EA Sports has really stepped up their boxing franchise. With the latest addition of Fight Night Champion you get to stand in the squared circle against some of the most legendary boxers. Mike Tyson, Muhammad Ali and Joe Frasier to name a few. Ironically, they aren’t the highlights of FNC. The intriguing storyline steals the show as you play as Andre Bishop through his trials and tribulations to become the Heavy Weight Champion of the world. With a few bumps along the way.. of course! A path I’m sure many boxers have traveled but now you’re experiencing first hand.
Get up, cause Mickey..err Gus Loves ya. Instantly, I knew Fight Night Champion was going to be different compared to other boxing games including it’s predecessor Fight Night Round 4. EA Canada’s intuitive control system sets FNC apart. In Champion Mode, you begin your story as Andre Bishop, the prisoner, with no knowledge of his past. Your first fighting experience is when you begin Champion mode and you have to get up from a knockdown. Using your left analog stick, you try to move the flashing bar to the center. Once lined up, you use the right analog stick to get up. The situations your put into right away give the gave a realistic approach and an accurate one at that. Once you come to, the crowd you heard cheering you on are orange jumpsuit prisoners and your objective is to stay on your feet and not get knocked back down.
Sting like a butterfly? The onscreen tips enables you to box right away. I appreciate their inclusion of train as you fight over the traditional training that puts you in front of a heavy bag or sometimes shadow boxing. Moving Andre is done with the left analog stick. Punching is performed one of two ways. Flicking the right analog stick as well as pressing the four buttons lands different style punches on your opponent. Holding down R2 and throwing a punch will land you a strong punch. Pressing L1 will block and holding L1 will help you weave a web. I found myself using both the right analog stick and buttons for a more precise level of combination’s and timing those devastating body punches. Button mashers will find FNC has a stamina bar that will limit those strong punches to a few. Throw too many and you become sluggish. Which eventually allows your opponent to knock you down at a higher percentage.
Situational fighting at it’s best. Just like real boxing, you’re put up against certain situations. I absolutely loved the fight where Andre Bishop breaks his right hand and all you’re left with is punching from the left. For those who’ve followed Floyd Mayweather, you know during his illustrious career, he went through some hand issues where he kept breaking them during fights. Such a creative aspect of Fight Night Champion kept me thinking and on my toes. Without ruining too many areas of the story mode, sometimes fighters have all the chips going against them. And in Andre Bishops case, he had to balance that scale himself. I hope that paints a picture, if not you’ll understand when you get there. Think Don King.
Damage Control. Throughout any matches online or a nice local game with a friend, you’ll eventually land a punch that sends your opponent in stun mode. That will cause their stamina and health bars to flash red while your meter glows. Just like a pack of rabid wolves, your stamina will remain full as you try to unleash as many punches to knock your opponent out. Just like real boxing, once you see the other boxer’s legs give way, you’ll want to pounce in for blood and the knockout. Same is reversed, if your stunned you’ll want to stay away from the other boxer while trying to recover. And once a cut is opened up, you need to protect it at all costs. If you take too many hits (represented with a number count) the referee will stop the fight.
The boxers of FNC. The roster that makes up Fight Night Champion is nothing short of spectacular. I mentioned, Ali, Tyson and Frasier but it only gets better with past champions. Sugar Ray Leonard, Evander Holyfield, Lennox Lewis, Vitali Klitschko are to name a few. Floyd Mayweather is not included due to some contractual complications. Nor was Arturo Gatti included due to his death. But with “Boxer Share” you can download custom made boxers by other EA FNC players. And I’m sure we’ll eventually see the rare gems like Prince Naseem Hamed. Where is he anyhow? In this same area you’ll be able to create and upload your creations as well. I’m still wondering why Eminem is a Boxer Share…
With all this detail, I forgot to fight. I’m all about detail in games. If you read my past reviews, you know I love the smallest details where no one should look. It shows character and completeness of a game. FNC does just that. For boxers with hair, as the fight progresses their hair will get messed up. I also noticed that when a knock out punch is landed the skin in that area will jiggle and a collection of sweat will fly off a boxers head. It was great to use Butterbean and watch him bounce around with his man-boobs. Flabby men should never throw punches especially with their shirts off in Fight Night Champion. Just not right! I really enjoyed the transition between gameplay and live action news. The ESPN highlight reels in between fights was a realistic addition and I felt like I was watching Sports Center.
Building a Legacy. One of the “classic” game modes is Legacy Mode. You can choose from an existing boxer or create your own to match up against other boxers. As you build up your growth as a result of training or attaining challenges during fights, you’ll be able to boost those skills with XP earned. Want to increase your left hook, put some XP there. Certain attributes will cost more than others, just strategize for a complete, jack of all trades, boxer. You will also have to train in between fights and juggle your stamina with rest before the week of the main event. You can choose from 7 training camps each with their own advantage but costing you more to use their facilities. I found that damage over time will depreciate your boxer. Remember, this is your legacy protect your boxer or be forced into early retirement.
Gym Membership required. If you ever wanted to own your gymnasium, Fight Night champion gives you the chance to customize it to your liking. Recruiting other online boxers to your gym is also possible. If you then decide that you want to rival another gym, you can take up that option with a Rival challenge. It’s all about representing your gym with the highest quality boxers and exhibiting to other gym rival members why they should join your gym.
Final Thought: Fight Night Champion is beyond the best boxing game, in my opinion it’s the only boxing game that should be played. Period. While some of the better known boxers don’t make up the roster, you’ll have no trouble using a past champion online against some great challengers. Graphically speaking, in-game graphics are superb as are the cut-scenes which are some of the best on the PS3. Boxing fans will truly appreciate the craftsmanship and detail put into Fight Night Champion!