It’s been a grueling seven rounds for Arturo Gatti against Mickey Ward, and not in the same way as in real life when these two fought three times in the early 2000s in what is considered one of the most great boxing trilogies of all time. While it was hotly contested business in real life, here in the online multiplayer beta for Undisputed my poor simulacrum of Gatti was dispatched by Ward for almost every round before the last round of this fight. It was a trivial one-sided affair.
So for the final round of the fight, I completely change my strategy. Instead of fighting like Gatti did against Ward in real life, I go for the old ‘Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.’ When I step back to create distance with my opponent, there’s a weird moment of transition where I almost feel like the game doesn’t know what to do with the fact that with 90% of the fight behind me, I suddenly want go from being a one-on-one brawler with a glitter-toed wannabe Muhammad Ali. But once the game broke Gatti out of his punching position and I started circling my opponent, hitting him with face punches, forehands to the body, and power right hand punches on which it kept walking, i finally got into a stream.
I could feel my opponent’s frustration with this new tactic, as he began to expend his energy throwing telegraphed tedders that I easily avoided. He didn’t need to worry, really. In reality, I was floating like a butterfly, but I was also stinging like a butterfly; there was no way I was doing enough damage at this point to get the knockout, but the resounding ease with which I won that last round is a testament to the fact that the game rewards tactical changes mid-fight and makes the distinction between robust fights and elegant fights.
Developed by British studio Steel City Interactive, Undisputed (formerly known as eSports Boxing Club) is a bold attempt to revive the boxing game genre, which has been virtually dead since EA’s 2011 Fight Night Champion during few years, and showed dozens of actual boxers past and present (far more than EA ever bought for Fight Night, oddly enough), this is the first time the public can play gambling.
While the experience was as uneven as one would expect from a pre-early access version of the game – designed to test network capabilities more than anything else – it’s hard to express as This boxing game fan who has long suffered how good it is to play makes it a new game in this genre. As we’ve been starving for such a game for so long, there might be desperate hope mixed in with my genuine optimism, but I really think there’s a lot of promise here.
Considering Champion was a great game, it’s not too surprising that Undisputed borrows a lot from it. First, there’s its iteration on Fight Night’s Total Punch Control system, where you flick analogs in different directions to throw different punches; you can use the face buttons to throw punches instead, and I like to mix things up between the two myself.
Blocking is universal, so you don’t need to do high blocks, low blocks, or adjust blocks based on the type of punch you’re defending against. Some accuse this of being too “casual”, but I’m a huge fan, as it makes fights more aesthetically pleasing (I still remember online fights in Fight Night Round 4, or was it 3, where opponents would that weird spinning through all the different blocks hoping to catch your punches – it was weird). Also, blocking drains your stamina, so true to actual boxing, these punches will eventually penetrate your guard if you don’t throw something back or get out of the pickle you’re in so you can recharge.
So how does all of this manifest during actual play, to which I repeat is a Great start of the game? A little slow, a little frustrating, but the potential is there. I found the combos just didn’t pan out as well for me as they did in Fight Night, with my boxer struggling to keep up with my analog movie combos, and the head movement was too stiff to evade punches punches satisfactorily (and also throwing from awkward angles, which the Fight Night system allowed for very well). I feel like maybe I’m missing a trick here, and maybe I’m slowing down and Hourly those punches are more important here than just speeding up Fight Night-style combos, but his finesse was more Rock-em-Sock-em Robots than Floyd Mayweather.
Basically, there is a clear lack of punch right now to the punches. Only in about one of my five fights have I suffered a cut, with no knockdowns to report. It seems damage is purely attritional at the moment, with little sense that going hard and fast Tyson style can give you those explosive early knockouts (which of course can be avoided by a smart and skilled opponent). Hagler-Hearns only lasted three rounds and was one of the greatest fights of all time, and I hope the game allows for those kinds of matches as well as 12-round chess matches.
But this is early access, and there are already plenty of positives to focus on. Some of the punch animations are really cool, and the inside/outside combat distinction seems solid, even if the transitions between the two aren’t quite so smooth yet. On the inside, both fighters are almost leaning on each other, digging those short, sharp punches, and there’s already a nice grace to the way the fighters move on the outside, throwing jabs and frustrating their opponents.
Undisputed is a big deal among boxing game fans, carrying the burden of a long-dormant genre. The demise of boxing games can be attributed not so much to the games themselves (Fight Night Champion was and still is excellent) but rather to the growing popularity of the UFC and the ease with which EA was able to obtain the UFC license. to include all the fighters they researched in games, instead of having to negotiate individual contracts with boxers. I’m still trying to figure out how an indie studio in Sheffield has already managed to source more boxers for this game than EA ever did, but it certainly won’t have been such a simple process as EA l has now with UFC.
Now that EA has long given up its boxing titles, I couldn’t be happier to see a passionate indie studio fighting for them. Even though Undisputed takes on an old workhorse in Fight Night Champion, he still has a ways to go before he can match him, but with the help of the community, there’s no reason he shouldn’t top not its spiritual predecessor and become truly undisputed. .