A new, and big name, challenger enters the fray for a shot at the title of best boxing game on iOS…
In my opinion, boxing games need to walk a fine-line between simulation and arcade. Too arcadey and there is a disconnect. However, too real and, well it’s just not that much fun. Fight Night brings the best of both worlds, with a mix of realism with its rules, yet counters that with crazy over the top moves.
The main part of the game is Legacy mode, a career mode where you must take a fighter and climb up the ranks to become champion. Once there you must defend your championship. You can either create a new career, allowing you to customise your boxer from a selection of options, from how they look, their weight, build to their fighting style; Or, you can choose to rebuild a legend. Here you can select from a range of boxing’s historical greats, such as Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, Sugar Ray, Lenox Lewis, Joe Calzaghe, current big hitter David Haye, and even Tommy Morrison (aka Tommy Gunn from Rocky), though he’s not exactly a legend.
Graphically, the game is easily the best looking boxing game on iOS. Fight Night on consoles has always strived to create ultra-realism with how the boxers look and move, and this mobile edition does a great job of replicating that. The boxers themselves may not look as detailed as their Xbox/PS3 counterparts, but they animate with fluid realistic motions. The most visually appealing areas, and for those not squeamish, are the bone crunching slow-mo replays. The various camera angles do a great job of recreating that Raging Bull style shot of fist meeting face, complete with spit and blood particles floating almost weightless through the air.
Great sound rounds-off the high quality presentation, with authentic punch sounds and ring side commentary. It’s a shame there’s no Michael Buffer to utter those immortal words of “let’s get ready to rumble”, but the voice work present is of a high quality. The commentary can get a little repetitive after a while, and there is a little bug occasionally where he says your fighter has won even after being KO’d by your opponent.
Of course, being an EA Sports game, the presentation never really came into question. But what does, is how it controls, particularly on a touch screen. You can have all the close
-up sweaty skin pores you like, but if the controls suck then what’s the point? Thankfully EA have done a good job here too, in replicating the controls seen on the console to touch screen gestures.
Attacking moves, such as performing a jab is as simple as tapping the screen. Hooks are performed by flicking the screen from left or from the right, and uppercuts or body blows pulled off by flicking up or down on the screen. Powerful haymakers are pulled off by holding and sliding your finger in the required direction.
Where your boxer’s fists land is dependent on where you performed the gesture. So, if you want to aim on the right side of the body, you’ll tap or slide your finger in the lower right side of he screen, and if you want to take a swing at your opponents left side of his head, you’ll slide your finger in the top left portion… and so on.
For defensive moves you can block by holding two fingers on the screen, and while in a block you can drag these fingers to cause your boxer to lean in that direction. Great for pulling of Prince Naseem style dodging. If you find yourself on your last legs, you can clinch with your opponent to allow you to build up some strength. This is done by doing a pincer gesture with two fingers. Likewise, if your opponent clinches you you can push him away using the technique in reverse.
Lastly, two other gestures allow you to activate a signature move or an illegal blow. The signature move is different for each boxer and deals extra damage, but requires good timing to pull it off well. The illegal blow is also different for each fighter, such as a head butt or bitch slap, but do it too many times and you’ll be disqualified.
These gestures are pretty intuitive, and at times feel better than a consoles dual stick and button combinations. This I think is due to the fact that when pulling of the gestures you feel a stronger connection to your fighter, like your are controlling puppet. Their only downside being of course the problem with all touch based gaming, and that is your fingers covering up the action. It’s not a huge problem most of the time, as your gestures are generally quick flicks, and you can activate most gestures on the left and right sides of the screen with most of the action taking place in the middle.
While the gesture system is solid, the same can’t quite be said for controlling your boxer’s movement around the ring. The game utilises the accelerometer for this, and while it works ok for the most part, you can find that when in a hectic fisty-cuffs with your opponent you’ll find yourself uncomfortably positioned with the device tilted permanently over to the right.
The core gameplay then, due to these controls, is great fun. And combined with a power-up system where you can add earned points from previous fights to increase your boxer’s skills, be it in stamina, chin, speed, etc, you’ll find that preparing your fighter through his career can become quite strategic. I would have liked to see a more fleshed out training section, with skipping and punch bag mini games, instead of simply distributing points by selecting a skill and power style, but maybe these would just take away from the main event.
The main game will give you several hours of challenge, especially in later fights up to the title challenge. Beyond that you can play quick fights and choose any contender and opponent for a quick boxing fix. There is also a multiplayer mode to pummel your friends. Unfortunately you don’t get an online mode, as lag would no doubt be an issue. What you do get though is both WiFi and Bluetooth flavours of multiplayer. While there were the occasional connection problems over WiFi (none over Bluetooth), I didn’t notice any lag at all in playing over both connection types, and really this is where the game is best. AI is all well and good, but you can’t beat an unpredictable human opponent, especially if they are at a similar skill level to you.
In conclusion then and Fight Night is the best boxing game so far in my opinion. It might not be as fully featured as some of the competition, but as the old saying goes, it’s ‘quality not quantity’ that matters. And with both great presentation and gesture controls this is the closest you’ll get to big boy console boxing.
Fight Night Champion is out now for $4.99. Get it on the