Remember the golden years of video-game brutality? Back in the late '80s and early '90s when graphics had gotten sharp enough to make bloodletting look icky, and gaming was just sophisticated enough to make it exciting when you hit some buttons to punch a dude in a face? Well, the 17-year-old Final Fight franchise sure does. Sure, the new Final Fight: Streetwise has a storyline and some halfhearted nods to Grand Theft Auto's open-ended gaming, but make no mistake: It's all about punching dudes and mashing buttons. (And on at least one occasion, stomping some roaches. But that's just a side mission.)

Trouble is, it's hard to go back. And who really wants to? When other games have better fighting systems, who wants to die while maneuvering into just the right place to pick up a much-needed hamburger? Who wants to squint to figure out which bad guy to punch while the camera moves to some unhelpful angle? And who wants to spend 40 bucks on an unintended nostalgia trip?

Beyond the game: Making the most of the "M for Mature" rating, the game creators throw voluminous obscenities into the cutscenes. Count 'em! It's fun!


Worth playing for: Obscenity-counting! It's fun! No, really, that's about it.

Frustration sets in when: The moment your hero hits the street, begins beating up toughs and collecting money, and that sinking "Is that all there is?" feeling sets in.

Final judgment: Only players absolutely obsessed with the continuing story of street-fighter-with-a-heart-of-gold Cody and bare-knuckled mayor Mike Haggar need bother checking in.