I don’t think I’ve ever had the chance until now to point this out, but I’m a huge fan of the Fight Night series ever since Fight Night Round 3 drug me into the ring and forcibly taught me the sweet science, me kicking and screaming the whole way. EA is releasing the newest edition of Fight Night, Fight Night Champion, finding notoriety not just as an all new boxing title but as EA’s first M-rated sports game. Does all this bode well for the roster of boxers ready to knock each other’s lights out? Read on for my review of Fight Night Champion.
Fight Night is a series built around an extremely complicated set of controls to master. Each new iteration tries to tweak the controls in such a way to make them more accessible to every new gamer, but they’re still complicated to learn, purely because there isn’t a single other game I can think of that controls like Fight Night games do. You throw punches by flicking the left thumbstick, jabbing by pressing upward, sending hooks by flicking to the side, that sort of thing. I was brought up on Round 3, but the controls have changed drastically since then. This will be an issue for me, but I’ll explain that later.
The big addition here is the story mode, a first for the series but a very welcome first. Besides just playing through a career mode as whomever you want to box as, be they real boxers or someone you made up, the game lets you play through the rise and fall of Andre Bishop. The game begins with you controlling Bishop in a boxing match in prison before tossing you around points of his career to learn how he was framed and tossed in jail and then eventually got out and climbed the ranks of professional fighters once more. This is the selling point for Champion in my book as the story is actually pretty compelling for a boxing story, mostly due to how brutal it actually is with real cursing and corruption, as you’d expect the world of boxing to be.
I was amazed to hear that EA was going to allow one of their sports titles to be rated M, but it really works here. The M rating mostly comes as a result of the language used, but hell, boxers get destroyed in the ring even more devastatingly than they ever have thanks to the graphics getting yet another major kick. Cuts can open in just about any spot on a character’s body and begin bleeding, making the damage appear graphically realistic beyond any previous entry in the Fight Night series. If you’re looking for a game’s graphics to impress you, Fight Night Champion will not disappoint.
Another place the M rating goes to work is the soundtrack, allowing for mostly unedited versions of the tracks played over the course of the game. The soundtrack is its usual appropriate self with a lot of hip-hop setting the tone very well, but the sound doesn’t just stop at the music. The sound effects for gloves colliding with faces and bodies taking unrelenting punishment sound as glorious and powerful as you’d hope, making every knockout satisfying from a perspective of sound.
Still, the controls have been simplified just a hair since Round 4 and play so much different from Round 3 that if you’re like me and still pop in Round 3 now and again, you’re going to have to relearn the controls all over again, something that may be a pain if all you really want to do is just hop right in and take full advantage of the better graphics and story mode. However, the biggest improvement over all previous titles is the in-between rounds damage recovery. There are no more mini games or points to spend on recovering, instead just recovering your boxer comparable to how well you did in the round, meaning you’ll recover more if you killed in the round and recover less if your face has been turned to ground beef. I couldn’t be happier with that change as it really emphasizes playing well over just learning the healing system better than your opponent.
And that’s the real draw of Fight Night Champion: You get out of it what you put in. If you take the time to learn the controls and practice getting smarter with your strategies, seeking to understand the nuances of the sport, you’re going to get a lot out of the title. Sure, place the difficulty at a lower level and you can flick the thumbstick all over the place and still enjoy yourself, but if you want to see the depth Champion has to offer, give it time and let it grow on you.
When it comes right down to it, I currently still prefer Round 3 over Champion, but that all has to do with my knowledge of the controls. The addition of the story mode and not having to worry about anything between rounds goes a long way to make me really want Fight Night Champion, but in the end it’s all up to your decision. If you’ve never played a Fight Night game, this is a great one to start with, but if you have Round 3, maybe look me up and we’ll go a few rounds online.
So then, what do you guys think? Who out there is looking to pick up Fight Night Champion? And who feels like passing? Leave a comment and let me know. In the meantime, I have a lot of training to do.
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