Thursday, July 18, 2013

Old Guy Game Guides: Fight night Champion – Hitting People for Fun and Profit (well, mostly fun)

Playing Fight Night Champion can be problematic for any Old Guy Gamer. This is because EA sports games tend to use EVERY STINKIN’ BUTTON on the controller.

Even with a fair amount of experience, I tend to confuse the shoulder buttons. One is to crouch and aim at the body, the other is to block.

I get punched on top of the head a lot.

Movement, bobbing, weaving and ducking are all controlled by the left joystick. What happens depends not only on which direction it is moved, but the speed it is “flicked” and what buttons are pressed. The moves those boxers put on as I tried to figure out where I was going were far more entertaining than anything I could pull off in ballroom dance class.

Punching can be controlled by old fashioned button mashing. There is also the more complete control option of “Full Spectrum Punch Control.” All punches of all varieties can be thrown by “flicking” the right joystick in the desired direction. Unless, of course, I panic, trade flicking for random motions, and add entertaining arm movements to my little dance. I also frequently punch with an arm I’m not intending to use, which I surmise is fairly rare in boxing in the real world.

In comparison to the real world, there always seems to be more action in a given period of time in even the most sophisticated sports simulation games.  Five minute quarters in Madden NFL tend to put up the same numbers as actual football games.  The problem is, five minute quarters make the game feel like a near constant two minute drill.  Fight Night Champion gets around those anomalies by always running a "three minute" clock on the rounds, but accelerating the countdown to shorten the time.  It works remarkably well to maintain a realistic feeling in the higher punch rate digital world.

Speaking of higher punch rates, I did let my daughter try, as she has so much fun beating the tar out of me in other games. The game is rated “M” but by turning the music all the way down, there’s almost no reason for it in two player mode. Occasionally the corner men will use some strong words to define your performance if it is really terrible. (I learned that pretty quickly.) However, fighting in an arena usually means the announcers will cover over it. If she’s going to hear profanity in a boxing video game, I’d prefer she hear it from me. At least it will be used correctly in a sentence.

As in all the other fight simulations, my daughter is way faster than me. I get a slight edge from understanding stamina, and the different punch types. However, my biggest advantage comes from the fact that she cares about boxing even less than my sister did, meaning I’ll probably play alone most of the time anyway.

I’m still holding out hope that she gets some enjoyment out of beating me up and it translates in to my getting her to watch the Rocky saga someday.

My first forays into playing were on the “Amateur” setting. I realized I should probably increase the difficulty level for two reasons.

1) I won the Ali-Frazier fight in Manila, the Leonard-Hagler fight in Vegas and a couple of others without knowing what I was doing.

2) I found the “Stand Up” mini game only slightly challenging after being knocked down the fourth or fifth time.

Therefore I switched to “Pro” setting, and once again experienced the joys of quantum difficulty steps. Getting up from the second knock down became nearly impossible for me. The cheating computer can, of course, get up four times with ease.

I refused to change any other setting (hence the reason all the fights are ten rounds) because I didn’t want to mess up my trophy eligibility. I won’t explain trophies, because gamers will fully understand this obsession, and non-gamers will find them to be exactly as stupid as they truly are.

Between lack of knowledge of the movement control, and the difficulty change, I got Victor Ortiz put away faster than the voting of the American public did on Dancing with the Stars last season.

Once I figured out the system a little better, I managed my first true victory, using Joe Louis to take on Sonny Liston. The victory was in no way pretty or efficient, but a win is a win. I made sure to save the replay using the black and white setting to give it the proper vintage feel.

My next goal of defeating one of the “Legends Pack” download Heavyweights was problematic. Floyd Patterson became my nemesis in the game, illustrating the monkey wrench that reality can throw into the gaming world. In the Sega Genesis boxing game, he was the easiest champ to beat, because he was short, the game was mostly two dimensional, and didn’t properly handle speed differences. In this realistic simulation he is CRAZY fast and CRAZY agile. This led me to miss with alarming frequency as the “Gentleman of Boxing” dodged my attacks with ease, get tired, and end up with a machine gun burst of his high speed power punches to the head.

I lost with Ali, Archie Moore, Thunder and about a half dozen others, trying various styles and techniques along the way. One of the main reasons I ran the “Rocky vs. Real” tournament was to find the top fighter out of the eleven I sampled to take on Floyd Patterson.

Ivan Drago was my key to victory. (And a trophy!) I conserved Drago’s already prodigious stamina by working almost exclusively with straight jabs, and the occasional hook. I threw way less power punches than he did, saving them up for when he was ripe for the picking in the sixth round. (OK, he kicked my digital butt for a bit when I was trying to set up the knockout, but I calmed down enough to finish in the same style I started with.)

Thrilled with my victory, I tried a Middleweight bare knuckle match. I picked Tommy “Hitman” Hearns, in my head to apologize for letting Drago nearly kill him. Since it was late and I had been enjoying my wine while watching other matches, I picked an opponent with a lower rating, assuring me an “easy win.”

I learned some valuable lessons:

A) I had no idea how that “rating” number was calculated, but apparently it didn’t always translate directly into difficulty.

B) Almost every fighter in the game is a champion of one form or another and not to be trifled with.

The opponent I picked, whose name I didn’t recognize was Ricky Hatton, aka “The Pride of Hyde.” Turns out he was a British multiple welterweight title holder, and an unrelenting infighter.

I was ahead on the cards, but his constant damaging barrages took me out in Six Rounds.

By that point I was even more tired, and crabby. I remembered, based on the Drago experiment, that matches could take place with differences up to two weight classes.

Therefore I pulled in the guy Dad talked up, Light Heavyweight Archie Moore, to administer a vindictive, petty, but incredibly satisfying beating for four rounds. (Including a double knock down in round two…heh heh heh.)
Stupid, yet satisfying.

