MDICKIE REACH heavens above biz

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MDICKIE REACH heavens above biz

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Name:MDICKIE REACH heavens above biz

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Last Updated: 2010-07-29 21:27:54 (Update Now)

Torrent added: 2009-08-21 13:30:51

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5.ITS FREE!!!!!!

As with many other genres, I had assumed that boxing games had been honed to perfection in the 21st century - but a quick glance at the competition reveals you've been putting up with slow motion-captured nonsense for the past 10 years. That's my cue to deliver the fast, responsive interpretation of the sport that fight fans truly want! Although a boxing game was the first I ever made (and had published) in Blitz 3D, it suffered from a plethora of novice flaws. Now, some 5 years later, I'm on top of my game and capable of training a contender that could knock the wrestling games out cold...

Face Of The Future
The backbone of this latest project is a new and improved graphics engine. The more detailed textures of recent games are now fulfilling their potential via an equally detailed new character model! It calls upon more polygons to create a bulkier physical frame with visible contours on the body, arms and legs. The revolution even extends to a shapely new skull, which brings out the best in face textures with visible cheek bones, eye sockets and a protruding nose. It even moves better, thanks to a looser neck bone that allows more expression. And some of the best hairstyles yet provide the icing on the cake! Not only is there more of them (46 variations in all, compared to Wrestling Encore's 33), but every single one looks better than ever thanks to a little more detail here and there - not least in the extension that makes long hair thicker and more seamlessly connected. Even shaved heads have become something to get excited about - as the default cut is now provided in sharper detail and comes in 4 different variations! Likewise, clothing is also becoming a better contributor to the graphics - as this boxing game pulls out all the stops to provide real exterior shorts and those all-important gloves...

Lord Of The Rings
The boxing concept has also demanded some minor adjustments to the ring area. For a start, there are now 4 ropes instead of 3 - and each side is bound together by a handful of vertical ties. Similarly, the individual turnbuckles have now taken a backseat to the all-encompassing pads that are more widely used in boxing (although the original style is still on hand as an alternative). These pads also have the responsibility of marking the opposing red and blue corners that each boxer calls their home. In fact, everything about the ring is now designed to offer more colour! Even the remaining neutral corners have the option of being either black or white, and the accompanying ring posts adopt the same colour to complete the effect. An even more striking revelation is that the ring aprons can also be displayed in several different colours. Up until now they had to be black to match the canvas edges, but even those are variable now thanks to a series of colour overlays that can be painted over the default white base. The result is that every apron now comes in white, black, red, green and blue - and they even look sharper than ever thanks to textures that are twice as big! Thankfully, this is also true of the numerous canvases - which feature a variety of bold logos sewn into a convincing material...

Let There Be Light
In order to avoid being left behind by the sparkling new character model, the venues themselves have also had to raise their game! Not only do they benefit from the now obligatory high resolution texturing, but they also make the most of it with countless structural improvements - such as the ceiling lights that you can see in the above shot. The stadium version, in particular, is almost unrecognizable as it replaces the tired old flat crowd with a real network of steps that provides viewing areas for literally hundreds of sprites. It's a revelation so big that it inspired me to dispose of those cartoony cardboard cut-out's once and for all and replace them with convincing 3D renders! This new crowd even gets to surround the ring, thanks to entrance ways that tunnel into the seating areas and allow people to gather overhead. The video screens that would normally occupy that space have now been relocated to the corners of the arena (which actually works out better since there are now 4 of them to catch a glimpse of instead of one!). And yes, I was talking plural when I mentioned "entrance ways". To honour the head-to-head nature of boxing, this game has two different aisles at either side of the arena - from which each boxer makes their entrance. And, as you may have gathered, that also means two backstage areas! The usual locker room is now accompanied by a cosier lounge area on the opposite side of the building (although a boxing match doesn't exactly give you much cause to visit them)...

