If you ever wanted more out of a boxing game, Fight Night: Champion is your game. If you've long grown tired of fighting nameless fighter after nameless fighter in attempt to reach a belt that holds little significant value, Fight Night takes that long used approach to the genre and finally discards it. EA's not gonna let you hop on Fight Night: Champion and just gravitate to the multiplayer component of the game, they've got something to show you. That something, or someone actually, is Andre Bishop. You are thrust into the boots of Andre, an ex-champion whose found himself in a bare-knuckle brawl with a skinhead in a prison sanctioned boxing event.
Then and there you will be hard pressed to turn back from the "Champion" mode. Because it tells a pretty intriguing story for a sports game, and frankly, I've never seen anything else like it in a sports game. A great mixture of story, cut-scenes, boxing action, and little added touches like ESPN reports, and training, really ramp up the immersion in the mode. Not to mention you get blindsided at quite a few spots in the game, and it will leave you questioning if you are actually playing a sports game at all.
But you are, and a realistic one at that. I suppose it's the only route to go once you've mastered the science behind the sweet science, and turned it into a video game. The days of boxing games being a glorified rock'em sock'em robots fest is long gone. The fine tuned analog controls from Fight Night Round 4 have returned, and are as fluid and responsive as when they were first incorporated into the series. Which means all of the grazing blows, and interaction between the fighters, has returned to deliver the finest, if only, boxing experience in gaming.
Also duly noted in Fight Night Champion, are the amazing graphics. The boxers in Fight Night: Champion achieve a near photo-realistic level of quality when viewed in high definition. The fighter's skin looks uncanny, and in-turn, as do the frequent open wounds that occur in a match. You can literally see the sweat forming on your boxer as a fight progresses. When you combine these many small details into the grand scheme of huge realistic arenas, with a lively audience, and a referee ducking in and out of the match to get a good look at the action, you'd swear you were in the ring yourself.
And the game never really breaks this level of immersion by graphical mishaps, at least not any that I saw in my time with the game. Every animation was done extremely well, with interaction between the fighters that never feels scripted. Each power punch, or grazing blow has it's place in a well timed combination ,and you'll be rewarded with the recipient of your assault reacting accordingly.
Speaking of combinations, it really feels like Fight Night Champion has fully abandoned the old power punching days of years past. If you are looking to knock someone out in Fight Night: Champion you're gonna have to earn it. You're gonna need the full grasp on controls, monitor your stamina, and string together punches to whittle down your enemy defenses before going in for the KO. That being said, the combinations feel intuitive. They are quite easy to pick up, but at the same time feel hard to master.
With this great gameplay, there are a ton of gamemodes to play in Fight Night Champion. Champion mode will hook you like a good game, with a good story, should. But after the lights go out on it, you are left with a literal world of other options to explore. Now for every person that is tired of the traditional boxing game, there's one that enjoys grinding through the ranks and building a fighter in career mode, and Fight Night still has this in Legacy Mode. It's fairly standard as a Fight Night game goes. You will be grinding your way through the ranks trying to become the champion by winning fights and hitting the training camps on a weekly basis. Even more robust are the multiplayer modes in Champion. You've got your standard features that fans of the series have grown to love. You can hop online to duke it out in matchmaking and pick one of the champions that are included in the game. The likes of Ali, Frazier, Tyson, Jones Jr, Holyfield, Paquiao, Hatton, Corrales, there's plenty of historic fighters to choose from as well as characters from the single player or fighters that have been created by you.
There's also a fairly addictive online World Champions mode. Here you can create a boxer and try and take him to the top of one of the fighting divisions, by leveling your fighter, earning XP winning fights. It's quite rewarding, and even from the start with your lowly ranked fighter, the matchmaking service usually pits you against an equal advisary making it an enjoyable experience. Winning fights and earning XP will allow you to increase specific skill sets for your fighter: punches, stamina, chin..etc. Just like other EA Sports titles you can also take the easy way and buy XP packs from the EA store. Which is kind of cheap in my opinion but as long as the matchmaking continues to work it shouldn't be too much of a problem.
Fight Night has also gone social in Champion, adding a gym feature which is like a Clan functionality. You can create your own gym and open it to the public for people to join, or you can make it private. If you're just looking to join others you can do that as well barring that they have the gym open to the public. What you'll find in the gyms are groups of players that are conducting a season. It's hard not to really generalize this as a season functionality because boxing doesn't have leagues or seasons, but that's what it is. It's a place where a group of fighters can compete with each other on a daily basis and hone their skills. However, you can also represent your gym in the online world and earn points for your faction.
Needless to say, there's always something to get into on Fight Night Champion.
As I noted above there are plenty of modes in Fight Night: Champion although some are better than others. Of the ones I mentioned above, the Story Mode and Championship Mode are the shining stars of the group. While Legacy mode and the Gym feature seem to be a little lackluster. Perhaps it's because there aren't many people playing in the gym mode right now, or maybe there never will be. A fighter round robbin just isn't that fun. Boxing is a solo sport and even when playing with a couple of friends, I'd have much rather spent my time leveling up my fighter to level up through Champion Mode. With the online champion component it makes the traditional Legacy mode where you tackle the AI opponents, a little boring as well. I mean it's basically the same thing as the online championship mode, but instead you are fighting AI opponents instead of humans. They could have left the story mode as it was and I don't think many would have complained.
But hey, I'm not one to complain about more content, it's not like you are forced to play it.
Boxing is on the decline in terms of its popularity. Eventhough there are plenty of historical boxers to choose from, the current day selection of fighters is pretty bland. Aside from Paquiao, you really don't have any superstars in the mix. Sure, you have heavyweight champions like the Klitschko brothers, but it's a representation and a sign of the times that those are some of the only guys you are going to recognize. There's really a ton of fighters in the game that you've likely never heard of. I follow boxing passively and I didn't. Unless you are a die hard boxing fan, you've likely never seen or heard of many fighters in this game. But I don't want to turn this into an essay about how MMA has taken the torch when it comes to combat sports, no, that point is easily made when the most recognizable fighters in this game are the ones from 10-20 years ago.
Fight Night Champion isn't just a rehashed version of Fight Night Round 4. EA Canada has added some pretty significant changes that have made the game much deeper. The risky decision to include the story mode, paid off ten fold in my opinion. It gives the game a much needed shot in the arm in the single player department, that has been a long time coming. The inclusion of a really well rounded multiplayer suite will keep you occupied for months if just to hop on and go a few rounds with a stranger. Add in the social aspects and the dangling carrot of a world championship for those with ambition, and you could get hooked for much longer. Fight Night: Champion really has no rival, no seriously no one else makes a boxing game. And that's probably a testament to how far ahead EA is in the game with the Fight Night series, and in Champion they just took a few more steps away from any would be competition.
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