Ding, ding, ding; it’s another edition of the Fight Night series. This time, Fight Night Champion makes its debut on the PS3. Unlike other beat-em-ups, boxing (similar to UFC) is a take it or leave it genre. If you’re a fan, great, but if you find the rules limiting i.e. no Hadukens or roundhouse kicks, then you may have already made a decision. For the rest of us, it’s time to raise your gloves, acknowledge the crowd and find out if Fight Night Champion is the greatest of them all!
As Fight Night Champion starts up, you’re thrown into a fight even before the menu begins. This is something that has been creeping into games of late, where you’re thrown into the game without giving you a choice. It’s a really entertaining and involving start that gets you into the Fight Night spirit. Once you’ve enjoyed the start and decided not too continue as Andre Bishop (more about him later) you’re brought to the main menu. You can continue to play as Andre Bishop in ‘Champion’ mode, or you can choose to experience your straightforward exhibition bouts in ‘Fight Now’. There are also ‘Training’ and ‘Legacy’ modes alongside your usual online shenanigans.
The ‘Champion’ story mode is a good inclusion, of course it’s not the greatest story ever told, but it’s reasonably acted and the dialogue is fluid. There are times when it does truly feel like you living the boxers dream in and out of the ring (whether in prison or not!). Its also interspersed with training and taking control half way through a fight. The plot itself revolves around Andre Bishop, from the start of his career to the end, taking in a prison sentence, a move from middleweight to heavyweight and a gold medal amongst other things. Obviously, fighting your mates is where the longevity is for Fight Night Champion but the ‘Champion’ mode is an important addition. In ‘Legacy’ you can create your alter ego and place him in the ring against champions and contenders. You have to work your way up through the ranks via training and scheduled bouts. You can also use your boxer online to establish their name further (well as long as you’re winning). The ‘Legacy’ mode is mildly disappointing, especially compared to the ‘Champion’ feature. You can build your way up improving sponsorship and training facilities on the way, it’s just too slow to get going, especially when you’re starting off with the stats of a new boxer.
There’s the usual roster of boxers available such as Iron Mike Tyson, Roy Jones Jr, Mohammed Ali and everyones favourite Mancunian Ricky Hatton. They look like their respective real life counterparts and move in the same way. Even on Amateur difficulty the opponents know when to duck and weave so Fight Night Champion is a challenging bout to get through, but practice makes perfect. The ‘Full Spectrum Punch Control’ allows you to use the analogue stick to perform the majority of your punches; it works really well and is easier than pressing the buttons (which you can still use). Oh, and for the all-out haymaker boxers out there, it is possible to be knocked out by one punch, so even if your up on points and have knocked your opponent down every round you can still lose via a one punch wonder as you won’t get up. Remember Oliver McCall v Lennox Lewis anyone?
Graphically, as tends to be the case with most EA games, everything is very polished and slickly smooth. The razzmatazz entrances whether in Mexico or Las Vegas really get you in the mood with all the bright lights and cheering. The fighter animations are fluid with poor punches looking like they’ve missed by a mile and good punches really packing a punch on screen. Fight Night Champion has the most authentic look of any boxing game out there, you can see cuts develop & deteriorate after each hit, whilst the blood splatters on the boxers short show how brutal boxing can be. The music suits the environment whilst the commentary is top class, although you may have heard their voices in previous editions of Fight Night. The glove hitting face sound, though satisfyin,g is a little exaggerated to say the least, but it’s only a minor quibble in the grand scale of things.
Fight Night Champion is an involving experience and should be enjoyed by most boxing fans and it’s the best edition of the series so far. With a bit more polishing and a more engrossing ‘Legacy’ mode it could become the greatest of all time. However, as it is, Fight Night Champion is a definite two weight world champion in a division that isn’t at its best, but that’s no bad thing. Hopefully the next in the Fight Night series will continue this upwards progression to perfection.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 3 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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