Saturday 11 July 2009

Video Game Reviews

Fight Night Round 4
(PS3 (Version Tested), XBOX 360)
EA Sports
Review by Blake Harmer

I’ve always had a problem with sports games, mainly because they seldom nail the feeling of the actual sport. Take football games like Pro Evo and FIFA for example, it doesn’t matter how good the commentary is, or how good the graphics get or how good the ball physics are, you will still end up getting matches like 9 – 2 because when you get good, no decent AI can stop you. With EA’s Fight Night Round 4 however, I was surprised to find that this feels like proper boxing (Or as close as you can get to it without throwing punches yourself and getting your face punched in.

In Fight Night Round 4 you take either a famous boxing legend or your own created boxer through training and many a punch-up to become the greatest boxer of all time and win the championship belt in your specified weight. EA has expanded upon its total punch control system (throwing punches using movements on the right analogue stick) by allowing more freedom of movement when you throw punches. Each boxer has his own signature punch, which you can pull off with a single button press. This is a powerful attack that has a chance of stunning your opponent but takes awhile to build up and can leave you open.

This game works brilliantly on so many levels. Firstly, to actually score a knockout genuinely takes skill. Knocking down your opponent through sheer battering the thumb stick will take a lot of work and will most likely reduce your boxer’s stamina bar, making you sluggish and easier to be out boxed and then knocked out yourself. The key to victory lies in timing and countering your opponent’s moves. Counter attacks are done by blocking or dodging your opponent’s attack at the right moment and then hitting him back with a punch of your own. Not only does a counter attack do more damage than a regular punch but it also has a chance of either stunning your opponent which makes it harder for them to block but also makes you have unlimited stamina for a short time so it allows you to really lay into your opponent and go for a knock down, or a well placed punch can actually knockdown your opponent regardless of how much health he has.

Secondly, the graphics are amazing, seeing the amount of detail they have put into each boxer, the damage that gets inflicted on them, and the sweat running down their bodies as they fight is truly phenomenal. My personal favourite are the replays that occur each time a boxer is knocked down. Knock an opponent down with an uppercut to the chin say, and the replay will slow down time, and you will see impact of the punch ripple his jaw and cheeks and then you’ll see him collapse like a sack of potatoes. A simple special effect you could say, but damn satisfying to watch every time.

Thirdly, the micro management of your boxer before and during a fight is fantastic. Not only do you allocate training to your boxer before each fight, which leads to the typical mini-game to boost your stats seen in most other boxing games, but you even get to decide how best to heal your boxer in between each round. At the end of each round, you get points based on how well you did, and you can spend them on either healing your overall stamina, health or reducing the damage that has been done to you in terms of bruises or weak spots created through a heavy punch during the fight. This adds a bit more strategic depth to your fight so you decide whether to recover stamina and go in fists flailing, or regenerate your health so you stand less chance of being knocked out in the next round. Add all of this together and throw in an AI that adapts to the way you fight and you have boxing matches that are always a challenge to the player and keeps a lot of boxing matches lengthy, like real boxing matches, with very few examples ending in the first few rounds.

There are a couple of minor problems with the game though, the loading times when you are creating a boxer are phenomenally long because of the graphical detail that goes onto each fighter. I also would have liked to see a few more boxing legends in the roster such as Rocky Marciano and Jack Dempsey rather than just Mike Tyson, Muhammad Ali, George Foreman and Lennox Lewis, but the roster is still full of great modern boxers to keep you interested. My last final criticism was this: upon completing the career mode as George Foreman and retiring him as the greatest of all time, I was deeply saddened that there was no mini-game of George Foreman on PBS trying to sell his grills.

Graphics: Huge attention to detail on the boxers with great lighting effects that show off each punch. Very good looking stadiums as well. Knockout punches will make you wince every time.
Sound: Typical punching sound effects, great commentary and you can even hear your coach shouting advise at you during the match for added realism.
Gameplay: Incredibly solid and strategic boxing sim with great use of controls and strategic elements a great punch up overall.
Lasting Appeal: A very long campaign mode with replayability due to the different weight classes and a create your own boxer mode. Online tournaments also adds more fun as you a fighting a real person rather than AI, although you can still have a punch up with a friend at home as well.
Summary: Overall this is an outstanding boxing game and one of the best I’ve played in a long time. You have to put the time into it to master the counters and get the best out of the game, but it’s definitely worth it. 9/10

LEGO Battles
Nintendo DS
(Warner Bros.)