View To A Kill
What good would all these graphical improvements be if a good cameraman wasn't there to capture the moment? Thankfully, that part of the game has also risen to the challenge and takes things yet another step further. Not only does the camera set the scene like never before by briefly panning the entire arena, but it also works harder than ever once the bell rings. Because landing punches is so vital in the sport of boxing, this camera constantly reorients itself to make sure you're watching from a more horizontal perspective. All the while zooming in on close combat and zooming out to contain both fighters when they separate. And if that sounds a little nauseating, you'll be pleased to know that it all happens as discreetly as possible - leaving you to concentrate on enjoying the action. In fact, this game follows World War Alpha's example by linking your controls to the camera's current position - so your input is always faithfully acknowledged. And that's just the default camera angle! There are plenty of alternatives to switch to - including raised and lowered versions of the horizontal follow, and old favourites such as the bird's eye view and arena perspectives. A variety of first person angles also take on more significance than ever in this boxing game - allowing you to see your outgoing punches and absorb the impact of those that are incoming! They're as unplayable as ever, but it's an amusing little distraction. The best news is that these camera angles are easier to access than ever before too - thanks to a new system that puts all the variations of the same angle (such as near or far) on the same key, and simply asks that you press it repeatedly to browse through them. That ensures that every single one of the countless options is available at the touch of a button. You can even specify your favourite in the Options menu to prevent having to select it every time...

Weapon Of Choice
Spectacle may get people into the arena, but it's substance that makes them stay. Fortunately, Reach has put just as much effort into the gameplay to ensure that happens! The dedicated boxing premise required a dramatic departure from my usual fighting system - as evidenced by the fact that practically every button now triggers a punch of some description. Much like in Tekken, the game uses a 4-button base to divide between left or right and high or low. Pressing them while holding a direction throws out a quick jab, whereas pressing them without a direction unleashes a whole other 4 different attacks. Combining buttons together then unlocks yet another level of power, and allows you to roll the dice on heavy attacks that are a little clumsier. All in all, each character has 10 basic moves at their disposal - which may not sound like much, but turns out to be perfectly adequate in the heat of battle. Plus, exactly what those 10 moves might be differs from character to character - as they each have their own assortment from a substantial list of alternatives, ranging from every kind of hook, jab or uppercut to all manner of novelty attacks. It's not just for show either. Even within the same category, every punch has its own speed, range and power - so having the right weapons at your disposal is just as important as being fit enough to deliver them...

Deep Impact
Since punches are the only thing to worry about in this game, it has also given me the freedom to make the process more sophisticated. Whereas the collision detection in the wrestling games was pretty vague, this game focuses entirely on the fists and produces an impact the second they connect with the opponent's head or body. That means that you're genuinely more likely to score a hit when an opponent's head veers towards you or more likely to miss when they reel back, so you have to pay close attention to how you're moving! Another little revelation here is that it's also possible for two punches to land simultaneously - thus hurting both participants at the same time. Not only is that realistically scrappy, but it also helps to prevent onslaughts by giving the victim a better window to strike back. Best of all, fans of Rocky II will be salivating at the fact that it's perfectly possible to have simultaneous knock-downs!

Feel The Pain
And that's where the game makes the fighting process even more sophisticated. As surely as the spotlight on punches demanded that they be stepped up, the spotlight on being punched demands that the reactions follow suit. Instead of having one preset reaction for being hit either low or low, there are now several alternatives to mix things up - not least of which are the melodramatic responses that send an opponent hurtling across the ring! And the only thing worse than that is when a boxer barely responds at all after being knocked into a stupor. This game's version of the "blindness" from wrestling is best described as "dizziness", and leaves the victim staggering across the ring with jumbled up controls. All of which culminates in a fall when the boxer just can't take any more, and this is where the game really strides ahead of its wrestling predecessors. As with the pain reactions, there are numerous ways of falling down in this game - ranging from flat on your front or back to collapsing down onto your knees. Getting up then becomes a 3-tier process of clawing your way up onto your hands and knees, then up to one knee, and finally back to your feet. But the process is also reversible, so it's possible to crumble all the way back to the floor! It makes knock-out's an absolute joy to watch unfold as you see the victim squirming desperately for survival. In a nod to the game's wrestling forefathers, it's even possible to topple out of the ring and down to the outside if a fall happens by the ropes or on the apron...

Damage Control
If the animated reactions to being hit don't spell it out for you, you should also notice the damage in the state of your body! As in the wrestling games, every blow landed and fall taken risks scarring each part of the body to increasing degrees (although it's almost entirely the face and body in this case). There are also more particle effects on hand to accompany this damage with flying specks of sweat and blood (which actually produces a stain at the location it touches the canvas!). However, where this game really takes pain further is with the injuries - which can now afflict specific body parts instead of being an all-encompassing ailment. It's possible to break either hand after landing a punch, and it's likewise possible to incur a head or rib injury upon absorbing a blow. It's even possible to break a leg while darting around the ring or taking a fall! However they occur, these various ailments are then conveyed by a special aggravated animation - which persists if you continue to use the damaged limb. Meanwhile, the burden of being injured saps your health and slows you down to a crawl - which is practically a death sentence inside a boxing ring...

Case For The Defence
Thankfully, it's possible to limit the damage of being punched by putting up your guard - which is simply a case of pressing the attack commands for each side simultaneously. You can even move when doing so, or weave in any given direction when at close quarters. Doing so is not just a matter of survival but is also a tactical ploy designed to lure out and absorb punches, which can then be parried into a more successful attack of your own. And when things get too hot, another form of defence is to embrace your opponent in a bid to halt their momentum and regain some energy at the same time...

Fancy Footwork
Of course, the best form of defence is to avoid being hit in the first place - which is why this game allows you to dart in any given direction by simply pressing it twice in quick succession. It makes agility a truly important quality - since it governs how quickly and how far you travel during such movements, and also determines how well you track the movements of an opponent trying to dance around you. Even the basic movements are something to get excited about in this game. Instead of one preset movement animation, there are now dedicated animations for moving forwards, backwards, and to either side. The game effortlessly blends between them as you're moving, and makes the process look and feel more graceful than ever before. It applies to movements of every kind too - whether boxing at close quarters or strolling around at a distance. The only downside is that making alternative stances involves 4 times as much work, but there are still a handful on offer - with the default stance being accompanied by raised or lowered variations...

Cerebral Assassin
Behind the scenes, one of the games greatest achievements is that the computer opponents have learnt to master all of the above tools. The most sophisticated artificial intelligence of any fighting game yet ensures that they block, evade, and attack like any sensible player. Not only do they call on the most appropriate punches for each situation, but they also adapt their fighting style over the course of a match. Every missed punch causes them to think twice about using it in those circumstances again, while every successful punch bolsters their confidence about pushing it further. Meanwhile, every attack of yours that misses makes them more confident about avoiding it again - whereas every blow absorbed reminds them to consider blocking next time. Over the course of a fight, this network of calculations gives them the same recipe for success that a human player would be hoping to discover - and makes them formidable opponents...

The Thin Red Line
The computer does all of its calculations behind the scenes, but you need a few in-game displays to help make sense of the action. Since there are only ever two of them to worry about, I've been able to make the most graphical health meters yet. Large multi-coloured health bars adorn either side of the top of the screen, and signify how close a character is to being knocked down. That means it fluctuates at a quicker rate than the overall health meters that my games normally display, but you can still get a sense of that by how far it fills back up. Your hit points are only ever a percentage of your overall health, so the upper limit gradually wears away over the course of a match and makes knock-downs increasingly likely. As you can see, the meters also include a smaller yellow "adrenaline" bar - which is the equivalent of "heat" in the wrestling games, and indicates how close they are to enjoying a frenzied adrenaline rush. It fills up with every successful, confidence-building action and deteriorates after every mistake or act of cowardice. Once full, the character invokes the support of the crowd and temporarily fights at greater strength. Strictly speaking, it doesn't unlock the "special moves" you would normally expect - so much as it makes EVERY punch a little more special and allows you to do with them what you see fit...

Take Your Seat
Since boxing matches tend to have a little more structure, the presentation also makes a bigger deal of the timing. A normal match is broken down into rounds of a specified number and length, after which each boxer is encouraged to take a seat at their corner and recover a little health. In true MDickie style, even these parts of the game are fully interactive - trusting you to return to your corner if you wish or allowing you to cause trouble by fighting after the bell! Doing so is wildly counterproductive though, so you'll find yourself playing by the rules more often than not. And if the prospect of watching your character take a rest sounds a little boring, you'll be pleased to know that there of plenty of stats to keep you occupied. After each round you get a breakdown of the punches thrown and landed by each fighter, and what that means for the overall scores (which are often used to determine a winner when a match goes the distance). By the time you've cast your eyes over the figures and willed your health to improve, the bell will ring and it'll be time to resume playing...

Tale Of The Tape
One of this game's crowning achievements is the significance of the statistics. It's a fairly predictable cocktail of "Power" (their ability to inflict damage), "Reach" (their ability to travel with a punch), "Dexterity" (the speed at which they punch), "Agility" (the speed at which they move), "Stamina" (the rate at which they recover health), "Toughness" (their ability to absorb punishment), and "Popularity" (how well supported they are by the fans). So far so familiar, but this game has somehow managed to make them mean more than ever. Here you can literally feel every percent of power and speed - and it makes the characters from the wrestling games seem identical by comparison. Every single attribute is so key to what happens in the ring that it really does become a matter of life and death, and learning to cope with everybody's strengths and weaknesses becomes some sort of puzzle game! The real killer is that all of these stats are further filtered through a character's health over the course of a match - so those strengths and weaknesses are accentuated even more once fatigue sets in. Even a character's size and height is of paramount importance in this game, because it has an inherent effect on the range of their punches and the size of the target - so much so that those figures have earned a place alongside the main stats...

No Pain, No Gain
As if seeing those stats pan out wasn't tense enough, the process of building them up in the first place has even been made more agonizing thanks to the addition of interactive training sessions. Instead of being a passive option, training in the Career mode is now a Track & Field style sub-game that asks you to work up a sweat by bashing buttons! How far you manage to fill the meter up in the allotted time dictates how much progress (if any) is made in the specified area. Not only is that a fun little distraction, but it also makes you feel like you're working hard on your body and serves as a constant reminder of where you're at. Purists needn't fear though. It's perfectly optional, and you can get back to basics by asking the computer to do it on your behalf as usual...

Best Of The Best
Statistics are so important to this game that they've even managed to dominate the character selection screen. Because of boxing's rank-based nature, the classic grid of boxes has been replaced by a scrollable list - and the remaining space at the sides has been littered with facts and figures. You can even click on a specific category to resort the list with that criteria in mind - which means the "Database" feature is built in as standard! The character boxes themselves have also been modified to include a tiny portrait of the boxer in question, which means you can identify them at a glance instead of studying the names. There are 100 of them in total, spread across 3 separate weight classes rather than the competing promotions of the wrestling. The differences between them are just as keenly felt though, with the "Lightweight" division favouring fast weaklings as opposed to the sluggish monsters of the "Heavyweight" division. One revelation here is that the game is able to store 3 entirely different such universes on file. The wrestling games shared the same old mangled universe that had a propensity to get messed up, but this game preserves the default universe and gives you a clone to tear up in the career mode. You're then free to make your own way in your own unique world before returning to normality, and yet you always have the option to keep that world going in another career...

New Dawn Of Creation
As ever, a new career starts with you inserting a character of your own creation into this world. And, as you'd expect, the editing process has evolved to accommodate the new model. Since the shorts and gloves are now separate entities, they're also separate options that you can change independently of the arms or legs. You can even change the shoes independently of the legs, which is great for combining trousers with footwear of any kind! The headwear has also become a more versatile feature - allowing you apply any texture to it as if it were any other limb. That means you can have hats, caps, and bandanas of any colour and emblazoned with a variety of logos. Not that many boxers wear hats in the ring, but it comes in handy for casual wear. As in Hard Time, you can also switch between different types of clothing in real-time instead of having to load up a whole other "baggy" model type. In fact, your character's build is somewhat automated in this game. The most appropriate option is automatically assigned based on how you configure the character's height and weight settings. The editor has been refined in other ways too, with a main menu from which you can directly access any category instead of browsing your way to it. There are also different stances for each costume to drill home what its purpose is, and when it comes to selecting your punches and taunts you can finally see previews of them in action! All those extra animations add a few seconds to the loading time, but it's worth it to see what you're doing...

Gone 'Til November
Once your career is underway everything should look pleasantly familiar. The time-honoured format of working your way through a schedule one week at a time has returned, and benefits from much better presentation - with the weeks and months clearly divided into boxes. The schedule tends to be a little different for this boxing game though, because the emphasis is on preparing for one monthly bout rather than fighting every week. These compulsory matches determine the rankings, because one month you must defend your rank against your nearest competitor and the next you get a chance to overtake your superior. The intervening weeks are yours to spend as you wish. You can choose to fight more by supplementing your rank matches with specially arranged pay-per-view contests that shake off the shackles of regulated matches and let you call the shots. Most excitingly of all, this game even has tournaments to take part in - whereby you're thrown into a 16 or 32-man draw and must work through a series of opponents to get your hands on a trophy! Along the way, the calendar stores more information than ever before - allowing you to study the exact details of matches coming up or look back on the results of weeks gone by...

