Thursday, May 28, 2009

Fight Night Round 4 demo impressions

"Go Get Em Pac-Man!"

Before we start, I like to pay my condolences to Mike Tyson's daughter, Exodus here.

I remember that E3 with the footage of EA Sports "Fight Night Round 3" with Roy Jones Jr. and Bernard Hopkins where the punches up close show the faces of the boxers were crushed but as the demo which I only played came out, it felt a bit less than what I saw back and the gameplay just felt too arcade-y as the haymaker attacks make the match too easy especially for the computer. I knew they were going to improve it in some fashion and hell they did so far with the demo of the upcoming "Fight Night" featuring a reenactment of sorts between the pound for pound Filipino boxer Manny "Pac-Man" Pacquiao and British welterweight Ricky "The Hitman" Hatton.

As I started up the demo it led to a mandatory tutorial where I then knew that the game is going to feel different from the other games. Although using the same fight stick gameplay, it's modified and expanded to utilize more button/stick syncronization but it doesn't mean that it's a button masher. This expansion also forces the player to focus on jabs and hooks instead of just going for the haymakers which can decrease the stamina meter by a large but fair amount (unless the opponent is in stun mode, which is unlimited for a short amount).

Although you can, this game doesn't want you to go entirely brute force as the opponent can counter and maybe take you down easily. It's a coordination of punch areas, the three meters (health, stamina, and guard), and the counters. With the invisible restrain, you might have a large tendency to actually block and/or dodge attacks where you can counter and increase the possibility of a knockdown even with the simplest hook. It's all about understanding the three elements of the fighting. If you do get the opponent to get to stun mode, it's the opportunity to go full force as they attack with low effectiveness and only find an chance to hold to end the stun mode easily.

With the gameplay improvement, the graphics also has it's additions. Running on 60 frames per second with little to no drops is just enough to merit. Fighting feels very smooth and close to the fighting material aside from the very robotic and rough nature of "Round 3" as everyone throws punches with no hesitation. The detail of the fighters of Pac-Man and Hatton looks shocking as the faces look very convincing and the muscle movement can awe any graphics whore. One of the things that I looked at "Fight Night" all the time were the physics. It slowly progressed from a simple rag-doll to glove reaction to now dynamic physics where the trunks react to the fighter movement, the knockdowns utilize a NaturalMotion Euphoria middleware approach where an animation exists with interaction, and the face strikes surpasses what I saw of past E3s.

Audio does the job right with good commentary and subtle advice to the player to try a different method instead of sticking to something that can lead to disaster. Soundtrack can get more variety but it's a demo so I can't truly complain.

Although it's a demo, it feels like a completed game cut up as it's well done and will likely garner critical acclaim. Now off to beat Hatton again just like that match in Vegas!

Demo is out on Xbox Live and PlayStation Network now, game will hit US on June 30, 2009.

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