Review by Brad Harmer

Have you played a real-time strategy game before? You have? Cool. So have the makers of LEGO Battles. They thought that this formula worked so well that they could basically cut and paste the code from Warcraft II, replace the sprites with some vaguely-LEGO-ish looking soldiers, and hey-presto, another top-seller!

LEGO Battles features elements of three popular LEGO toy themes: LEGO Space, LEGO Castle, and LEGO Pirates, offering a new kind of “build and battle” LEGO gameplay. Players play through six different story lines, build their own LEGO bases, and battle across ninety levels. There is, of course, all the usual free-play gubbins associated with a LEGO game.

Here’s the thing, LEGO Battles could have been entertaining enough to play had it have had half the charm of the other LEGO games (Star Wars, Batman, and Indiana Jones). What made those games so fun was their sense of humour. The sections where Luke or Indy would pick up a pile of bricks and hurriedly assemble them into an AT-ST, or a platform to access the next section were great fun. It was entertaining to watch blown-up stuff or enemies collapse into a pile of bricks. Unfortunately, LEGO Battles completely lacks any elements like this. If the soldiers you’re playing with didn’t have square, yellow heads, you’d have no idea that you were playing with LEGO at all.

Sure, the serfs build castles, barracks, and what-not, but you don’t seem them scurrying around and rapidly piling LEGO bricks together. You just see a building, a bar filling to completion, and then a little noise or fanfare when it’s completed. This is a LEGO game, right?

The animated sequences, too, are way too few and far between. You get, at most, three animated segments to a campaign. I appreciate that the DS has technical limitations compared to the other consoles, but come on....this isn’t about lack of technical ability. This is about lack of inspiration.

Every level in the game is immediately familiar to anyone who has ever played an RTS before. This level you have to defend for ten minutes...this level you have to take out their base...this level is the training level – build all the stuff you can. Ten years ago, this game would have been uninspired. Now it’s clich├ęd.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
A fair amount of stabbing, slashing, shooting and bolt throwing. The lack of cartoony action makes it about as graphic as Age of Empires or the original Warcraft games.

Sex/Nudity: You’re kidding, right?

Swearing: None. There’s not even any actual words spoken.

Summary: A child would probably be entertained by this – but there are much better examples of both LEGO games and real-time strategies that would give you much more entertainment for your money. – 3/10


  1. Re: Fight Night

    - Now, this game sounds great apart from one small detail: you play it with one of those stupid controllers where all you do is press buttons and, quite literally, twiddle your thumbs. Now, it doesn't matter HOW good the graphics and the game play is, if I'm sat on my arse moving nothing but my thumbs, it is NEVER going to feel like I'm boxing. Combine this game with the Wii controller (probably their new, more sensitive, controller to cope with the level of accuracy Blake describes here) and I am in like Flynn, my son. I would genuinely play the shit out of a boxing game as good as this one sounds if I was actually throwing the punches myself and not just sitting on the sofa getting fatter. There is something fundamentally wrong about being able to win a boxing match and eat Doritos at the same time.

    Re: Lego Battles

    - I'm sorry, but I still can't get my head around the concept of virtual Lego. Maybe I'd change my mind if I actually played one of these games but, to me, the whole point of Lego was that you could actually build stuff... you know, WITH YOUR HANDS? Also, as the last time I played with Lego, I was about three years old, it made for an excellent teething chew-toy. Can't do that with 'virtual' Lego, now, can you?

    Re: both games

    My problem with both games reviewed here, and probably 99% of other computer games, to be honest, is most likely a generational thing. I just missed the computer game generation; my younger brother was massively into them but they always bemused me a little. As such, I think I never developed the ability to suspend disbelief that I was actually performing the things I saw on the screen; the fact that I was only moving my thumbs was a block I just couldn't break down. I couldn't connect with the character I was controlling and see it as 'me'. I think I will never be able to connnect with the generation (or series of generations as it is now) that seems to equate 'virtual' with 'better'. I'd still rather do things myself than do them vicariously through a console. Perhaps this is why the Wii is the platform for me: I can actually get the sensation that I am swinging a baseball bat, throwing a punch and making a golf shot MYSELF, because my body is actually moving in a manner that mimics doing the real thing. This is the fundamental difference that the detractors of the Wii will never understand, because they are of the generation that CAN suspend disbelief with the other forms of game controllers and make that mental leap that I just can't manage.

  2. Paul wants a job with E14...

  3. Actually, I have to spend FAR too much time with Brad and Rob as it is (when I could be doing something more rewarding... like stabbing myself with red hot needles) just socially... The thought of having to work with them as well... Sheeesh...