I thought I'd introducea new blog segment which I like to call "The Stack" (and anyone who plays Magic The Gathering will appreciate the reference). Here, I intend to give my personal impressions on two games. However, unlike an "Impressions" article, these two games won't be looked at in a vacuum, but rather, how they compare to each other to determine which game is more impressive, and ultimately, which one deserves your money. Sometimes the games will share a number of qualities and focuses, and sometimes, just a genre or less. For now though,The first ever entry on The Stack is none other than EA's Fight Night Round 4, and THQ's UFC Undisputed 2009.
First of all, I've been playing a good deal of each game, and it's important to get this out of the way first: Neither game is perfect. They're both combat sports and they both have their deficiencies. In both games, the Career (and Legend) modes both have quirks and perks. Both titles certainly leave something to be desired here in many respects, as training in either game is either blatantly difficult to do manually (as is the case in fight night) or almost entirely text based (as in UFC). Though both offer a sparring mode in your career, neither is really that entertaining. Luckily, in Fight Night, you can evade these problems by conducting auto-training, which renders training to the same text-based-attribute-improvement affair that UFC is... Except with UFC, you have to go through sparring sometimes with no way to skip it. Even worse for UFC, you typically have to go through 9-13 training manuveres before a single fight, whereas, in Fight Night, you can do anywhere from 0-4 (depending on when the fight is booked).
More to the point though, the Legend mode in Fight Night Round 4 is far superior in my opinion. This due to several virtues. The create-a-boxer mode in Legend (while not perfect) is much more interesting than UFC's decent-depth but bland offering. Where you'll pick fromone of three striking-approaches, and one of three ground-approaches in UFC, Fight Night allows you to choose a stance approach, a boxing-approach, your best punch, and even your blocking-approach Not being a boxing fan, this at first seemed daunting, but after playing UFC, I felt much more connected to the creation of my boxer, with a greater understanding of what I could expect from him after all of these changes. And here, just as in UFC, what you choose will make a big difference in your approach to the end result of beating someone down, it's just that there are simply more options in Fight Night, thus, more approaches. And to say that a boxing game has more variety than a mixed-martial arts game is saying something... at least, about the breadth of options in its career mode.
In Fight Night, as in UFC, the name of the game in career mode is to work your way up the rankings to become a champ. In Fight Night, you start in the Amateur tournament, which gives you a brief glimpse of boxing with headgear. After that, you begin at the bottom of your 50-strong weight category (whatever one you chose) and begin building your record, or paving the way to an early retirement. The interesting thing about Fight Night here, and the more compelling, I find, is that you start fighting prospects and chumps, and, in order to get a shot at being great, and being on Pay-per-view, or in MSG is to win and KO poor bastards. That means you'll be fighting in dumps with no dramatic entrances or ring girls to start. With UFC, even though the premise is the same (up and down rankings and so on), while you may start at UFN with the ultimate goal of reaching the UFC card, the atmosphere of the UFN seems UFC-like enough, with commentary, ring girls, camera men and everything. As such, I kind of felt like I'd already 'made it' before I even started, whereas, in fight night it's really a good strong struggle to even feel like you're a someone. You could go on a tear, knock 5 guys out and get a Televised matched-- lose that, and you're back to jack. Thus, inFight Night beinga Boxing celebrityis fickle, and I just didn't feel like that (as of yet) applied with the UFC game. There, you'll just get emails asking you to do better, but then offering you yet another spot in yet another undercard, despite you being 0-5 and useless, for example.
Fight Night's Legend modeis a little rough around the edges still though, especially in that some weight categories are chock-full of made-up fighters that share a name or two, too often (Ricky Lee, David Lee, or Anselm carter, Anselm Robinson, as a made up example. In each weight category you'll have only a few recognizable names, and interestingly, from Roy Jones, to Muhammed Ali to Mike Tyson, most of them exist in their prime, just like you are (except for a few older folkslike Duran and Klitchko). Luckily as well, in order to cut down on the number of pre-generated, name-sharing boxers is to download boxers that others have made and add them to your legacy mode. This could include everything from fictional greats like Rocky Balboa, to omitted champs like Bernard Hopkins, and others, and it really adds to the legacy mode, when not only do Tyson and Ali and foreman battle, but also, Ali and Butterbean, or Tyson and Rocky.
Beyond career more, both online modes are lacking. Although Fight Night has options for a boxing league, complete with belt acquisition, in addition the ranked fight now mode it shares with UFC, neither sport is all that fun online, due to the difficulty. It seems, so far, that only the best of the best play online, so it can be real tough. Of the two, Fight Night is still the victor, as UFC's online mode is bare-bones and much less noob-friendly. (I was submitted in 10 seconds once, and knocked out in 40, in another).
But none of these modes matter, of course, if the fighting isn't great. For Fight Night, it truly is. It's engaging and flashy, and even in a dingy gym, ringing someone's bell and watching their face ripple and bruise after a solid,combo or an obtuse haymakeris still a great experience. In UFC, theflashiness and fluidityjust isn't there. The fighters seem much more stiff, as do the animations, and the nature of the sport is such that, while fight night's stick controls are intuitive, UFC's masses of button-pressed combinations are anything but.
Granted the combination system (akin to a wrestling game's approach) may appeal to those who enjoy that sort of thing, but for most of us, Dodging a punch with the left, and throwing a counter-hook with the right will be more enjoyable than a stiff looking kick, or a jittery ground game.
Fight Night just oozes the kind of Styyle that the UFC game really needed. The repetitious nature of both sports is such that you need to really feel compelled to get back in the ring and go toe-to-toe just one more time, and for my money, Fight Night Round 4 is miles ahead of UFC Undisputed 2009 in that department for reasons of flash, attitude, and the actual depth and breadth that I mentioned earlier.
As a newer fan of the UFC sport, it surprises me that I had such a favourable reaction to Fight Night, but that just shows the game's quality over and above THQ's offering,
Thus, for my only combatcliché in this article:
"And still, the undisputed, undefeatedCombat Sports GameChampion of the wooorld,
FIGHT NIGHT ROUND4!!"
There you have it; Fight Night comes up on the top of this Stack.
(This has been "The Stack" brought to you by me, Desalbert—updated impressions may also be added as time goes on)