Fight Night Champion Review

Reigning Middleweight Champion Jake Lamotta is up against the ropes.  With every hit, blood splatters over the crowd.  When the bell rings, Sugar Ray Robinson is the clear winner.  But he never knocked Jake down.

Boxing is the utimate man's sport.  Sorry UFC, but no one's ever been kiled in the octagon.  I don't care what you say, no real sport can compare to the brutality-and intriquicy-of boxing.

Fight Night Round 3 was the first game to show off what next-gen consoles could do.  FNR4 took it to the next level, giving the player the sense of actually BEING in the ring.  With Champion, they make it matter.

STORY

Blitz: The League is a mediocre football sim.  It's fun for a litte while, but no where near the Madden franchise, original or not.  However, I respect those games for doing what no other sports games do-having a plot.  With all the corruption, fame, and pressure athletes experience, it's amazing no game even tries to create a story.  FNC changes that.

Most games have a 'superstar' mode where you create and control a payer's career.  That's cool, but too impersonal to be engaging.  FNC has this, but has a seperate 'Champion' mode.

In this mode, players control Andre Bishop, a once-promising fighter whose career has fallen apart.  Right when the game loads up, before a single menu is seen, players watch Bishop get the shit kicked out of him in prison.  From there, the story foows two paths: one, a series of flashbacks showing Bishop's rise and fall, and the other foowing his redemption.

If it sounds cliche, that's because it kind of is.  Almost every sports movie conflict is on full display.  But that's okay, because, through it all, Bishop feels real.  Everything that happens to him, the player empathizes, despises, cheers, and jeers.  It's not very long, but concludes in satisfying manner.

GAMEPLAY

Gone are the overcompicated controls of FNR4.  Punches are now done by simply ficking the anolog stick in the direction you want to hit.  The face buttons modify the punch, whther it's a straight, uppercut, whatever.  It's easier, but also more satisfying.

Flash-knockouts are a new addition to the game, and really mix up the formula.  In past games, leaving yourself open could result in getting knocked down, even if you previously had the advantage.  Now, the stakes are even higher.  I remember in one fight, I was Marciano, beating down  Foreman.  I hit him with four quick shots, b ut the fifth failed to connect.  Slighty off-balance, a seemingly benign straight to the forehead ended the fight in the ninth.  Had I been more careful, the fight was easiy mine.

Like in real boxing, the key is strategy.  Many non-boxing fans would be surprised to know that very few fights ever end in a knockout.  Boxing is a game of wearing down your opponent, not just outright dominating them.  Blocking has been refined, so now is more fluid, to go with the improved controls.  In order to master the game, payers wil have to learn to spot weaknesses in the defense, know what punches are to be used when, and most importantly, know how to retreat.

Though previous games definitey made it a factor, FNC is the first where you can actually FEEL the momentum.  There is a very real sense of weight behind each punch, and it fluctuates depending on who has the advantage.

DESIGN

In addition to the Champion mode, Legacy mode is the one that players are familiar with.  It's more or less unchanged from the previous model, but still a lot of fun.  Drills are repetitive and boring, and early on your boxer fights like a wimp, but it pays off as you progress through the ranks.

Gyms, and an overall economy are the only real additions to the mode.  They give a greater sense of realism to the career mode, but do little to drasticay change it.  Overall, the pleasure you get out of Legacy mode is directly proportional to how much you care about seeing your boxer improve as a fighter.

Onine, players can fight against opponents using any of the fighters they choose.  As well, the Legacy mode is also availabe for use online, so you can create and build a fighter, AND show him off to the world.  Fortunately, for balance purposes, your legacy mode fighter and online fighter are seperate, so if you want to make yourself known to the community, it's going to take some beatings.

The number of boxers is staggering, considering the care and detail appied to each.  Not only in looks, but style.  Tyson dominates, Ali toys, and Robinson dances.  My only issue, which I had in FNR4, is the exclusion of Floyd Mayweather.  I understand he's had some recent legal trouble which EA may want to keep out of the game, but if you have Tyson...

PRESENTATION

Fight Night games always look phenominal.  Graphically there aren't too many changes from 4, but that only is because FNR4 was really top-notch visually.  However, the main graphical improvement is in the damage.  FNC is one of the most visceral sports games I have ever seen.  Cuts and bruises look amazingy authentic, and the blood splatters when you hit someone can be sickening.

Unfortunately, the audio does not get the same treatment.  Fights themselves sound great, each punch and grunt coming together to give the game an extra level of realism.  However the commentary is sorely lacking, both in the commentators themselves, and the number of lines.  As is the soundtrack.  There are plenty of songs, but they al sound the same, and aren't even that good.

THE VERDICT

Fight Night Champion is the boxing fan's dream.  A powerful story, realistic gameplay, and onine depth make for a game that earns it's belt.

Story-9

Gamepay-9.5

Design-9

Presentation-9

OVERALL-92

VALUE

As with any sports game, the amount of longetivity the game has depend entirely on how mcu you get out of the career and online suites.  Legacy hasn't improved much, but it's still fun to make yourself the new Joe Louis.

4/5

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Josh Kowbel's picture

Nice read, although I'm not particularly interested in trying this game. What other upcoming games do you plan to review?

iWINuFAIL's picture

Dragon Age 2, though I will need time for that one.

Shogun 2 if I manage to play it (need to borrow friend's laptop).

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