New ESBC 2022 gameplay impressions

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ESBC April 2022 Gameplay Impressions

Gameplay is a complex subject to preview without practical impressions. However, we can evaluate animations, collision detection, locomotion and momentum. The latest pictures of Steel City Interactive demonstrates a tighter combat system. Punches are snappier than before, with sharper starts and finishes. It’s a bit of an improvement over previous versions of the builds we’ve seen. Older images carried punches that lacked pop; weak hits still appear from time to time. These gaze shots can be incorporated into the game for fatigue purposes, making them much more palatable. And that’s exactly what SCI did.

On the other hand, the fighters appear more rigid. Maybe SCI took the feedback too far, moving away from a smooth locomotion system and tightening the game up to be too stiff. I say this because when fighters throw a punch, their lower halves seem to get too heavy. Feathery, light feet from other game iterations are less noticeable. What happened to the speed pulse? The momentum engine was a key improvement over a game like A night of fighting. The water-like quality we saw of fighters as they explored the web in previous footage defines what we expect from next-gen sports games. By comparison, this gameplay sequence is all about trading punches in the pocket. While I’d like to see a bit more emphasis on footwork in and out of throws, the gameplay still shows promise.

Again, there are far fewer weak hit animations that lack speed and accuracy. Throws seem to be more targeted, which is a welcome improvement. When the fists make contact, they feel more punchy. Rumor has it that the collision detection was a bit buggy during the community event, but this latest version doesn’t show such clipping or glitches which were the main complaint points from the community. Yes ESBC – at its peak – can look and play like this alpha sequence build, so it’s a promising game, no doubt.

Transition Animations

A final area that could improve is the fighter’s reaction to power hits. Power punches should slow fighters down, and their response to returning to fundamental guard and stance should show fatigue or injury. The fighters in the demo take the serious blows and recover as if nothing had happened. I think these details can help bring the fighters to life and add a bit more realism, setting the game apart from EA’s series.

Overall, the studio is making changes to tighten combat in the pocket, and it’s reassuring that SCI continues to tune the gameplay. The animation library is in place. The locomotion engine has shown what it is capable of. Now SCI must continue to refine the cohesive end product.

Chart

What more can we say? The game looks great and seems to work fine. The gameplay footage seems to be the highest quality footage to date. Maybe even at 60 frames per second. Sweat flies when gloves connect. Hair flips after fighters try to absorb powerful blows; the laces bounce. The lighting remains dynamic.

A nice touch of detail is the corner men and cut men. Each fighter’s team can now be seen in the background, sporting their fighter’s gear and brand, and it looks good.

On the presentation side, the cameras seem unchanged. White light flashes as power shots land, adding a subtle Fight Night element to the game. A motion blur element lends a sense of hand speed to the action.

Design

ESBC is configured to feature over 36 punch variations. While welcome, it may be overambitious and led to the aforementioned collision detection and clipping issues. The April 2022 footage doesn’t appear to feature any signature styling or animations. The fighters look a bit too robotic in their striking style. Perhaps it was a conscious decision to simplify the game to fix clipping issues. And that’s okay for an alpha release. I would like to see a bit more style without impacting the gameplay.

Lately, ESBC needs additional game design elements to guide players through a match. I’m a big proponent of in-game badges and hints that can both guide players and reward them. Developer visual and audio cues can help players become better boxers, from timing-based cues to rewards for excellent countering. This helps players achieve a state of fluidity while playing, creating an enjoyable gaming experience. If done tactfully, in-game badges and cues will alert players to dopamine hits and keep them coming back for more, building the ESBC base of players.

ESBC is on the right track. There was concern when the studio went dark for months in 2021, followed by news that community gameplay testers walked away from QA testing unimpressed. the ESBCThe April 22 footage gives us hope that the game is on the right track and that boxing will return to sports games.


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