|System: PS3, Xbox 360|
|Dev: EA Canada|
|Pub: Electronic Arts|
|Release: March 1, 2011|
|Players: 1 – 2 (Local/Online)|
|Screen Resolution: 480p – 1080p|
by Jeremy Render
Fight Night Champion is EA's next entry into their acclaimed boxing franchise, and from all early indications, it looks to be a winner. For gamers new to the series, Fight Night Champion promises to be easy-to-pick up due to some tweaks to the control scheme, while still maintaining much of its depth for veteran players. A new feature called Champion Mode is one of the most hyped new additions to the game, and EA has not been shy about touting just why it is going to set Fight Night Champion apart from the rest of the series.
Champion Mode differs from the usual sports game 'career mode' in that it is story driven. Players step into the role of Andre Bishop, and it is their task to take this up-and-comer from his modest roots and turn him into a success. Throughout the story, Bishop must focus on his training and fights while dealing with an overreaching promoter named DL McQueen. According to EA, this will not be a career mode with some extra lines of dialogue thrown in, but a full-fledged story that will actually drive the action, and in some cases offer unique challenges specific to Champion Mode. EA has gotten some press due to the fact that Bishop's journey is a gritty story; it is the addition of this mode (in conjunction with more realistic facial damage) that has earned the game its 'M' rating. Prison fights and mature language are just a few of the surprises to be found in Champion Mode. EA said that this is not to garner attention due to shock value, but an attempt to depict the struggles of a boxer in today's world. There is a lot of potential with Champion Mode, and at least one boxing fan (me!) is hoping that this new addition plays out like a great interactive Rocky-esque movie.
The traditional career mode has returned as well, and is dubbed Legacy Mode. As with earlier games in the series, the player has the freedom to create a boxer from scratch and work him up the ranks to become a champion. Your boxer starts as an amateur, and after working your way into the professional ranks, you will begin to earn cash in the form of fight purses that can be used for additional training. EA has promised that from the get-go the leveling and training process will be more organic by allowing the development of a fighter with specific skills that suit your play style and that some issues from past games have been addressed. This is great news for folks who are looking forward to taking their created boxer online to prove their worth against human opponents.
One intriguing feature in Legacy Mode is persistent damage. According to EA, the punches your boxer takes during a fight could potentially have a lasting impact on your career. This means no more reckless fights where defense takes a backseat to a constant barrage of punches; leaving yourself open to a big shot could cut your fighter's hopes of becoming a legend short. It will be interesting to see just how much of an impact this will have on gameplay.
As alluded to earlier, the control scheme has been changed slightly, and it could be for the better. Rather than inputting a specific motion on the right stick for a jab or a hook, the player simply has to flick the stick in the required direction to achieve the desired punch. Fight Night purists may cry foul; however, not only does this make the game slightly more accessible to new players, it may also alleviate some of the frustration from past games in which getting your fighter to throw a crucial hook becomes less of an exercise in thumb dexterity and more about reflexes.
Visually, Fight Night Champion is beautiful. Fighters look strikingly similar to their real-life counterparts, even more so than in past entries in the series. A major focus for the developers was the damage that appears on a boxer's face and body during the course of a fight. EA has said that this was about authenticity and realism, not gratuitous violence; if you get caught with repeated blows to the face, they wanted it to show. It is just one more facet that should help to draw the player into the experience of the fight.
Fight Night Champion has all the makings of another great game from EA Canada. Since EA hit us with Fight Night Round 3, we have come to expect certain things from their boxing franchise: Gorgeous visuals (which are amazing as usual, just look at the screenshots!), controls that put the player in the driver's seat and really add to the immersion, and tight gameplay. All of these pieces appear to be in place, but it remains to be seen if Champion Mode will deliver. However, if it does this could be their best entry into the series to date. Come March 1st, we will find out.
CCC Freelance Writer