Review by sortakindamaybe
"An outstanding boxing game that even those who aren't fans of the sport can appreciate."
Fight Night Champion is a boxing simulator with a few different game modes that allow you to test your virtual boxing skill, including Online World Championship (where you create a boxer from scratch and build him up online against other players), Legacy mode (where you create a boxer or use a boxer's likeness to progress through a career mode of sorts), and Champion mode (a story mode that follows Andre Bishop). The game has multiple difficulty settings and sliders so that players can fine tune the game to their liking.
Fight Night: Champion is very good at replicating real-life boxing. Entrances are well done, the commentary actually helps you realize what you're doing right or wrong (more on that later), knockouts are brutal and you can see the sweat flying off of your opponent's face as you land a devastating right hook. After landing a successful counter, the screen flashes. When you are becoming tired, you become gradually less effective, This is really cool, because in other boxing games all I wanted was to KO the other guy as soon as possible.
In Fight Night: Champion, however, I find it much more satisfying to work the opposing boxer's body with jabs and hooks, and slowly whittle away his stamina until the later rounds, where he can barely move and I have 75%-85% stamina. That isn't to say that early knockouts aren't possible or common. In fact, my main complaint about the game is that you have a little too much stamina. Thankfully, the recent patches have mitigated that to some degree, but it is still an issue as far as I'm concerned.
The developers did an excellent job of making each fighter feel like himself. When you're fighting Mike Tyson, you will fear going inside with him. When you're fighting Lennox Lewis, you will be afraid of his left hook. This is accomplished by the very well-done stats system in the game. There are several stat categories representing different skills. These include left/right and head/body categories for punches. A left hook to the head is one stat, and a right hook to the body is another. There are also ratings for combinations, chin, and blocking, to name a few.
In Champion mode, you play as Andre Bishop. You fight in a variety of circumstances set up by the story. It is actually quite enjoyable, but very short. I clocked in at about five hours (4:57 to be exact!). It is not really the meat of the game nor does it intend to be, but it does a nice job of introducing you to the game's mechanics and initially functions are sort of a tutorial.
In Legacy mode, you use either the likeness of an in-game boxer or a pre-made face to go from the Olympics to the pros. You can also use your own picture. I didn't do that but I have read that it looks good, so that may be a selling point for some who want to fight with a boxer that looks just like them.
During Legacy mode, after you pick a fight, you are given a certain amount of weeks to train. It varies, but generally you'll get 4-5 weeks to work with. In those 4-5 weeks, you can train, do media events, and receive e-mails. Training is done by minigame. I found this to be a little tedious, especially near the end of my career since I'm not actually able to use the XP since I've hit the level cap. Regardless, there are several different minigames, and they all give you the same amount of XP. If you find one that you're good at, you'll be doing it for the rest of your career, unless you feel like mixing it up. I didn't do all of them, but all the media events I chose to do involved checking an e-mail, confirming that I wanted to do it, watching the game pause and then save, and then a message pops up saying that my popularity increased. It's frankly kind of lame, but it is not a big part of the game regardless. Something that's kind of cool, but sort of fails at times is you can sell out -- errr, receive sponsorships for the clothing you wear in fights. I think it was very neat, and you receive a certain amount of money for, say, wearing Adidas' shorts, or Everlast gloves. My fighters quickly rose to the top, and the game doesn't really seem to be able to deal with that. They were offering me around three thousand dollars to wear their shorts -- when I had all three heavyweight belts and an undefeated record! My manager also has the gall to, in the same e-mail, tell me that we're "not in a position to demand more". Uh...yes we are? This would be more annoying if money had an actual use in the game. The best gym costs 30k, but you'll be making >30k a fight relatively early in your career, so the money just starts to pile up. I'm not one of those gamers that wants the devs to add a bunch of pointless crap to buy (like cars and houses), but some use for the money would have been nice.
