I’ve always been a fan of boxing video games. Maybe it’s because of my love for the Rocky films where I can relive the magic moments of knocking out some of cinema’s most memorable opponents like Clubber Lang or Apollo Creed. No, you won’t find any of these characters in the game but it still puts me in the ring with some of the greatest real world boxers of all time and gives me the opportunity to become my own champ just the way I’ve seen on the big screen.
Now don’t get me wrong, this is a simulation boxing game – or at least as real as you can find on any system. EA has carried over all that was right in the previous games and made it even better. “Fight Night Champion” is the best looking boxing game, if not one of the best looking sports titles ever released on a console. From the appearance of the boxers to the equipment they are wearing, there is amazing attention to detail. During the slow motion replays, you’ll see your opponent’s skin ripple from the impact of “Iron” Mike Tyson’s brutal fists. You’ll find yourself watching the replays over from every angle just to once again witness the power of your blows. The animations are silky smooth, the character renderings are accurate for the more than 50 licensed boxers and legends in the game, and the environments, ranging from prisons to the Atlantic City Boardwalk, pop like you’re witnessing a nice Friday night out at the fights.
But where “Fight Night Champion” excels is in the new damage system. As fights progress, you’ll notice swelling and cuts beginning to form over fighters’ eyes, blood spray on impact, and blood spatter on the boxing mat. Do enough damage to your opponent’s eye, and the referee will stop the fight. Yes, this has been in previous games but EA has taken it to the next level with Champion; almost to a point of watching a real life broadcast.
One of the complaints some fans had about “Fight Night Round 4” was the change from a button-controlled punch system to an analog system using the stick. Honestly, I wasn’t a fan of the stick control and rejoiced when EA responded to the fans by providing a patch for button controls. There won’t be any worries in Champion because both versions are included. The analog controls return but in the form of the new “Full Spectrum Punch Control” scheme and it works well. After several hours of gameplay, I began to feel that the analog scheme was much more intuitive and easier on my fingers than using the typical button controls.
Along with the new control scheme you’ll also find very welcome addition to your ring experience – flash knockouts. This is the granddaddy of knockouts as if everything you had going for yourself just walked out the door because you just got your clocked cleaned. The last thing you want is to be thoroughly winning a fight, only to let your guard down and get whacked with a well-timed uppercut that knocks you into next Tuesday.
Defense and protecting your stamina is important in Champion and adds more urgency than the previous games.
You’ll find yourself spending most of your hours playing Champion with your friends or online. Fight Night has always been a huge hit – pun intended – with local multiplayer and a group of friends. However, one of the biggest additions that EA was striving for was in 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, either 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 opinion as the story is actually pretty interesting for a boxing game.
So whether you’re a diehard boxing fan or maybe a boxing cinematic junkie, “Fight Night Champion” should satisfy all your needs. It’s a difficult time to make such a sensational boxing game since the sport seems to be fading with the likes of the UFC and it’s brutality but EA holds strong and puts out a high quality title. So if “Fight Night Round 4” didn’t do it for you or if you didn’t get a chance to experience it, by all means do yourself a favor and go get “Fight Night Champion.”
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