Despite expensive mocap and skinning, Undisputed boxing game just doesn’t look right
I’ve been sparring in Fight Night Round 4 a lot more lately. It’s a lot more fun than ESBC Undisputed. There’s something missing from it. Good boxing video games are difficult almost by definition. Undisputed is very difficult; the mechanics and gameplay aren’t very realistic and take some getting used to. There’s an odd underlap between the realism of the scanned fighters and the robotic movements that takes my brain some time to adjust to. This, rather than some deep level of strategic gameplay, is what makes Undisputed difficult to play.
Fight Night Round 4 is also difficult; it’s difficult in a way that and requires practice, strategy, quick thinking, and a surprising level of knowledge of the sport. Whereas Undisputed and Fight Night Champion are very similar to each other, Fight Night Round 4 is very different.
Despite this, Steel City Interactive seems to have used an incorrect yardstick with which to measure their so far unreleased product. The misappropriation of finite resources at critical stages of development could’ve already spelled the doom of the project.
Boxing Sim vs. Fighting Games
Undisputed and Fight Night Champion are more like arcade/fighting games. Fight Night Round 4 offers a refreshing level of depth to boxing video games. Sharpening skills on the heavy bag that actually translate into skills in the ring is satisfying. Getting good at the Maize bag actually teaches you how to use your head. Gassing out means you’re not moving efficiently, not that you’re fighting a cheater.
The licensed boxers don’t even really matter all that much to gameplay. Other Fight Night games have a lot of the same licensed fighters. The mechanics of Fight Night Round 4 make it more fun than anything from ESBC Undisputed so far. It has a lot to do with the physics engine.
Throughout any given career, I really only expect to fight 2-3 of what many would consider the most easily recognizeable superstars. I’m also completely aware that by the time I start my career, most of them are already veterans. A lot of times they’re out of my league as far as training and experience by the time I cross their path. These mismatches are exciting, because I genuinely don’t know if I’m good enough to overcome some of the disadvantages that the career and AI in FNR4 send you through. I don’t even spar famous people in Fight Night Round 4 usually. Most of my sparring partners I’ve never even heard of, and it’s a rare, exciting treat to fight a p4p great in sparring to prepare for a big fight.
Slipping and Weaving
Head movement is important in boxing. It’s tough to pull off a realistic head movement system in a boxing video game, but if you’re making a boxing video game this is a pretty big deal.
If avoiding punches comes down to luck and stats, your game won’t offer much replay value. If there’s nothing to master, don’t expect players to spend their time repetitively droning through mindless gameplay.
In Fight Night Round 4, moving up in weight can be extremely dangerous, but the payoff of slipping bombs and landing counters can be huge. The added bulk slows down the fighters in the heavier classes, and that weight gives lots of added momentum and power behind certain punches.
But smaller fighters can get around in the ring quicker, and often have more snap to their punches. You don’t want to get hit too often by a bigger guy though; a bantamweight body isn’t used to taking shots from middleweight fighters. Career-ending flash-KO’s are more common when weight is a matchmaking factor.
Using Momentum For Power In Fight Night
Some older games did a pretty good job at translating motion into energy, but it took them multiple generations to come up with their systems. It’d take longer to come up with a new system to surpass these than it would to just build upon the older one. Here’s how far Fight Night got over a decade ago: