The Fight Night boxing games were one of the highlights of the last generation of consoles yet for some reason, EA hasn’t dropped a new boxing sim on us since the well-received Fight Night Champion. Instead, they keep flogging the dead horse of the UFC simulator, which despite the improvements they have made is not as suited to a video game as they keep trying to convince us. So why have we had no new boxing sims for years?
The first Fight Night game I remember was on the PS2, it introduced the analogue punch controls using the twin sticks and genuinely got across the feeling of being in a ring with independent control over your swings, jabs and weaves. Graphically it was a powerhouse as the blood and sweat of the boxers coupled with the lighting models and facial deformation technology meant it was as good to show off to friends as it was to play alone. It was in effect a great system seller and even when it was ported to Xbox 360 it looked even better even though it was the same game. It also was the first game many people got 1000 gamerscore on as it was a simple grind through the career mode. Despite this, the grind mimicked the career of the actual boxer with rivalries and more which simply played out allowed you to become the G.O.A.T.
Fast forward to the last entry Fight Night Champion and you have the first time EA tried their story mode in a sports game. You played a boxer who ended up in prison before fighting his way out against a corrupt promoter and ultimately becoming the world champion. Basic stuff but for the first effort at this it was exceptional. When you included an excellent create-a-boxer mode, you had the possibility of making any boxer, not in the game and completing your collection. It seemed like there was only one way forward and continual iterations until EA suddenly changed focus.
The focus switched to UFC and after acquiring the licence from THQ EA began putting all their resources and the Fight Night studio into work on this. Unfortunately, Fight Night died that day to the detriment of video gaming. Since the beginning, there have always been boxing games. Mike Tyson and the Punch-Out Games. The Evander Holyfield games on the Sega consoles, The quirky but enjoyable Rocky games and EA’s own serious takes. Why has this staple of video gaming been abandoned?
The first thing to look at is the rise of UFC. As a hybrid between the seriousness of boxing and the flamboyance of WWE, the sport itself has risen to be a genuine third way between the two. Unfortunately, when you try to translate this into video game format it falls apart trying to replicate the ground game. It doesn’t have the theatricality of wrestling to make the ground game part of the storyline and instead, it has to translate the reality that a UFC bout can be over in seconds at any time if one fighter gets an advantage on the mat. EA try to do this with a combination of difficult quarter turns and button presses. It ruins what the UFC games do best, the striking game.
The striking game in UFC is as close to the old Fight Night as we can get right now. It has the old deformation, weaving and countering and tactics albeit with the addition of kicks as well. It just makes boxing fans and fans of boxing games sad when they play it as they just crave a new boxing sim. So why don’t EA just announce one and have the two side by side? They have Madden and FIFA, why not UFC and Boxing? You could even break into the growing market of VR with a VR mode in the boxing game. Throwing punches and ducking and weaving on the PSVR or a better headset would be a game changer.
Is it a case they think boxing is not as popular or has a bad image? The recent Mayweather vs Mcgregor boxing match should have told them that there is still a great demand for boxing as a sport and the resurgence of the heavyweight division under Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder has the potential to grow even further as they avoid each other. The image problems of boxer deaths and judges corruption can be levelled at either sport especially after the recent Mcgregor debacle.
I just don’t understand it. The game engine is there, the demand is there and the sport is there. Hopefully, if EA doesn’t make it someone else will as this generation of consoles needs a boxing game badly.
Do you want a new Fight Night?