Las Sombras: A city that no one in their right minds would want to visit, and God help anyone who lives there. The police are corrupt, a joke, or both. Gangs roam the street freely, and just going out at night can mean getting beaten up and mugged by a street thug. On the other hand, if you're the one doing the beating and mugging, it can be kind of fun.

At least that's the theory behind Beat Down: Fists Of Vengeance, a self-consciously vicious game in which he (or she) with the most muscle and the nastiest fighting skills wins. As Beat Down opens, players choose one of five characters, then get dropped into a tale of gangland revenge involving deals gone wrong, double crosses, and a lot of other B-movie material. But it's all window-dressing for a game that combines elements from role-playing and one-on-one combat games with brawling gang action that lets players lead a small posse of hangers-on. Unfortunately, Beat Down doesn't assemble those elements particularly well. The streets look like leftover sets from Resident Evil, the missions invariably involve engaging in one repetitive rumble after another, and both the group battle and vs. fighting systems are merely okay, particularly by Capcom's standards. Even the grit feels secondhand.

Beyond the gameplay: If the bloodletting hadn't earned Beat Down its "Mature" rating, the language surely would. The gleefully deployed "shits" and "fucks" may shock some players, particularly if they haven't played a game since 1999. Also, the unconvincing English and Latino accents make a good case for the gaming industry bringing in some dialect coaches.


Worth playing for: Hmmm… Some of the outfits you can buy your li'l gangsta are kind of neat.

Frustration sets in when: The bizarre camera makes even walking down the street in a straight line a chore.

Final judgment: Down these mean streets a man doesn't necessarily have to go.