The Fight has a simple premise. Give the player 1:1 control over a contender in a fighting club with the PlayStation Move. It sounds like the ultimate evolution of the fighting game concept - instead of assigning moves to buttons and combos to chains of mashing, control over the fight rests solely in your ability to perform the actual fighting moves. Of course, this is where the concept potentially falls down - not many people are that great at performing actual fighting moves. We'd wager most people with a PlayStation 3 haven't been in a fight outside high school. And then, of course, there's the whole question of whether the technology is even sophisticated enough to handle this ideal. Does The Fight overcome these issues, or does it get tackled down in the process?
The best way to answer this question is to take you through a few days in the life of a reviewer playing The Fight. Day one: after equipping ourselves with the required two Playstation Move controllers, we set about creating our own personalised fighter. While the options to personalise the fighter are plentiful, the game takes into account stats like your own height and weight, to calculate your BMI. That's strange, we thought. We were then treated to a lengthy calibration process. However, it was easy enough to endure, if only because of the presence of Mache- we mean, Danny Trejo, who yells instructions at you while clutching Move controllers in his leathery fists. We really hope his performance is meant to be tongue-in-cheek, because it's hilarious. We were soon deposited into an arena and instructed to move around and try to 'break the game'. Surprisingly, the fighter on screen matched our arm movements fairly specifically, provided we listened to Machete and did not move from one spot.
Then came our first fight, and the cracks started to show. Our punches were slow and took tiny amounts of damage from our opponent, like our arms were made of a soft, dough-like substance. Most of our time was spent just trying to stay in range of our enemy. Moving in The Fight involves holding the Move button and tilting one of your controllers very slightly in the direction of the other fighter, which sounds easy, but if your opponent is constantly stepping back and strafing, it becomes a real effort just to stay in range and land our weaksauce punches. We suffered so many knockouts it wasn't funny. The PlayStation Move was detecting our arms well enough, just not the force. It felt unresponsive, and frankly, broken. Head detection was at work too, which worked well enough and allowed us to sway from side to side or duck. However, at this stage, we were ready to call it a night on the game.
Day two comes, and we try again. This time we head into online multiplayer to try our fists against some other sap on the other side of the globe. Within seconds we had already found another player, and within a few more seconds we'd had our jaw relocated to the other side of our head. It's easy enough to find a game online, but unless you're prepared, you're going to get your virtual butt handed to you. Disheartened, we delved into the training mode. The Fight allows you to build up your character by through training events, such as the speed bag, heavy bag or endurance sparring. The better you do in these training sessions, the more experience points you'll collect, which you can then spend on levelling up your at-first shockingly low stats, from strength to speed and technique. The catch is, almost every training session costs money, and to get money you'll need to win fights.
So, we headed back into the single player mode to try and win some of the tournaments on offer. Each arena, or tournament, has several fighters to punch through, although the conditions for winning each fight are sometimes different. Normally you can just knock out your opponent to win, in other cases you'll have to defeat them within a certain time limit, or before the depleting reward for the fight runs out. These options are meant to encourage variety, but all they really boil down to is controlling how fast you try to punch someone. You can also place bets on yourself, for winning or specific victories (you can't bet on your defeat and throw the fight, unfortunately), to garner even more money. Once again, we walked away unsuccessful, as despite our training we still couldn't land punches or cause any real damage to our opponent.
We bit the bullet and hit up YouTube. On there, several Fight fans had posted videos of themselves playing, and showing how to really play the game. And how to really play the game is simple - you have to actually fight. Your punches have to reach, your guard has to be kept up at all times, moving slightly with one hand as your hands protect your face. To be fair, Mr. Trejo had told us much of this already (or rather screamed it at us) in the opening tutorial. If only we'd listened.
As day three begins, our attitude had completely changed. No more pulling punches - we were moving like a butterfly and stinging like a comments section. Making sure we calibrated correctly, we spent half an hour in training, building up our stats with the easy speed bag, and making sure our strength and technique were high. Then, we sought out the tournament again. This time, we kept an eye on our Fight Night-like stamina bar, which depletes according to how hard and fast you swing your successive punches. This time, we reached with our punches, aiming for an imaginary face in front of us, instead of the screen. We went low with the breadbox punches, then followed up with some hard blows to the head, making sure our guard was up with one hand at all times, using that hand to move our fighter and follow the opponent. And we started winning. A lot. The first tournament became a breeze.
Money was rolling in, turning into experience points through time spent in training, and as we lay in a sweaty, muscle-twitching heap on the floor we felt as if we'd finally cracked the game and had started to actually play it. That's when we noticed the game had been tallying up our calories spent. By and large, this game is almost a fitness trainer in disguise. To get anywhere, you have to be fit. And if you're not fit, this game is going to try damn hard to get you there, with the promise of actually being able to play it dangling in front of you. Once you do start playing, it's a decent fighter. Beyond the game's 1:1 motion control, there's not really a lot to it. Winning fights unlocks clothes and customisation options for your fighter, as well as further fights. Grab moves are also pretty fun, especially online, as not only can you beat up an opponent in a headlock, but they can fight back and deplete your stamina, making it a risky prospect. But there's no real variation, and the game gets repetitive fast. It's a mediocre fighter wrapped up in a gimmicky package.
And over the next few days, the game's bleached, near-monochrome graphics began to wear on us. The ho-hum hip-hop soundtrack faded into blandness, and despite the workout we were getting being undeniably good for us, the game overall settled into mediocrity. Replays of our successful fights, which felt intense at the time, revealed animations to appear silly and marionette-like, as if watching an action scene in Thunderbirds. Even though we thought we'd cracked the motion control, on some days it would just refuse to calibrate, despite identical lighting conditions. On others, the 'dirty moves' activated with the T-button and a gesture refused to function. The game was no longer broken, but was still pretty buggy.
So, where does that leave The Fight? For most people who'll try it out, it'll appear to be an imprecise, slow, sloppy and near-broken fighting game that exacerbates all the worst things about motion control, despite your fighters arms doing whatever your arms are doing. The calibration will be a chore and interest in the game will disappear quickly. However, if you bought this game along with your Move and you're stuck with it, then at least all is not lost. With time, effort, patience and a decent level of fitness, the game can be played, and to a degree, enjoyed. Is this a game, or a personal trainer? Well, we don't think we'd feel any better in a real fight having played this game. Yet, it did get our muscles aching more than our thumbs ever did in Tekken. It's not a great game, but it's not bad as a fighting simulator. Maybe there's a good motion-control fighting game to be made after all, but unfortunately this isn't it.