Friday, 18 March 2011

Game Review – Fight Night Champion

Formats: (PS3 & 360)

Fight Night Champion begins immediately in the ring. You find the main protagonist Andre Bishop on the mat and it is up to you to recover the fight. This tutorial segment sets the pace for what ends up being a fast, flowing and incredibly satisfying boxing experience. Fight Night Champion boasts one of the most memorable sports career modes to date, accompanied by beautiful cinematics and truly believable story-driven cut-scenes. Alongside this the controls of the series have been revamped, allowing for much easier execution of a variety of shots and finishing blows. To round all of this off, a well-crafted online multiplayer is also offered for those wanting that little bit of extra competition against friends and foes alike. If you’re a boxing fan, this is a must own title.

The most significant change to the franchise does come in the shake-up of the controls. Previous Fight Night games gave little reason to use the right analogue-stick over face-buttons to launch your barrage of attacks, but now a simplified and precise mapping to the stick offers a very desirable method to play the game. Of course the face-buttons are still available, but the free-flowing analogue-stick allows for some beautifully crafted combos with minimal effort. What makes a realistic boxing game however, is finding that fine line between offence and defense and while the game might be relatively easy on the lower difficulty levels, when you step into the ring with the big players, the game becomes more than simply throwing bombs all over the place. Even the defensive game in Fight Night Champion is incredible easy to include in your fighting, with slipping, using the clinch and blocking all eventually going to be forced into your arsenal once you start tackling harder opponents.

The opening segments and tutorial fight introduces you to the game’s main character Andre Bishop, who comes back from retirement to allow you an exhilarating experience through Champion mode. You will become immediately invested in Andre who is a very likable guy as he shakes off his cobwebs and steps back into the ring. Plenty of interesting things occur in the story and a variety of wrenches are thrown into the works to make sure fights have certain win criteria for one reason or another, just to make sure monotony doesn’t set in. The game’s cut-scenes and narration are for the most part terrific, especially your ring-side coach and the ESPN commentators who do an accurate job detailing information about your fights. While certainly not the longest campaign, on the harder difficulty levels you can get a good seven hours out of it, which is a respectable time, considering it’s not the only game-mode offered in Fight Night Champion.

Your other main option in Fight Night Champion is creating your own fighter and jumping into Legacy mode. Very little has been changed from the previous versions of this mode, but you will notice little tweaks here and there that help smooth out the experience. First of all, the creation mechanics are pretty impressive, allowing you to create the perfect fighter, or use a variety of different means such as the console camera or digital photos to try and digitize yourself into the game. You can even just use a real life boxer and take them to the top if creating isn’t really your thing. Whichever path you choose, your character will look and fight like a badass. Then it is all up to you, training, maintaining your character, organizing fights and press events, leading all the way up the ladder with your eyes on the prize. Fight Night’s level up system is very easy to understand and use as you simply upgrade certain punches, as opposed to stats, for example the more points you put into the head hook or uppercut, the stronger that particular punch will be and the faster it will be executed. Put enough points into it and you will even unlock flash knock-outs with that particular shot, allowing for some incredibly cool finishing blows.

A major problem with a lot of creation and customization tools in many fighting games is the overload on different fighting styles available to custom characters. Taking the UFC games as an example, offering newcomers to the sport four different varieties of wrestling, different styles of kickboxing, variants on Jiu-Jitsu, karate etc, makes it very hard to choose a path for your fighter. Thankfully this isn’t the case in Fight Night Champion, although the seven available classes are relatively different, so it is recommended to play with the game a little before creating a fighter in order to find out what style of fighting you prefer. The game makes it possible to experience all the different styles of boxing such as up-close, counter-attacking, brawling and making tactical use of standard and south-paw stances, but ultimately with the limited points available to upgrade certain moves, you will find in Legacy mode that quite a rigid line will develop.

Just like in Champion mode, Legacy offers a variety of challenges and criteria in fights that can win you extra experience points to use on your character. These are exciting additions to each fight that demand crushing your opponents down and fulfilling goals like early round knockouts, cuts, persistent damage to a particular body zone, and other things that make the action more intense. Ultimately it is very difficult to choose a favourite game mode between Champion and Legacy, but both offer different and exciting game-play elements and there’s really no reason why you wouldn’t go through both.

Naturally there are only so many fights against the computer you can have before you need to test your might against other human players. Fight Night Champion’s great online mode allows you to test your strength in ranked or un-ranked bouts. There are also online gyms you can join with other players that allow you customize and personalize the experience with your own rules and the use of custom characters. Perhaps the most exciting online mode the Online World Championship, where you fight for supremacy on leaderboards and earn chances to win titles and belts. If you happen to acquire a belt, then prepare to defend it against a barrage of online opponents who will be lurking and waiting for you to come online for a chance at the gold. This really makes you feel like an important part of the game and really adds to the intensity and thrills that Fight Night Champion offers. The only minor issue with the online mode is the occasional lag present. While not a major issue, the game is so enjoyable that it is just irritating to have to encounter lag, especially considering Fight Night Champion is such a smooth game, it’s a minor issue but an issue nonetheless.

From a technical perspective Fight Night Champion impresses all across the board. The beautiful graphics and excellent sound design both in the ring and through narration, all impress. Camera angle is a very important aspect in a close-combat fighting simulator and for the most part, the action is framed well on the screen and aside from the referee deciding to occasionally jump in front of the camera, there are no issues.

Here we have a game with two exceptional offline game-modes, a good online experience and overall, a brilliant representation of the sport of boxing. Fight Night Champion is the best boxing simulator on the market and does so many things well, really well in fact. If you’re looking for an thrilling time in the ring, this has to be the preferred game of choice. With excellent customization and loads of different fighters to choose from, there’s no doubt you will have a blast with Fight Night Champion.

Technical presentation – 8.5

Graphics – 9.0

Game-play – 9.0

Replay value – 8.0

Final score – 8.5 / 10

Igor, CeX UK Contributor.

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