Although not a formalized tournament, I did watch “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler defeat nearly every other middleweight (also defeating any notion that my abilities had anything to with Sugar Ray’s victory on “amateur” difficulty level) while trying to add a manlier atmosphere to folding laundry one evening. Therefore I selected him for my attempt to handle myself in a lower weight division regular match.

For an opponent I picked Ronald “Winky” Wright. He was rated lower than Hagler, but this time I remembered that I didn’t know exactly how the game worked, and played it cautious around the former undisputed light middleweight champion and middleweight contender.

I worked behind body jabs the whole time, only throwing hooks and uppercuts when openings were visible. I used power punches as sparingly as possible, and almost always when I had a higher stamina level than he did. The one exception was when I tagged him really well in the Fifth Round, and my old unrealistic video game instincts kicked in. I WAY overused flurries of powerful punches, and caught a shot in the face that opened a cut, and placed the Hagler Heiney down onto the canvas.

I did manage to successfully get up and protect myself for the remainder of the round. Then it was back to my original game plan. The plan required a knockout, because even though I was damaging and weakening him, my conservative punching was losing me rounds. In the Ninth, I could tell he was ready to fall by Wright’s susceptibility to stunning, and how he weakly held up his guard. (I need to stop again and comment on the realness of the graphics and action in this game…HOLY CRAP!) I followed up a late round stunning jab with a fourple play of uppercuts: the head, the body, and two finishing power blasts to his weakened chin to seal the deal.
Now THAT is Marvelous

Overall I had over two hundred more connecting punches. I had less power punches thrown, but a significantly higher percentage of connecting with them.

However, I was unable to feel really proud about my victory, having been pasted, hurt and bowled over in Round Five by a guy named “Winky.”

My next educational bout involved trying to teach myself dodging, weaving and counterpunching. I chose Lightweight (in the game) Pernell Whitaker, known for his defensive abilities, but not a power puncher; forcing me to focus on the areas I wanted to practice. I picked three time world champion Robert “the Ghost” Guerrero as an opponent. His more powerful style would insure I’d painfully notice any slip ups on my part. One of those slip ups was my inevitable confusing of the shoulder buttons for crouching and blocking, allowing “the Ghost” to prove just how solid he was. Violating what my daughter quickly identified as rule one of Ninja Warrior, “Don’t lead with your face!” earned me a trip to the canvas and marred an otherwise well fought bout.

With the exception of my foray into foolishness, I dominated every round on points. I was learning the nuances of weaving out of the way to set up a counterstrike, as well as when it was more prudent to “get on the bicycle.” I maintained this approach, planning to use my newly developed skills to acquire my first victory, “on the cards,” as opposed to my normal state of needing the knockout to win.

Sadly, even in victory I managed to screw up my fight plan. The game rewards counterpunch timing by selecting more effective punches and combinations depending on how well timed the riposte is. I must have gotten a little too good, because in the eighth round, I ducked “Sweat Pea” under and around hard jab, and replied with a left hook to the ribs that knocked all the stuffing out of Guerrero, and bent him in half. The hardly necessary straight right that finished the combo served to push “the Ghost” over. In my attempt to win by decision…
I scored a no count knockout.

My first and only truly impressive victory that went virtually according to plan came using a fictional character, not from the Rocky films, but from my all-time favorite boxing movie, Diggstown.

First I had to test if the created boxer was worthy of the name Honey Roy Palmer. Sure he looked a bit like Lou Gossett Jr. but could he fight like him?

While I wasn’t going hunting for all ten opponents from the film, I had to try him against a powerful but unskilled individual, to represent “Tank” and the other big ole boy farmhands from the story.

Luckily, Butterbean is in the game.

Roy cut the “King of the Four Rounders” in the First Round, and survived a stunning belt to the head in the second. In the next round of this mercifully short battle, Palmer stunned Butterbean, and knocked the big guy down. When he came back in, Roy fired off a couple of combos to stun him again, and hit him with a one punch knockout.
Give me your chin.

As a bonus test, I put him against Tommy Morrison to represent the enraged, unthinking Hambone. Palmer fought through six rounds of brutal punishment dishing out more than the considerable amount he received until Morrison couldn’t take it anymore.

Proving himself against unfocused opponents was one thing, but could he face Hammerhead Hagen?

For that, Honey Roy Palmer had to face Mike Tyson.

Roy survived multiple powerfully stunning blows for seven rounds, but never went down. Tyson only won two of the rounds on points. Iron Mike went down twice in the Seventh Round, the second time for good, crumpled in the corner.
Sit down son.

I had verified Honey Roy Palmer…it was time to use him.

I selected Roy, and went for a bare knuckle match against celebrated tough guy Jack Dempsey.

Throughout the fight we had the same percentage of hits, but I threw almost twice as many punches. Based on my continuing education, I played smarter, relying on less powerful, but better aimed shots.

Due to initial control issues (which, let’s face it, are never going away), I was leading my jab with my right hand instead of my left for a while. (Perhaps I should just use southpaws.) This ended up working to my advantage when I finally straightened it out and used the orthodox stance correctly, as his left eye ended up heavily damaged. I went to jabbing with the left properly, and using it to open up opportunities for hooks and uppercuts to the bad eye. I got a little overanxious about what I thought was the end of the fight in the Fourth Round. It almost was, but luckily I got back up, and refocused on my method. In the Seventh Round, I applied the needed power shots, properly for a change, and knocked out the “Manassa Mauler.”

The game rated it as an ESPN classic fight with a greatness score of 485, whatever the hell that means.

I got another trophy too. If I ever play Legacy Mode, it may just be as the most underrated heavyweight of modern times, Honey Roy Palmer.

Now you’re motivating.

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