Boxing games are rarely story driven which is why I was curious to see how EA Sports handled a plot in their latest Fight Night game titled Fight Night Champion (FNC). To my surprise, it totally rocked my socks off. Yes, it had pretty much every clichéd character straight out of a Rocky flick but thanks to some solid voice acting and not to mention a highly likeable protagonist, I was hooked from start to end.
In FNC you’ll step into the talented boots of a young boxer named Andre Bishop whose career is on the rise thanks to his mad skills in the ring. However things start going a bit south for this Philadelphia native when he ends up ticking off the wrong evil promoter. Evil promoter doesn’t like being messed with and so he pulls some strings landing poor Andre in a ton of trouble. But you can’t keep a good man down for too long and after struggling with some highly unfortunate circumstances, Andre bounces back to claim what’s rightfully his. You’ll be able to predict the ending a mile away but that still won’t stop you from cheering Andre on as he pummels his way to the top.
The Pac Man in action
Even though this is a Fight Night game, combat has radically been tweaked which in turn makes gameplay a lot faster. With faster gameplay you’ll be tempted to treat FNC like an arcade brawler but you still have to take into account factors like speed and stamina. Throw a ton of punches and your boxer will naturally slow down and will require time to recover. During this time he’s more vulnerable to attacks so sharpening your defensive game before you head into the ring is a good idea. Still I’d say this game is way more lenient than previous games as I pretty much wailed on every opponent through the career with reckless abandon. Only in my last fight did I learn the value of a defensive game – the hard way.
Unlike Round 4, FNC offers both a conventional control scheme where you can dish out damage using your buttons as well as something called the Full Spectrum Punch Control. In previous FN games you’d have to twist and turn your analogue sticks in different ways, mimicking actual punches but this time round, merely flicking them in any of the four directions does the trick. This makes the game lot more noob friendly but at the same time, you’re losing the precision that came along with the game’s older control scheme.
Bare knuckled brawling FTW!
Through certain parts of the game you’ll even have to partake in bare knuckled brawls where the conventional rules of the sport do not apply. These segments are brutal and insanely satisfying. You’ll actually cringe when knuckle meets face and thanks to the game’s new M rating, this is displayed in all its gory glory. As you dish out or take damage, the blood from your face and nose will eventually trickle down to your body and shorts. It’s a minor visual effect but a very brutal reminder of how painful a fist fight can actually get. I only wish EA had put in more of these segments into the campaign.
The single player campaign or the Champion Mode can be completed pretty fast, after which you can proceed to smash more faces through the game’s Legacy mode. Over here you can choose from a preset of real world boxers or create one from scratch customizing not only his looks but attributes like height, weight, power and so on. This mode does pale in comparison to the cinematic career but it remains the meat of the game. Like previous FN games, fighting your way through the Legacy Mode will grant your boxer XP that can be used to upgrade various skills. And once you’re confident of your skills in the ring, you can head online to take on human players. Like the Legacy Mode, winning online matches will allow you to improve your boxer’s stats making him a force to reckon with.
Mama said knock you out
The Fight Night games have always been visual powerhouses and this one is no different. The audience does look a bit stupid and their animations are highly retarded but in the ring, everything looks stellar. Every time your boxer lands a punch you’ll notice insane detail like the way his muscles contract or how your opponent goes down like a sack of potatoes after a successful uppercut. In the career mode, certain crucial fights are showcased with much flair thanks to cinematic camera angles and instrumental music that push you to land that finishing blow.
I personally am pretty happy with the direction this franchise is headed in. Purists may feel a bit ticked off with the dumbed down gameplay and a predictable career mode but then they can stick to Fight Night Round 3 or 4. For everyone else, Fight Night Champion is an enjoyable game that packs in stellar visuals, an engaging and cinematic story and of course, tons of face breaking.