The XP you get from training, winning fights, and fulfilling certain fight conditions (like getting a KO before the 6th round, or opening up a cut on your opponent) is used to upgrade your fighter's punches, combinations, blocking, and other skills. It is very addicting at first, but there is a "cap", which makes Legacy mode kind of unrewarding once it is reached. Since by then you are already the champion, there is no real mountain to climb. Furthermore, you will be fighting the same few opponents -- and since your skills are the same, the fights will probably end up the same too.
Online is handled well, and I experienced only occasional lag. I dislike having to make an account for EA, though. The online community is generally fine, but people frequently quit when they realize that they are losing or if you use "cheap" strategies. Like, you know, jabbing.
Another component to the online play is "Online World Championship".Essentially, you create a boxer and build him up by winning fights and sparring. I didn't spend a whole lot of time on this, because you're matched up with fighters that you really don't have a chance against, even if you're just a few overall points below the other guy. The reason for this is that people tend to max out one punch instead of distributing their points more evenly, people pour all their points into their uppercut. This creates a situation that you have similar stats, only he has a killer punch and you don't, so unless the person you're playing isn't good at the game, you're probably going to lose as a result of their high-level punch that they put all their XP in. Even when you do win, you don't get that much XP to improve your fighter. All in all, I found this mode very tedious and unenjoyable, despite its potential.
The new "Champion" mode is the sole story the game has. You fight as Andre Bishop, and without giving away too much of the story, you fight in the high and low points of his boxing career. It is a very cheesy story, but somehow it manages to be interesting and does a good job of setting up fights and giving them importance. You really feel that each fight counts and you'll be rooting for Andre very quickly. It does use every boxing movie cliche ever, but it sets up the fights and makes you care about the main character, which is all you can really ask for.
Graphics and Sound
Fight Night: Champion's visuals are simply fantastic. To be honest with you, I'm not really a boxing fan, so I only recognize the legends of the sport (Ali, Tyson, Foreman, et al.). All the boxers I recognize look just like their real-life counterparts, and even the ones I don't still look very realistic. The animations for walking around the ring look very good. The punches are also fantastic, and what makes them even better are the reactions to them. Fighters fall, for the most part, very realistically and it is very satisfying to keep landing shots on a guy who's already on his way down.
I'm not really a fan of the music, which is mostly hip hop, but the game has custom soundtracks. I do have a complaint here though -- after the latest patch (this wasn't the case before), I have to load my custom playlist every single time I start the game, which is annoying. I also dislike that your music stops at loading screens, giving you the opportunity to hear about 12 seconds of instrumental versions of the in-game songs.
The commentary is excellent. Certain phrases are repetitive, but overall, it manages to not only talk about what is happening, but actually analyze what is going on. If you're stunned early in a round, and then commit only to defense afterwards, the commentators will remark at how your opponent is now able to take more risks and land longer combinations because he doesn't have to worry about a response from you. When you fall into repetitive attack patterns, they take notice as well. An issue with the commentary is that sometimes it is very detached when saying fighter names. I recreated Joe Louis in Legacy mode, and I would frequently hear the commentators excitedly say "Left hook by!", and then an obvious pause..."Louis". It gave me a flashback of the old wrestling game "WWF Smackdown!:Just Bring it".
Play time / replayability
Fight Night:Champion has a great deal of replay value. The combination of ranked online, online world championship, and Legacy mode can take up dozens of hours. Champion mode is also very fun while it lasts. You could go through Legacy mode multiple times with different play styles. A tall outside fighter with strong jabs and straights,a counterpuncher with devastating hooks and rapid head movement -- there are numerous possibilities.
I fully recommend Fight Night: Champion for boxing fans and non-boxing fans alike. I don't have any real interest in the real sport, but I have poured hours into Fight Night in Legacy, Champion, and online. I bought it for $29.99 and was not disappointed at all. I would gladly have bought it at full price.
Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 07/30/12
Game Release: Fight Night Champion (US, 03/01/11)
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