Version tested: PlayStation 3
I've barely started playing Sony's gritty Move-enabled beat-'em-up and Danny Trejo is already shouting at me. "YOU'LL BREAK THE GAME IF YOU MOVE AROUND" he barks, his grizzled face looming at the screen like an angry testicle with a moustache.
As a way of defining the limitations of the hardware, it certainly guarantees your attention, even if it rather undermines the "Move" brand.
To be fair, Señor Trejo is talking about your feet. You need to stay in one spot for The Fight to work, but the rest of your body is free to move as much as you like. In fact, it's an absolute requirement – this is a genuinely punishing experience, forcing you to throw real weighty punches rather than the feeble Wii-flicks you may be used to from other motion sensing games.
In construction, it's basically Fight Night but with actual arm-flinging in place of thumbstick twizzles. You create a lumpy, cheap-looking digital mannequin and then try to elevate him through the ranks of underground bare-knuckle boxing, from crude scuffles under railway arches and freeway underpasses all the way up to the heady glamour of rusty cages and loosely organised bear-pit brawls. Expect to see it compared to Fight Club by people who don't understand Fight Club.
Combat itself is, well, interesting. Just as digital imagery has been hampered the "uncanny valley" of human characters that are just inhuman enough to distract, so motion games are faced with their own awkward disconnect. There's just no getting away from the fact that too many motion games ask you to interact with intangible things, and the lack of sensory feedback feels weird and off-putting. It's no surprise that the motion games that generally work best are the ones where hitting or grabbing things isn't part of the gameplay.
After calibrating the PlayStation Eye and grabbing a Move wand in each hand, it's up to you to knock your opponent out. Holding down the big button with the squiggly logo (does that have a name yet?) allows you to tilt the wand to move your fighter, while the trigger enables special attacks like hammer blows to the head, headlocks and other dirty tricks.
The one-to-one recreation of your movements is impressive, but a touch floaty, and the lack of physicality forms a barrier during early play. Punches thrown with shoulder-dislocating force in real life can translate as slow, lazy taps in the game. There can also be a distracting problem with finding the right range, with seemingly perfect shots stopping just short of your foe's face, or your fighter's arms lolloping around like Mr Tickle. Consistency is lacking, with seemingly feeble taps to the forehead earning "Good Damage" bonuses, while cracking uppercuts go unrewarded.
Again, it's all down to the lack of sensory feedback. The game can copy your arm movements, and even use your head as a guide to bob and weave if the lighting is bright enough, but what it can't do is replicate the depth of field or sense of impact. Throwing a punch isn't just about thrusting your fists about, but delicate matters such as velocity and trajectory, and these prove elusive when you're performing to a camera that may not be at eye level in a game where the action is always viewed from elevated angles.
Indeed, the lack of a first-person viewpoint is perhaps the game's most glaring omission. For all your exertion, it never feels like you're actually in the fight, more like a weird omniscient puppet master making some poor meatbag dance awkwardly to your pugilistic tune.
Eventually, however, you do reach a grudging truce with the motion fighting – though it's debatable whether that's due to you finally understanding the intricacies of the system, or just becoming accustomed to its foibles.
Once that happens, you start to unlock more arenas and opponents, working your way through 12 locations, each offering twelve bouts. 144 slugging matches suggests a lot of content, and it's true that the offensive options keep expanding with headlocks and spinning elbow strikes and dirty groin punches, but it's also a long, often tedious road to victory. You'll ache like a smashed crab as well, so this isn't a game to plough through in a few sittings.
There are peripheral features to distract from the one-note face-crunching, but they don't really inspire. You have an in-game cash balance that is inflated by successful fights and well-placed punches, and depleted by paying for training sessions and patching up broken bones. You can also bet this purse on your fights, should you wish to put your money where your broken, bleeding mouth is.
Rudimentary stats are on hand for your fighter, and can be topped up periodically. It makes sense to be able to make your fighter tougher or more resilient over time, but stats relating to speed and accuracy seem annoyingly redundant. You're the one throwing the punches, after all, so why should stats matter?
You can even design your fighter around your own height and weight, at which point the game works out your Body Mass Index and tracks how many calories you burn during each fight and over time. It's a nice touch, but if the idea was to smuggle a fitness package into a game designed for Danny Dyer fans it probably would have been better had the game included something to explain how to improve your technique and exercise more efficiently, rather than just making you slug virtual speed bags for no good reason.
That "halfway there" feeling extends to The Fight as a whole. The presentation feels generic, with washed-out grainy visuals and a tepid hip-hop soundtrack, while the fighting never really finds its balance. It feels pretty great when you land a good punch, but too often you're left wondering why that thundering left hook you just threw failed to connect on the screen. Multiplayer options for both split screen and online play add some longevity, but The Fight mostly feels like a half-baked idea thrown into the ring before its time.
5 / 10