Half an hour into Sony's The Fight: Light's Out, and I'm sprawled on the office sofa, mopping sweat from my forehead and inhaling as much Ventolin as my lungs will allow. Whilst it's embarrassing to admit, this is probably the most exercise I've done all year. If the games industry persists in its obsession with motion titles, editors of fine publications such as this site are going to have to start including fitness tests in their interviews for new writers. My character in the game is in a much worse state than I am, however: His face is a canvas for bruises, cuts and blood, and he squints out of puffy black eyes. Bones in both his arms have been broken, and several of his ribs are cracked. Amazingly, he's in this condition after a win. It's a classic case of "you should have seen the other guy..."
Unlike the majority of Move titles available at launch, The Fight is not the kind of game you'll find families playing after their Christmas dinners - unless, that is, your family consists of cage fighters, ex-convicts and gang members. This is a game that concerns itself with the seedy world of underground brawling. It contains copious amounts of violence and blood, and is complimented with a dirty hip-hop soundtrack. Despite a long list of flaws that I shall address later, it captures the grittiness of scene fairly well. Not that I'd know mind you - illegal punch-ups have never really been my thing.
In keeping with this theme, the game enlists the acting talents of ex-con-turned-film-star Danny Trejo, who serves as your very own personal trainer. Despite his intimidating appearance, ol' Danny is your only friend in the world, and offers a number of helpful services. Primarily, he serves as the game's tutorial system, which is far more involving than the usual slew of static information screens. Yelling at you through your TV, he'll explain new moves and demonstrate exactly how to pull them off. During the actual game he'll scream "What was that!?" after you've had the crap kicked out of you by some burly delinquent. He'll then aggressively encourage you to hit the gym for some training - another of the services he provides.
The game kicks off with a spot of character customisation. Your options are limited, with a handful of preset faces (all of which look they've been chasing parked cars) and three or four outrageous hairstyles to decorate their heads. There is an extensive wardrobe of clothes and accessories, but these must be unlocked in the game before you can wear them. After creating your character you can spend ability points on defining what type of fighter you want to be. You could choose to put all your points into strength, creating a hard-hitting brute of a brawler. You could invest in speed and technique for a fighter that knows how to evade and rarely misses a punch. Or, you could do the sensible thing and distribute your points evenly amongst the lot.
There's not a whole lot to The Fight. It's a series of one-on-one brawls where, PlayStation Move controller in each hand, your single objective is to beat the living daylights out of the guy standing in front of you. The idea is that the game will replicate your actions one-to-one, that an uppercut in real life will translate to an uppercut in the game - but things aren't quite that simple. The action quickly trips up on itself - your punches flying off at tangents and your blocks not really blocking anything at all. Thankfully, the circle button can be used to re-calibrate the motion tracking in the middle of a fight, which is something you'll find yourself doing a hell of a lot.
"Don't move your feet!" Trejo will constantly shout, as if anticipating the problems. Movement is still necessary in the game, however, forcing the implementation of a button-based navigation system. Holding down the Move button and tilting the controller will move your character in the desired direction, giving you time to recompose and rebuild your stamina bar.
Other buttons get in on the action too, with the T (trigger) button being the most frequently used. Holding it down whilst executing specific movements will unleash 'dirty' moves, which are more powerful than normal attacks. A good old elbow to the face is my attack of choice, dishing out a considerable amount of damage. While powerful, these unnecessary displays of violence are generally frowned upon, leading to bad rep. If your fight is not deemed as 'clean', you'll be awarded less money at the end. Due to the aforementioned problems with throwing a clean punch, however, you'll find yourself relying on these dirty moves quite heavily. Playing the game as a clean fighter really isn't a feasible option if you hope to get anywhere in.
The game isn't just a let down in execution, however, as structurally The Fight is tragically uninspired. Cards laid out in a pyramid act as each 'level' of the game. Choosing a location - The Chapel or the inviting Murder Alley, for example - will take you to a screen with another bunch of cards laid out in the shape of another pyramid. Each of the ten cards represents a fighter. You can choose who you'd like to take on from the bottom row, and should you win, the two connecting fighters on the next row will be unlocked. Once you defeat the fighter at the top of the pyramid - the boss, if you will - you'll complete the event. These bosses go by such as intimidating names as Boris the Bruiser and Vinnie the Wall, and are quite the step up from the chumps populating the lower brackets of the pyramid.
You might think you're built like a brick shithouse, but your first scrap with one of these bad boys will quickly put you in your place. Even though the unresponsive controls can be blamed to an extent, it's often the case that you're simply not strong enough to win. It's at times like these you'll need to revisit your old pal Danny in the gym. Here, ability points can be earned through a selection of gym-themed mini-games. You could choose to beat the crap out of a punching bag or spar with another fighter, but I've found the most effective drill for racking up points to be the speed bag. Aside from their stat-boosting properties, it seems these training exercises were only included to take players out of the tedium of the pyramid-based event system. After 2 minutes on the speed bag, you'll need a half an hour rest before you'll be able to play the main game again- or at least I did.
After each fight or gym activity, you'll be presented with a fitness report detailing how many thousands of calories you've lost over the course of the bout. The screen I'm staring at as I write this very sentence, for example, says that I just lost 39kcal. Now I don't know if that's good or bad (I've never been into healthy eating or calorie counting), but I can tell you that I'm knackered. After two days of play, my chest aches and my arms feel twice as heavy as they should do. If you take the game seriously (and you really need to in order to get anywhere) the game offers a thorough work out.
The Fight is an exhausting experience, and in more than just the physical sense of the word. Its structure invites boredom, there's no narrative to speak of, and more importantly, the Move controls lack responsiveness. Punches fly all over the shop, but rarely connect with their intended target. Even if you invest some ability points in Technique (which improves accuracy) this problem refuses to go away; the game simply lacks precision. It might be fun for an hour or so -the combined efforts of Danny Trejo and a pumping soundtrack do wonders in getting the adrenaline flowing - but there's no real lasting appeal here.