If you're a hardcore gamer interested in the PlayStation Move, chances are that The Fight: Lights Out has been on your radar for quite some time. With a full-fledged online mode, dirty fighting moves and a gritty presentation, it is the very antithesis to Wii Sports boxing. While other motion-based fighting games simply attempt to replicate Wii Sports' gesture-based gameplay, usually with little success, Sony's fighter instead sets out to deliver true 1:1 gameplay, allowing players to toss backhands and uppercuts without needing to execute specific gestures. Instead, you just throw backhands and uppercuts.
Doling out beatdowns is more measured than you might guess however, and if you don't pace yourself you may have trouble getting into the game. The AI opponents in here aren't easy, and when you go online it gets even harder. While this game may not be for hardcore players that prefer to earn that moniker whilst sitting comfortably, those willing to get up and move are rewarded with a fighting experience that balances depth, strategy and gameplay in a cohesive and wonderfully refreshing way.
Basic combat is where this title really shines, and gamers trying to dish out KOs from the couch won't survive long here. Everything you do with the Move controllers is represented on-screen, from powerful right hooks to wimpy, poorly-thrown jabs. Your success in this game will rely heavily on stamina, as well as your ability to pace yourself and toss convincing punches. Also, you need to land those punches. If your opponent keeps dodging to avoid a jab you need to adjust the next throw accordingly; if they keep blocking then it's time to toss an uppercut. This required precision can make it really exciting when you break out of a corner with a well placed, skull-crushing haymaker. Plus, if your punch is placed just right you earn a stun, opening up the opportunity to chain together combos. One prime example of this is the hook – tossing a dedicated, strong hook buys you a second to follow up with an uppercut, knocking them back and giving you a chance to regain some of your stamina, both in real life and in the game.
Below the health bar in the upper-right section of the screen sits your stamina bar, which depletes as you throw punches and take hits. Fully depleting it results in less effective punches and makes your fighter more prone to take damage. Keeping it full all the time isn't possible though, and the only way to reclaim lost stamina is to back off your opponent and let it refill. Players who refuse to do so are punished with a stamina bar that begins to shrink, and since a smaller stamina bar depletes quicker, it also must be refilled more frequently. This aspect of the game keeps the action from deteriorating into a mindless slugfest, adding an element of strategy and pacing to the fights.
The other stamina bar you need to keep an eye on is your own, in real life. As stated above, the 1:1 fighting requires you to actually throw good, real punches while playing. This means that after playing the game for an hour, you likely won't be punching with the gusto you were a few rounds back. Breaks are definitely your friend here, and blasting through the first set of fighters in the campaign only to take the fight online might not be a good idea. However, facing a foe online that is obviously pooped can be a hilarious engagement, and wearing out your opponents by simply dodging and blocking is sometimes a great strategy.
Blocking in the game is done by simply moving your arm into the path of a punch, and holding your hands up near your face is usually a good idea. To help you see incoming attacks, you should explore the various camera angles offered, which range from over-the-shoulder to an overhead view. There is even an upcoming patch to add optional fighter transparency to help players spot and block incoming punches. However, any block can be circumvented, and uppercuts are definitely your friend when it comes to overprotective foes. There is a special sense of gratification that comes from backing cowardly, overly cautious fighters into a corner and pummeling them with uppercuts until they drop. Likewise, there is an equally frustrating sense of ineptitude that comes from being brutally dissected by a masterful player, just like any other fighting game.
Another big draw for this game is the replay value. Aside from going online at any time to fight a willing stranger, there's plenty of opponents in the campaign mode to defeat. Each has a special medal to win too, done by finishing the fight within a certain amount of time or without passing a certain damage threshold. Plugging through theses fights also unlocks new clothes and items to outfit your fighter with (you use the same fighter online), and if you train, you earn experience points used to upgrade characteristics of your fighter. Training ranges from aiming practice to bag work, and the points earned can be spent to make your fighter stronger, faster, and better at taking a punch.
You also periodically unlock new moves to use. These are usually the “dirty moves” in the game, and unlike basic fighting in the game, are done by holding down the T button and doing a specific gesture. One fan favourite online is the hammer fist, done by holding the trigger and swinging the controller up and down, or the elbow, done by tossing a jab forward while holding down the button. While these simple gestures work pretty well, later in the game you unlock more complicated moves, and some of these are quite wonky, especially ones that require you to use your two controls in a combined gesture. One, called spear, has you bringing both controllers over your right shoulder and thrusting them forward to drive an elbow into your opponent. This one is really hard to pull off, and its animation takes too long to play out, making it almost useless. Since the other, simpler dirty moves work just as well, there is little incentive to master it, if you even could. While it is certainly a shame that some of these moves can be unreliable, there are so many moves at your disposal that it never feels like a huge issue.
Some early reviews of this game went live across the web before the online mode was even enabled, which is truly a shame, as this is one of the most alluring aspects of the game. Thankfully it is well done and really serves to add longevity to the game. Sony deserves some recognition for creating the first motion-based, one-on-one online multiplayer brawler, and while the experience is rather simplistic, it does all the crucial things right. There is no lag while fighting, the game generally tries to match you up with a similarly skilled fighter (based on win streak) and there is a bevy of trophies to earn, as well as online leaderboards. Local co-op is equally as fun, but you since you need four Move controllers to do it, you may just want to stick to fighting online.
Another thing you may want to bypass is the head tracking. During calibration, the game asks you to exit out of the view of the Eye, so it can scan the image of the empty room. It then has you return to the shot, and attempts to track your head movement. Unless you have a perfectly lit room and there are no windows behind you, you'll probably run into an issue with this feature. Thankfully it can be disabled, and the game even turns it off automatically if thinks the conditions are bad. The idea is to have your character bob and weave by titling your head side to side or leaning back and forth, but even if deactivated this can still be done to a lesser extent by using the Move controllers in the same way.
While the gesture-based "dirty moves" that become unlocked throughout the game can be a bit tough to pull off, the core gameplay is done very well, and every jab, angled hook or slight combination of the two is represented 1:1 on screen. For less active players, this may be a drawback, as you really need to give it your all to defeat the game's tougher opponents or other players online. However, if you are willing to get into the game and learn the basics, there is an intense, visceral fighting experience to be had. Chaining together stuns and combos by mixing up an unpredictable brew of beatdown really makes you feel like a badass, and when you successfully translate those skills online the game can become quite addictive.
Buying the two Move controllers required may seem pricey, but the title itself is budget-priced, and the lengthy campaign, trophies, unlockable moves and online mulitplayer add plenty of value and longevity to the game. If you've been waiting for a hardcore game to hit the Move, wait no longer – it's here, and it wants to beat you up.