World of Apex

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Fight Night is Every Night

Fight Night Round 3

Lets face it, EA's Xbox 360 lineup as been less than enjoyable. Oh hell, why beat around the bush? Their lineup of consistently milked franchise sports games outright sucked. Luckily for all you boxing fans and non-fans alike, the publisher decided not to rush Fight Night the same way, and surprisingly, the game exceeds expectations. Proving that they really can improve on one of their franchises instead of sitting on it and reeling in the cash, Fight Night delivers a genuinely fun and spectacular looking boxing title.

Fight Night is the only game I've ever seen that can render such ugly fighters so beautifully. The visuals here can only be described as an experience, and really show what the console is capable of in only its second generation of games. Boxing is a perfect sport for visual overkill, and EA knows it. From the perfectly modeled meshes, highly detailed textures and animated cloth to dripping sweat and skin that ripples with the impact of punches, everything is here in excess. The environments make liberal use of the bloom lighting effect, while extremely high quality bump mapping gives everything in view realistic depth. All around, the graphics are just plain jaw dropping.

Traditionally, sports games are known for great sound effects and incredibly bad musical selection; both of those are here. While the soundtrack leaves much to be desired for anyone with little taste for rap, the sounds in the ring are excellent. Scuffling feet, the breath of both fighters, and of course the impact of punches are clearly audible and sound like you're ringside at a real fight. Again, the quality and amount of sound effects does lead to some overkill during knockdown replays, but it's bearable enough. The commentary is fairly good, but you will often be unsure who the announcer is referring to, and his rambling can be difficult to follow. Between rounds your trainer will try to perk you up with one of a handful of generic pep-talk lines, but who listens to that guy anyway? The main focus is definitely in the ring, where the game delivers a perfect audio compliment to the incredible graphics.

The graphics do provide the jaw-drop factor, but for once EA shows that graphics aren't everything. The game itself is simply a great boxing game, which does justice to the sport to more than just fans. Amazingly smooth movement and animation, coupled with sensible, easy to learn controls come together to make a game that's simple enough to learn, yet hard to master. Using the left stick to shuffle around and the right to throw punches is fluid and comfortable to use. The two triggers provide secondary modes for the sticks: the left trigger lets you dodge and lean with the left stick, while the right stick is switched to throwing body blows; the right trigger changes the right stick to blocking and parrying, but does nothing to the left stick, allowing you to move and ward off shots. The parry feature is extremely useful in fights, and lets you get a quick shot in on your opponent when he screws up, but takes some practice and fast reflexes to get the right direction in time. The right bumper is the conveniently placed special punch button, so you can let loose your signature haymaker at precisely the right moment. That's right, there's an EA sports game out there with great controls...imagine that!

The single game is exactly what you would expect: a straightforward career mode. The standard "take your created fighter from amateur to champion" type mode is old news, but still enjoyable. Although you have fairly limited options for character creation, it's not that big of a deal. The facial deforming system would be understandably difficult to customize, and you wouldn't want your pretty face getting pummeled anyway, would you? If you get tired of the path to glory you can jump into an ESPN Classic fight, which lets you try your hand at defying historical matches like Ali vs. Frasier. You can also fire up a single match whenever you like for practice as well. All of the single modes are accompanied by pretty decent AI, which is a reasonable challenge even on the lower settings. The higher the difficulty goes, though, it seems your character gets dumber and weaker instead of the other guy getting better (which is trademark EA). The parrying system gives a distinct advantage to the AI's faster reflexes, and you will occasionally get beaten down by a fighter that does nothing but parry punches. The single game wasn't broken, so it didn't get fixed, but then again it didn't really get improved either.

One thing that's very noticeable about Fight Night is that the game has a pick up and play nature to it, which fits perfectly for multiplayer matches. Unlike a certain Ubisoft game, the multiplayer does happen to use the same game engine as the single player modes, so the graphics are just as good there. Since the game is one on one, lag is kept to a minimum and the fights tend to stay fast paced. One thing that would've been a nice addition is an online career mode, similar to the one PGR3 had. Fighting actual people for titles online would add a lot to the multiplayer replayability. Aside from that, what's there is solid none the less.

The replay value is pretty good with Fight Night. Having both an enjoyable multiplayer you can jump right into and a single player you can go through in different ways helps keep the game alive after your first character is king of the ring. If you don't want to just randomly battle people online, you can make a new character in one of the five other weight classes you didn't pick the first time and try there. The difference between heavyweight and lightweight fighters is distinct, and comes off as a whole new experience. A good bit of replayability, even for you single player junkies.

As the announcer in Fight Night would say, the game comes through with a convincing win. It's gorgeous, easy to pick up and play, and has enough depth and replay to keep you coming back.

Presentation: 9/10 - Shock and awe.

Gameplay: 8/10 - Fluid controls and movement are the key to any boxing game.

Replayability: 7/10 - It's there, maybe not in droves, but it's there.

Value: 8/10 - I never thought I would say "the best purchase I made this week was a boxing game."

Overall/Summary: 8/10 - The must have boxing game.


  • Nice review.

    I only disagree with your comments on the audio. I think the announcer is quite good(judging from the demo). And I like rap music so I'd like the soundtrack - a lot of people would I'm sure.

    Other than I'm sure you're right on.

    By Blogger Still Standing in Line, at 5:57 PM  

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