“Let’s get ready to rumble!” Maybe the days of Michael Buffer announcing main event boxing matches aren’t as typical as they used to be but professional boxing is still here. With the number of MMA games growing, EA’s Fight Night Champion is a ray of light for any fan of pugilism.
EA has always gone for the realism in gameplay and visuals; Fight Night Champion has delivered well in both aspects. EA’s newest installment of Fight Night has raised the standard of what a boxing simulation should be. The game has reworked the in-ring experience and makes you work like a pro boxer. The brawling of old Fight Night games won’t get you too far in this edition. You’re going to have to pay good attention to your stamina bar and be careful not to exhaust yourself. Also, your performance in the round will affect how much you recover health and stamina for the next round. Smart fighting is rewarded with longevity for those later rounds when you’ll need it most. The simplified blocking and “lean” system work hand-in-hand with the tweaked Full Spectrum Punch control. Instead of the complex stick movements used in the past, quick flicks of the stick in specific directions execute your jabs, hooks and uppercuts. The ability to pick your punches quickly and deliver those punishing counter hits does do the trick. Your combos are easier to execute and counters are quicker to do as long as your reactions are fast enough. The flash knockdowns are still around but there is an addition of flash knockouts also. Bailing out to brawling can set you up for a shot that will put you in a stunned state that’s nearly impossible to recover from. What makes the situation worse is if you get knocked down while in this condition, the fight is automatically over.
The intense, but smooth, gameplay is complimented well by the detailed character models. Even the ring girls look a bit more “realistic”. The boxers look like their human counterparts and the in-ring visuals are commendable. You can almost see muscles flexing when watching slow-mo replays. The face and body ripples with the brutal impact from knockdown hits. Even the blood from your opponent’s face can turn your nice boxing trunks a grungy red tint as the fight continues.
The game sports a few game modes such as Legacy, Championship, Online Leagues and Training Games. I found Legacy mode very boring and it dragged. If you’re into the typical fight, train, rest circle in most professional fighting games then you may enjoy this one a bit also. However, the monotony of it made it hard for me to stay interested. The character creation wasn’t too lengthy and the usage of EA Sports World to download a face to use was fun but after that, it got tired. The Training games help with your in-ring prowess while the Online gives the game the longevity any game needs through multiplayer.
I found the Prize Fighting option in the Xbox Live menu to be an interesting addition. You get to participate in sponsored tournament for cash and prices from your console instead of having to go to another venue to compete. However, the light in this game for me was the Championship mode. For a few hours, you play through the rise, fall and rise again story of Andre Bishop. The story doesn’t hold many surprises but does a good job of putting more emotion into the fights. The drama in the music sets the tone during fights from the inspiring instrumentals when dazing an opponent to dire tones when you get a bad cut. At certain times in the story, you are given parameters to fill such as knocking an opponent out because the judges were paid off. You also see sportscasts from ESPN Friday Night Fights that are tailored specifically to Bishop and his trials through the world of professional boxing. The commentating also shines best during Championship mode since they make a lot of story references. I didn’t like that I spent time looking for the Bare Knuckles Mode since I saw a ranked win achievement, not knowing it was a DLC. It’s only 320msp standalone but, boxers Muhammed Ali, Mike Tyson, Oscar De La Hoya, George Foreman, Joe Frazier, Evander Holyfield, Ray Leonard, Roberto Duran and Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko have opted out of appearing in this mode.
Overall, EA has done a great job on enhancing this simulation from an organized brawl to real, professional boxing. You have a good feel of being in the ring bobbing, weaving, blocking and counter punching your way to victories. Whether they are KOs, TKOs or scorecard victories, you can’t help but feel good for taking the win. If the Legacy mode takes from the Championship mode in the areas of adding more drama and diversity, it could help the fun factor. This was a nice step forward from the previous games in the franchise. If EA continues this trend and put a little more thought and diversity into the legacy mode, the Fight Night series will be at the top of a lot of “games to buy” list.