Part of the fun of sports video games is fooling around with athletes and creating situations that would never happen in real life.
Subbing a backup defensive tackle in at quarterback in Madden NFL Football is hilarious, and playing a homerun derby with a relief pitcher in any baseball game is just as funny. After a while, beating friends and the computer just isn’t satisfying enough, so to feel more powerful, one must manipulate the game for humor. It’s part of the Bro Code that all sports gamers follow.
Unfortunately, boxing video games have never had enough real-life fighters to allow players to goof off. Ever since Nintendo came out with “Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!” in 1987, video game companies have released hundreds of boxing video games, but none of them have had enough playable professional fighters to make game-play enjoyable.
I stopped playing video games a few years ago. The last boxing game I played frequently was Fight Night: Round 3 on PlayStation 2. Although I had fun with the game, playing as the same 26 fighters (which included Vincente Escebedo and Jesus Chavez – don’t ask me why) over and over again got boring quickly.
So when I heard EA Sports, the makers of the Fight Night and vanguards of the sports-gaming industry, were releasing another game in the series this summer on Playstation 3 and Xbox 360, I had high hopes that the game-makers would finally get it right and implement more professional fighters. Unfortunately for fans, EA Sports again blew it big time, making only 40 playable boxers – some of which are absurd.
On EAsports.com, Fight Night Round 4 is advertised under the slogan, “Fight Night Round 4 features 40 of the sport’s best all-time fighters.” Included in that group of so-called legends are mediocre heavyweight Eddie Chambers, journeyman Emmanuel Augustus, the boring Cory Spinks, Vivian Harris, Kermit Cintron, and Sergio Mora. Classifying these pugs as “all-time best” is insulting to anyone who knows anything about the sweet science. Eddie Chambers is top-ten modern heavyweight at best. Vivian Harris’s only win in the past two years came against novice Octavio Narvaez. Sergio Mora couldn’t fend off Vernon Forrest in the pair's rematch. Why would I want to play as these guys in a video game?
Although 40 fighters is an improvement to the 26 in the series’ last game, the number is still a few hundred short of where it needs to be. There are only so many matchups one can make with 40 fighters, especially considering the weight diversity between boxers (are we supposed to match Eddie Chambers with Emmanuel Augustus?). In order for EA Sports to really blow fans away with their product, they’ll need to obtain rights to far more fighters. Boxing fans need more than 40 pugs to do battle with, and when some of those 40 fighters are merely fringe contenders, I don't see the point in purchasing the game.
The ideal boxing video game would have at least the top fifty fighters in every division (not just the six divisions included in the Fight Night series). That way, casual and hardcore fight fans alike could play as their favorite fighters and be creative with matchups.
I give EA Sports credit for creating a boxing series, but if the company can obtain rights to thousands of football, baseball, and basketball players, it should be able to do the same for boxing. Gamers, after all, have the right to match Ivan Calderon with Nikolay Valuev. It’s part of the Bro Code.