Fight Night Champion Xbox 360 Review
Publisher – EA – Developer – EA Canada – Genre – Sports – Players – 1-2 – Age Rating – 16+ – Other console/handheld formats – PS3
To give a series a little time off can often be a very good thing. EA are ordinarily the king of the annual update, although following the release of the superb Fight Night Round 3, it took them over three years to produce the next game in the series. Two years after the release of that very game, we now have the fifth game in the series.
It certainly gives the developer less pressure to get the next game ready, when they don’t have to turn a sequel around yearly in the same manner as the likes of FIFA and Tiger Woods. In a nice idea, EA have decided to alternate between boxing and MMA from one year to the next.
So, in 2011 it’s boxing. Fight Night Champion is the fifth game in EA’s popular series, which is a gathering and celebration of boxers past and present. The game isn’t just a straight sequel with few fresh ideas, as EA has assured that this is the most mechanically sound entry in the series yet.
The Total Punch Control of previous Fight Night games has been replaced with the Full-Spectrum Punch Control. If you’re wondering about the change in title, well controls have now been simplified and are a lot less complex than previously. Simple flicks of the stick now allow you to unleash your punches, making for faster and smoother bouts and allowing newcomers to get a better grasp of the controls, with face buttons also an option. The new control system is a welcome change, and along with a modifier button to throw stronger punches and simplified blocking, it certainly makes the game more of a joy to play, less stressful even.
Stamina management is also of the utmost importance. Fighting smart is the way to go, if you go all out with wild flurries of punches you’ll tire your boxer out, with the stamina and damage you recover during rounds being determined by your actions in the last, meaning that such recklessness should really be avoided. Yes, just like real life.
The boxing once again looks truly excellent, with impactful animations and eerily realistic boxers slugging it out. Everything from the skin of the fighters to the way they fall to the canvas is as detailed as it has ever been, and such polish certainly adds to Fight Night Champion’s appeal. Sound Effects are also great, although connected punches sound like they have been taken straight out of the Rocky film series; it is still a very satisfying and hard hitting sound effect, particularly if you’re the one throwing out the punches. Commentary also remains very intelligent, and it’s good to hear the duo commenting on Andre Bishop’s career in the new Champion mode.
The Champion mode? Well, it’s like every single boxing film that you may have seen rolled onto one. Yes, this mode includes a story, with the fictional Andre Bishop beginning as a down and out boxer who has been framed by a corrupt promoter, landing him in jail. Events soon flash back to better times, with Andre’s rise through the ranks of the middleweight division, eventually showing you as to how he ended up in jail and then the resuming of his career following that spectacular fall from grace. It’s a well acted and likeable enough story and the wronged Bishop is certainly a character worth rooting for, although just be prepared for a lot of clichés.
Champion mode also has more variety than I expected. Yes, it’s all boxing, but sometimes you’re tasked with avoiding a powerful uppercut of an opponent, one fight sees Bishop breaking one of his hands and having to primarily punch with his healthier hand, and another has you protecting an open wound and so on. In something that will split opinion, Champion mode takes so much of its inspiration from films that it may occasionally feel overly scripted for some, although the accompanying music during certain situations is a real nice touch which adds to the in-ring drama. All in all, the 5-6 hours spent with Champion mode are certainly something refreshingly different.
Legacy mode once again makes its return, in which you create a boxer, or choose a downgraded member of the roster, and fight your way through the ranks towards boxing greatness. You’ll schedule fights, undertake training sessions and increase the stats of your fighter in an array of areas. It’s a satisfying mode with a fair bit of depth to it and certainly very different from the Champion mode. This is a mode that speaks in one language only, that being boxing.
Online, the game is just like playing offline – it’s that impressively smooth. You can now create or join gyms, allowing you to take on opponents in rival gyms in order to find out which has the superior fighters. Of course, if that’s of no interest you can just go straight in and have a match with a likeminded opponent, you know the kind that likes knocking lumps out of another virtual man.
Fight Night Champion is an amazingly detailed boxing simulation developed by a team that seems to have a real understanding of the sport, and have now horned their craft over a number of games. This is definitely the best entry in the series yet, being as enjoyable as it is faithful to the sport. The Champion title is certainly one that the game very much deserves to wear on its shoulder with pride.