Since the beginning of combat sports, the world of professional boxing has generated some of the most prestigious fighters of all time. Heavyweight icons like Muhammad Ali and Joe Lewis impressed the fans with their landmark achievements within the sport, while also igniting a deep passion for competition that would continue to flourish seamlessly from one generation to another. EA Sports seized the opportunity to capitalize on this concept by developing the infamous Fight Night Series. Their latest entry, Fight Night Champion, excels previous efforts remarkably by creating a superior gameplay experience that allows you to feel all the drama and excitement of being in a boxing ring. Here are a few reasons why this game is worth every penny.
Champion Mode: The Path Of Promise
Fight Night Champion is the fifth game release in the infamous boxing simulation franchise. The main attraction in this year’s outing is the inclusion of a narrative driven story campaign simply titled Champion mode. Originally penned by Monster’s Ball writer Will Rokos, Champion Mode follows the path of aspiring boxer Andre Bishop. Throughout his journey towards becoming a Heavyweight champion, Andre encounters several trials and tribulations that evolve him as a character while also showing a perfect example of how self-motivation can ultimately change one’s circumstances.
The initial context of the story is easily comparable to that of Hollywood boxing movie blockbusters like Raging Bull and Rocky. Being that the narrative is scripted, there isn’t really a choice based system in place to establish morality or decision making abilities. NBA 2K11 touched upon these ideas within the My Player mode but failed to go the full distance with them. Hopefully future titles in this franchise can explore these possibilities to add more value and user authenticity to each overall experience.
However with that said, I still admire EA Sports boldness to craft a compelling story that is action packed from beginning to end. It should also be mentioned that the creative team decided to push the boundaries further by making this the first ever mature rated game in the series. They have captured the realistic atmosphere of the competitive spirit complete with strong language, and graphic violence. All of these factors keep the sport intact while not shying away from the brutal aspects of fighting.
The overall presentation is stunning throughout with jaw dropping graphics, an impressive hip-hop inspired soundtrack, ESPN footage integration, and an intuitive combat and strategy system. The mode will take roughly 4-8 hours to complete depending upon the difficulty setting you choose. From the minute you install the disc to your hard drive, your immediately launched into your first bout in Champion mode and taught how to fight on the fly. The experience may seem overwhelming at first, but you’ll catch on fairly quickly with practice.
The main component to monitor accordingly is the stamina bar located at the bottom of the screen. Throwing too many punches will easily wear you down and make you more vulnerable to attacks. Each match that you participate in gives specific instructions on how to defeat your opponent. You’ll receive insight from both your corner trainer and a message prompt that appears on-screen. When you are successful in pulling off a knockout, a button command will popup and allow you to see the punch in slow motion from different angles. You can then save these replays as part of a highlight reel and share them with your friends later.
Just as offense plays a huge role in your success, defense become equally important by testing your ability to fight through injuries and avoid being knocked out. The practice of balancing between these two maneuvers while maintaining stamina adds depth and makes you think twice before pulling off certain moves. The responsiveness of the combat system is extremely sensitive, but offers a great learning curve that you’ll need to master before stepping into the ring with others.
Multiplayer, Legacy, and Online
The default multiplayer versus game mode is titled Fight Now. This mode is also specifically catered to gamers who just want to pick up and start playing right away. Fight Night Champion boosts an impressive roster of over 50 licensed boxers spanning across all seven weight classes. Almost every fighter is accounted for except Floyd Mayweather, whose asking price was too high to appear in the game. Each fighter is identical to his real life counterpart in likeness and technique. Fans with a desire to have boxing greats from back in the day square off against some of today’s heavy hitters will be able to do so gracefully.
In the event that the roster doesn't persuade you, then you always have the option of creating your own boxer. This customization features kick things up a notch by allowing you to use console camera peripherals to map your face onto your boxer. After choosing both the fighter and challenger, you’ll then be able to select the boxing venue and number of rounds. One suggestion that I believe could take this franchise to the next level would be to offer more detailed fight conditions when needed. An important part emphasized in gameplay is the need to overcome injuries to effectively win bouts. This alone could make multiplayer more challenging and fun at the same time.
Sports fanatics who want to explore a lengthy career as a boxer will find great value in the Legacy mode. This is truly the most definitive career system experience complete with detailed rankings, endorsement performance based rewards, and the ability to manage finances in relation to treating injuries and attending training camps. Time management is the key to success as you have 4 weeks to prepare after scheduling a fight. During this time you’ll be able to complete both athletic and skills based workouts, attend promotional events, or rest your body. Successful skills training will reward you with XP points to help build up your boxer’s growth throughout the year.
However, having all these activities on your plate promotes the need to monitor stamina accordingly. Most intensive training sessions drain about 50% of your stamina. Entering a match with 50% or less stamina will noticeably hinder your chances of winning. Each bout has a list of preset challenges that you can achieve to earn additional XP points. The mode also does a great job of keeping track of your in-ring performance. If you start to develop a losing streak the A.I reacts by scheduling sparring sessions and suggesting easier opponents to build up your confidence again.
The only flaw with this concept is if you do decide to take advantage of these sparring sessions then your unable to reschedule the date. Therefore if you have a session scheduled a week before a match, then you have to remember that you’ll be going into the contest at half stamina. This isn’t really a serious issue though because you ultimately control how you want to get ready for a fight week by week anyway.
Once you’ve mastered the controls then you’ll be ready to compete online against others. Virtually every feature that’s in Legacy mode appears within the online multiplayer, including the ability to defend titles. Another cool feature that makes it’s debut is the ability to create online virtual gyms.
The beauty behind this concept lies in the fact that you can craft the framework of the gym right down to the rules by which you compete, then turn around and start rivalries with other gyms. There is also an online leaderboard that serves as a track record for all gyms and encourages tournament and season play regularly. The idea to incorporate such strong values into the online play is the main reason why this game will find a tremendous replay value long after you've finished Champion mode.
Fight Night Champion is a superb boxing game that provides the winning combination of graphics, controls, and story. The addition of an incredibly deep Legacy mode is addictive enough to appeal to fans of both fighting games and sports simulations. Even with the rest of 2011 shaping up to be a flagship year in gaming, I feel comfortable declaring Fight Night Champion as one of the best sports games you’ll play this year. However, if you don’t believe me then I suggest you pick it up and give it a try. Then and only then would you realize that when it comes to Boxing titles, this game is in a class of its own.