The only punch I’ve ever thrown was when I was around 14 (and that was at a horse), and the thought of hundreds of people screaming my name whilst I skip around in nothing but a pair of shorts is tantalising to say the least, but I’ve always found the experience of playing boxing games in the past to be rather lacking.
Usually it’s all ‘bash button to sit-up’ and ‘bash button to swing arm’, but EA have given the Fight Night franchise an overhaul that proves a far more immersive and ultimately enriching experience.
For starters, there’s the Champion Mode. Inspired by (i.e., ripping off) any number of Hollywood fighter flicks, it’s a very Rocky-esque career mode that sees you play through the eyes of Andre Bishop – an up and coming fighter who is framed and jailed by a corrupt fight promoter and who must punch his way out of prison and to glory.
While the full career mode isn’t going to trouble the average gamer any more than a few hours, the glossiness of the production – both visually and narratively – is pulled off with such quality that you’ll genuinely find yourself immersed in Bishop’s tale, and makes each fight something actually worth fighting for.
Fight Night also retains its Legacy mode, which allows you to build your own fully customisable fighter (although our attempts at recreating Sloth from The Goonies didn’t quite come to fruition), and offers a more in-depth method to beat your way through the ranks from amateur to professional. The longevity is helped by newly added XP and the stamina system, both of which have to be balanced if you want to win fights and earn serious dollar to play in new arenas and manage sponsorship opportunities.
The real change that’s likely to polarise fans of the franchise is the replacement of the old tried-and-tested control system with the Full Spectrum Punch Control. In layman’s terms, fighting – and punch control – is all about flicking the right analogue stick as opposed to the circulating action of the past.
It makes for a very different control method, but one that makes fighting more precise (the sheer amount of moves, based on the angle you flick the stick, is impressive) and fluid, and it’s relatively easy to string together a decent combo. The only downside of the transition appears to be a new dearth in impact, with each hook, uppercut and clonk on the side of the head missing that visceral wallop you’d expect from a boxing game.
The online offering is similarly strong, with a brand spanking new Gym mode that allows you to train in a gym full of other Fight Night-ers around the world and gain XP points to boost your character. Once you’ve joined one of the gyms, you can then fight off between yourselves or challenge other gyms to find out who’s the strongest.
While it’s glossiness and accessibility may mistakenly suggest a dumbing down, there’s a healthy offering for boxing fans both old and new to explore, allowing pretty much anyone out there to feel like a world class athlete and experience what it’s like to rule the ring.
And you don’t even have to punch a horse to get there.