and you can't walk more than a foot without bumping into a loading screen. Seriously, one map consists of the front exterior of a gas station, another the half length of a basketball court. Das Boot had bigger locations. Plus it's ugly and always set at night, perhaps in a vain attempt to disguise the low resolution textures and PSX quality poly counts. It looks like Resident Evil 2, only less detailed and without all those fun zombies. Why they thought this was acceptable when San Andreas manages to look better and be at least a million times larger I have no idea. It feels like something that was slapped together at the last minute to meet a deadline, but alone dooms Beat Down to be forgotten.
The story is a bizarre mix of gangsta and old school tale of revenge like something out of Final Fight, which mix about as well as oil and water. The opening scene is almost painful to watch (though not as much as the ending), and even worse to listen to considering the "quality" of the voice acting, while the random injection of profanities into nearly every conversation feels forced and out of place. The fact that it's essentially the same, linear storyline for everyone doesn't really help matters. With the way the map is structured similarly to Way of the Samurai, they could have pulled off something interesting with a "choose your own adventure" style of story progression, but it wasn't meant to be. The result is an experience that ends up being too short, yet feels dragged out longer than it really should be. Clearing the game will earn you some bonuses based on your rank, but it's not really enough to justify another run, especially when so little actually carries over into your second play that you won't feel like earning it again.
Outside of the main story mode, there are two versus modes, which consist of 3vs3 KOF style fights that can be tackled alone against the CPU or with a friend, though the absence of a training mode is like a sucker punch to the gut. Normal Versus lets you play as any of the five main characters, along with any bosses you might have unlocked. With a fighting system that doesn't have the depth to stand on its own, this is only useful for trying out the five before you commit to one for the main game, or experimenting a bit with the bosses. Custom Versus will get more use. Here both sides load up a save file from the main game, now having everyone in their own personal gang to choose from. Great if you have a friend with Beat Down and want to prove whose gang is stronger, though a bit limited considering the lack of online play.
no developer, no matter how talented, is going to make a successful clone of the GTA series unless they're given the same amount of time and near the same budget. This is the sort of mentality that drove Acclaim out of business, and drove people to rejoice at their downfall. It's clear from what does work in Beat Down that a lot of talent went into making it, only to be dragged down by the elements that feel as if they were slapped together at the last minute. While it's unlikely Beat Down will rate a sequel, I hope Cavia gets another shot at a similar game type, this time with the freedom and support from the publisher to create something truly memorable.