Headline Act
With each passing week, the usual selection of newspaper reports and magazine articles keep you abreast of the latest happenings in the world of boxing. It should all be very familiar to players of my other industry sims, but one difference in this game is that there's a greater emphasis on match results and what that means for the rankings. Instead of being entirely random, the CPU boxers have genuine opponents of their own that they've faced - and they'll often be acknowledged in the news to make things sound more convincing (i.e. "XXX got injured in his recent match against XXX";). The newspaper itself has even gotten more interesting thanks to a variety of photo backgrounds mock advertisements that make sure every issue looks different! Meanwhile, the post-match magazine (which is the imaginatively titled "Punch Line" for the sake of this game) goes into more detail about your recent match and reports any meaningful changes to your profile. Again, there's greater context to be found here - as the rank you've climbed to or fallen to is often acknowledged, and in the case of tournaments it even mentions who you'll face in the next round...

Stand By Me
One of the biggest changes to the career mode in this game is that managers are a major part of your life rather than a meaningless accessory. In fact, it's with them that you sign a contract rather than any given organization. By default, you cruise along with very little pay and no rights - but by convincing a manager to take you on, you can negotiate a larger cut of the gate and all manner of other luxuries. It's all very similar to what we've seen in the wrestling games, but a lot more sophisticated. For a start, "Image Rights" has evolved into "Creative Control" because your image is just ONE of the things that it affects. Having no creative control means you don't get to arrange your own matches and can't veto any of the career choices that people make on your behalf. So, far from being a quirky gimmick, it's actually an important issue. As are the "Performance Clause" and "Health Policy" from the wrestling games - which return here to govern how much you get paid in the event of losing and how much compensation you get when injured. However, one key difference here is that negotiating them just got a lot more sophisticated. Managers have their own unique qualities, and those strengths and weaknesses will affect what they can and can't offer. Those with poor business skills can't offer much pay, those with poor medical skills can't offer you much compensation, and those with a bad attitude can't offer you an easy life! On your side of things, it's also possible to figure out the best deal that works for you - by taking a smaller cut in exchange for more sweeteners or trading in those benefits for a juicier pay-off. All in all, every deal is different and makes for a very interesting career...

Blind Date
This game brings all the fun of contract negotiations to arranging matches too. Holes in your schedule are yours to fill as you see fit, and the best way is to get talking to other boxers about setting up a lucrative pay-per-view match! It involves the same back-and-forth banter of contract negotiations but with very different subject matter. Since your payment is governed by your contract with your manager, these match arrangements focus on deciding the date, venue, and match rules. As with business matters, every character has their own unique requirements and there's a surprising number of things to disagree about. Not least whether or not the match should go ahead in the first place, because boxers are very careful about who they step into the ring with...

Backstage Meetings
In addition to formal discussions, there are also plenty of "yes or no" meetings that influence the course of your career and affect your relationship with other characters. These might involve fielding suggestions from your manager or confronting demands from your peers (not least for a rematch after a controversial result!). However, the most important meetings of all are with the big boss that presides over the "Boxing Entertainment Commission". He has the power to kick you out of the entire industry, and will regularly make you jump through hoops to prove that you belong there. These little assignments can involve anything from improving a given skill to changing your body shape, but they're ultimately for your own good and help to spice up to your career. One thing that you'll notice about this game is that these meetings take place in a wider variety of locations - from all 4 corners of the arena to a plush new office with a skyline view. There are also more animations for these segments (especially when seated locations), which helps to make the conversations look and feel more convincing...

War Of Words
Perhaps the biggest "meeting" of all is the one that happens before each and every match! The "promo" system in this game takes the guise of a formal press conference - where each boxer and his manager sits either side of a host and discusses the upcoming match. What elevates it above a meaningless gimmick is that there are actually real talking points. Each boxer boasts about a legitimate strength or picks out a legitimate weakness in their opponent, which is revealing in its accuracy and hints at how the match really will pan out. Plus the game keeps a record of what happened the last time you faced each opponent and brings that up to add yet more context to the proceedings. They even acknowledge the recent deaths of fellow boxers! Complete with an intro that refers to the match type and circumstances, it's the best preparation that you could ask for...

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