The Fight Night franchise has been one of the more consistent series for EA Sports over the years. Fight Night Round 3 in a lot of ways started off the “next generation of consoles.” I for one remember playing the demo for FNR3 over 500 times just amazed by the graphics and the realistic nature of the Hopkins v. Roy Jones Jr bout. Round 4 was next and proved to be a solid entry but nowhere near as revolutionary as 3. Now we are quite a few years into this generation of consoles and EA is back in the ring with Fight Night Champion. Does this game have what it takes to be considered the champ?
Fight Night Champion takes a slightly different approach then past Fight Night games. Instead of having you take a created character and put him through the ranks (which you still can) they have introduced a brand new “Champion Mode” which takes you through a scripted story of boxer Andre Bishop.
I for one am a huge proponent of some sort of story mode within a sports game. Think about it; probably just as big or even bigger of an element of sports is not the actual event itself but the stories surrounding it. Whether your talking about Tiger Woods and his issues off the course, or even more recently Aaron Rodgers of the Greenbay Packers stepping out of the shadow of former Packer Brett Farve. It is the stories behind sports that really make it so entertaining. Champion Mode takes a lot of cues from past Boxing movies. In fact I wouldn’t doubt if the staff all got together and watched all 6 Rocky Movies (or at least Rocky 1-4 & 6) and possibly even Cinderella Man and Raging Bull. Without giving anything away the developers did a stellar job putting together a versatile and intriguing narrative.
I found myself fully engaged in the story and trials that faced Andre throughout. The mode isn’t just straight boxing you have some in fight problems that arise like cuts and rigged fights that make your rise to the top even more difficult. The only problem I really had with the story was the last fight which through almost every punch they could to increase the difficulty, which did take a step or two away from the finale. With that being said the story was top notch and kept me fully engrossed throughout.
The Champion Mode alone could have been enough to warrant checking out the game but luckily there is even more content on the disc including a vastly improved Legacy Mode (Career Mode) that offers you the chance to create your own boxer and put him through the ranks. The mode is just a lot more streamlined then in the past few versions.
Of course we have not even talked about the fighting yet which if I was going to be 100% blunt takes the belt. Fight Night Champion to me is a combination for what was great about Round 3 & 4 and combined into one package. You no longer have haymakers but instead can make any punch a power punch or a normal punch. The flow of the game is far less on guessing punches or doing predetermined punch combos it is more about strategy and understanding the sport of boxing. The action in the game is downright intense and even after playing the game for more then 20 hours I can say that is still the case.
Fight Night Champion has a great multiplayer element as well which is vastly improved over past versions. Both online and offline Fight Night Champion lends itself far more graciously to playing with a human opponent. All in all I cannot sing the games praises enough. The fighting is great, the story is excellent, and the overall bang for your buck is top notch.
The Fight Night franchise has always been a staple for great graphics and that has not changed in this version. Fight Night Champion, which for the first time in the series has a “Mature” ESRB rating which allowed the developers to focus even more on blood and cuts. I will say that if there was one thing I thought the game could have improved on it was the blood and cuts, they are still a bit sporadic and don’t really bleed like you might expect. Hit detection has been improved as well as the animation which looks silky smooth. All in all this is one of the best-looking sports games out on the market today.
What impresses me the most about Fight Night Champion is that in a lot of ways they could have tried to reinvent the wheel again with Fight Night Champion but instead they took a lot of the feedback from Round 4 and incorporated a well rounded boxing experience. The more mature theme is far more appropriate for the subject and they do it in a tasteful way not to become a Mortal Kombat version of Fight Night.
We are finally beginning to see innovation within sports video games and Fight Night Champion truly is step forward not only for boxing but sports video games in general. It not only proves that stories can be an integral part of a sports video game but can be one of it’s best. Fight Night Champion is the best boxing game out and in the conversation of best sports game of this generation.