Fight-Night-Champion-Review Fight Night Champion Review

   21/03/2011 at 20:35       Richard Horne       0 COMMENTS. - Score 4/5
 - Fight Night Champion, Electronic Arts, EA, Andre Bishop, Isaac Frost

The single biggest problem with the previous games in EA’s Fight Night series was that fighting your way through the single-player career mode was generally something of a slog. For all its visceral, bloodthirsty violence, once you found an effective strategy, you’d tend to religiously stick with that and repeat ad-infinitum. Bouts would quickly deteriorate into a battle of attrition as you often, quite literally, ground your analogue sticks down to bloody stumps. Each and every quarter and half-circle rotation would shave the edges off your thumb-sticks, reminding you of the N64 days when a worn analogue stick would impotently flop about mid-controller with only a rancid combination of blood, sweat, tears and joypad filings gluing it all together. The joypad equivalent of MDF if you will.

With Fight Night Champion, however, EA Canada has sought to rectify both of these problems. First off with the new and improved control scheme which does away with the aforementioned joypad-breakers and refines things considerably with what’s called full spectrum control. Instead of requiring a movement similar to the physical action you wish to initiate, your fighter now instead responds to deft taps of the thumb stick (or face-buttons), with each angle triggering a contextually appropriate move. Imagine the hands of a clock face - a quick flick towards five-to and five-past will trigger lightning-quick forward pointing jabs, while quarter-to and quarter-past will instigate swinging hooks from the side. While twenty five-past and twenty five-to will unleash your devastating uppercuts.

Haymakers have also been removed, instead replaced by a power modifier triggered by holding the right bumper. Power punches will dish out more damage but at the expense of stamina. A factor you must carefully consider - especially if you employ the quintessential online tactic of ‘wind-milling’, as missing your wild flurry leaves you gasping for air and prone to a fierce rebuttal. It’s so much easier to wear your fighter out this time around. And while previous games in the series have always promised strategic bouts with tactics and stamina coming into play in the latter rounds, it’s not until this iteration that it feels like a feature that’s genuinely delivered upon.

The second major improvement comes from the game’s Champion mode. While legacy mode still allows you to laboriously work your way through a roster of fighters until you reach GOAT status (Greatest Of All Time) the vast majority of your early time will be spent taking on the role of Andre Bishop as you work your way through the game’s cinematic story mode. The story is brilliantly animated and acted, and evokes memories of all the classic boxing movies from Rocky through to The Champ through to the more recent The Fighter. It’s clichéd and un-original but is all the better for its schmaltz and presents an enjoyable and engaging, if not entirely predictable, distraction from the usual Fight Night Fare.

The best part about Champion mode, however, is the myriad varied scenarios it presents you with, each of almost subliminally makes you a better fighter. At various points in the story you’ll find yourself in situations where Andre has a handicap of one form or another – all contextually relevant – and it’s up to you to overcome said handicap using a different range of skills. For instance, one bout sees you breaking your right hand on an opponent’s face in the first round and so the rest of the match requires you to outwit your opponent and win using only your left hand. Another sees the referee bought and all of your body punches deemed low blows meaning you have to concentrate solely on your opponent’s head. While my favourite, the stereotypical prison-set grudge-match against what’s clearly a neo-Nazi for whom you have no sympathy as you leather ten bells out of him, sees you fighting bare-knuckled with no rules or rounds. Judicious use of the head-butt and low-blow is positively encouraged.

Fight Night Champion continues the series’ tradition of delivering outstanding visuals, particularly the slow-motion close-up knockdowns the series is so famous for. But in-game visuals have come a long way since the release of the series debut on the 360 with Fight Night 3, and at times there’s a slight disconnect between the replays and how you saw the action in real-time. Gloves still seemingly connect only with the back of the head or glance off the side of your opponent’s chin when in the heat of the battle it looked more like you’d connected square on the jaw or hit your opponent hard enough to knock him out of the ring. But then when it works, it’s still among the best sporting moments to be had on the 360 with the excellent Foley work contributing towards recreating this most vicious and violent of sports in all its gory glory.

It’s also still satisfyingly gruesome to carefully and patiently jab away at an opponent’s eye to open up a cut and see just how much punishment you can mete out before the referee stops the fight or the corner-man throws in the towel.

The online modes have also been upgraded considerably and there’s now an option to join or create a clan-like gym, fight for national or world titles or just play quick ranked matches against a random opponent. Fight Night Champion thankfully also tracks each player’s rage-quit ratio, pitting players who will see a fight through to its conclusion regardless of the outcome against like-minded opponents. While rage-quitters will very often be pitted against other rage-quitters where they’ll get a taste of their own medicine. The ability to create a boxer in the image of yourself using EA's GameFace technology is also a frightening yet compulsive addition.

If you haven’t played a Fight Night game in recent years then Champion is definitely a fantastic stepping-off point. With its cinematic Champion mode as well as the enduring legacy mode there’s plenty of longevity. Pre-owned buyers beware though, you’ll need to pay for EA’s online Pass in order to go online – though thankfully a free seven day trial is included. Highly recommended then, and even if you're not a boxing fan it's still a tactical and strategic fighter that rewards careful consideration or belligerent button mashing.

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