Fight Night Champion Review

  • Posted March 1st, 2011 at 16:45 EDT by Adam Dolge

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Fight Night Champion

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With sharp graphics, easy to learn controls, and realistic gameplay, Fight Night Champion delivers a knockout blow to the competition. Unfortunately, it is a little lacking beyond the stellar Champion Mode.

We like

  • The compelling narrative
  • The sharp, brutal graphics
  • The revamped control scheme

We dislike

  • The near-worthless Legacy Mode
  • The lack of things to do outside of Champion Mode
  • The boring training mini-games

See PSU's review on Metacritic & GameRankings

Most sports games lack that personal affection you get with single-player campaigns in an action or role playing game. Even individual sports games (as opposed to team sports) rarely capture that character-driven narrative that titles such as Grand Theft Auto IV, God of War III, or Uncharted 2 carry. Still, it’s easy to argue against incorporating a narrative in a sports game; after all, we play FIFA for a very different reason than Heavy Rain. So what happens when you throw a story mode into a boxing game? For starters, you get just about every boxing movie cliché ever thrown onto the big screen, but more importantly, you get a game that’s more than just a sequel to Fight Night Round 4.

Fight Night Champion is the first mature title in EA Sports line-up. It’s bloody, there’s plenty of cursing, and even features some adult-orientated situations. In reality, it has more of a PG-13 feel, but it is pretty graphic for a sports game. Everything about Champion feels authentic, or at least that’s what it seems developer EA Canada wants us to believe. I’ve never stepped foot in a ring before and I probably never will. This is unlike most of EA Sports’ other games; I’ve played soccer, baseball, basketball, football, hockey, tennis, golf, and just about every other sport an average American can play, but never boxing. So judging the authenticity of Fight Night Champion is through the eyes of a guy who’s watched a handful of classic boxing movies and a few pay-per-view events.

The authenticity doesn’t really matter to me, but it may to some diehard boxing fans. If you are an average gamer, you are probably more interested in how much fun Champion is than how authentic it is to the sport. The good news is that Champion is really enjoyable and easy to learn. The bad news is that once you get through the Champion (story) mode, you will probably find yourself disappointed by the standard career mode on offer.

From the moment you press start, the game throws you into the boots of fictional boxer Andre Bishop. He’s a level-headed young man but gets caught up in some sticky legal problems. What really struck me about this game was how enjoyable Champion Mode was. It’s short, lasting only about three or four hours, but completely captivating nonetheless. Will Rokos, who penned Monster’s Ball, provided a great story full of characters that are plucked directly from classic boxing movies. Yes, it’s full of clichés, but playing Champion Mode makes you forget this is a just another EA Sports game. It’s not perfect, but it’s a solid step in the right direction for the genre.

The story is told using some nice cut-scenes, but the real visual appeal comes in the form of the character animations during gameplay. The movements are extremely smooth and the details are so precise that you almost feel the sweat dripping off your TV screen. The slow motion replays are enhanced, and you definitely get a sense that your boxer is reacting as an actual boxer would if he got tagged by Iron Mike Tyson. I still wish you could bite your opponent’s ear, but head-butting is probably bad enough.

The controls have received a fairly substantial and welcome overhaul. All your punches are controlled with simple flicks of the right analog stick. Quickly tap the right stick a bit to the left to throw a jab with your left hand, and then follow it with a quick and easy right uppercut. This change helps matches feel more authentic, or at least what I imagine a real boxer could conceivably pull off. A single button acts as your punch modified, essentially giving your boxer a bit more strength. This, of course, reduces your stamina, so you’ll have to be careful how often you try to rip your opponent’s head from his body. Defense is really key in Fight Night Champion, so you won’t get too far in the game by simply swinging away at your adversary.

The graphics are realistic, the controls are tight, and the story mode is interesting, so what happened to the career campaign? Legacy Mode did very little for me. It’s pretty ... (continued on next page)

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