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FidgetyAcolyte 03-29-2011 11:06 PM

Please Rate this Review: Fight Night Champion
 
"As Goes the Heavyweights, So Goes Boxing"

HIGH: Brian Kenny's soft hair reporting on my last fight.

LOW: Controlling a fight for 9 rounds, only to be instantly knocked out by poor collision detection.

WTF: The feeling of watching my boxer, with my face, get pummeled mercilessly into unconsciousness.

“As goes the heavyweights, so goes boxing.” It's an old adage often applied when describing the state of boxing. If the heavyweight division is healthy and exciting, then boxing as a whole profits. Looking back at the history of boxing video games, the adage still holds true. The last time everyone paid attention to boxing was when Mike Tyson was champion. And the last time everyone paid attention to a boxing game was when Little Mac was Tyson's challenger. Since then, many champions have attempted to hold the sport with the same exciting dominance; likewise, many boxing games have attempted to rise up as the champion of the sport for video games. EA Sports offers up their latest attempt with Fight Night Champion.

Fight Night Champion takes a new approach to the series single player mode. Adding on to the standard, “create-a-boxer” mode from the game's predecessors, FNC introduces the titular “Champion Mode.” In a smart move, Champion Mode serves two purposes, one of which is to tell a high-drama tale of the fictional prospect Andre Bishop.

Throughout the story, Andre runs into nearly every boxing stereotype. From the crooked promoter to the sagacious, old trainer, the characters here are nothing new. Luckily, the high production values and quality voice acting at least keep a familiar story arc interesting. Brian Kenny's post-fight boxing updates, ripped straight from ESPN's “Friday Night Fights,” give an appreciated dose of realism to the experience. However, while the identifiable boxing personalities and references are entertaining for a boxing fan like myself, the story doesn't really stand on its own. The overall flatness of Andre himself robs the player of the ability to identify with the fighter, and despite our thirst for knockouts and violence, it is the personality and character of a fighter that keeps us boxing fans intrigued.

Fortunately, Champion Mode serves an secondary purpose. Each of Andre's fights are set up around various realistic scenarios that can occur in the ring. Sometimes an opponent has a dynamite punch that can and will drop him at the first blow. Other times, Andre is forced to press for a knockout in order to keep the decision out of the hands of crooked judges. In varying the dynamic of each fight, Champion Mode acts as a training ground in which the player learns to maneuver Andre as a real boxer instead of throwing him headfirst into uppercuts, armed with nothing but button-mashed left hooks. By the end, I had a greater understanding of what techniques and strategies are required to overcome a variety of disadvantages in any match-up.

The ability to successfully employ these boxing techniques is likely what EA Sports was going for, and they kind of succeeded. Quick, fluid combos come easier than in previous iterations thanks to revamped punching controls, and they look more realistic than ever, as many of the singular punches look like they belong together when thrown in combination. It's also now possible to punch from a block, so smart brawling is encouraged. Unfortunately, boxing isn't a sport of just brawling. Many boxers ply their craft by controlling distance and befuddling their opponent with footwork, but the mechanics available aren't really conducive to such styles.

This is evident in the difficulty I had in landing straight punches. There were many times when I input a hard straight counter, only for the game to decide that I was too close to my opponent, opting to interpret my input as a short hook that falls way short of where I intended my fist to be. To counter this effect, I would then back up, only to have my fighter take one giant stride away from the opponent, creating a distance in which no punches, not even my gangly jab, could reach my opponents face.

Such slip-ups are forgivable in the single player, but they create some pretty disastrous results online, where the addition of random, one punch knockouts has turned every fight into a game of roulette, regardless of skill. Often I'd be dominating a fight, overcoming the game's sluggish footwork while gradually grinding away at my opponents stamina when, out of the blue, he lands a random, grazing punch that puts me out cold. It happens in boxing. It doesn't, however, happen 50% of the time.

That's not to say I didn't enjoy myself. I felt great when my online boxer, outfitted with an eerily accurate depiction of my face, was able to box circles around a foe who's relying on that one lucky punch to put me away. Every time I purposely slipped an opponent's punch and returned with a precise, pounding combo, the game reminded me of just how sweet the sweet science can be, more so than any other entry in the Fight Night series. It was easy for me to moan about restricting mechanics when I'd just been laid out, but when everything was working as intended, it was hard not to feel a bit proud when my focused adherence to a game plan culminated in a glorious last round knockout.

In a way, the Fight Night series is a lot like the current heavyweight champ, Wladimir Klitschko. Klitschko has been criticized in the past for being too boring and rigid, and a lack of suitable challengers doesn't help his division; but each time he gets in the ring, he gets closer and closer to what everyone wants him to be. Maybe next time he'll be able to put it all together, and everyone will once again take notice. “As goes the heavyweights, so goes boxing.” And boxing games, too. (7.0 out of 10)

Disclosures: This game was obtained via retail store purchase and reviewed on the Xbox 360. Approximately 10 hours of play was devoted to single-player modes (completed 1 time) and 10 hours of play to multiplayer modes.

Parents: The game contains the violence expected in a realistic boxing game along with language coarse enough to warrant an M rating.

Deaf and Hard of Hearing: No subtitles in neither the cutscenes nor during gameplay. Important gameplay events, such as stunned-states and counter-punch opportunities are indicated visually, so sound cues are not too important. Cornerman advice is typically unimportant, and any important information during Champion mode is given either in the right-hand corner during gameplay, on the pause screen, and also on the game-over/retry screen.

frogofdeath 03-30-2011 06:24 PM

Re: Please Rate this Review: Fight Night Champion
 
Content wise, I felt this was a really well written piece of gaming input.
Quote:

With Fight Night Champion, EA takes a new approach to single player. Adding on to the standard, “create-a-boxer” mode from the game's predecessors, FNC introduces the titular “Champion Mode.” In a smart move by EA, Champion Mode serves two purposes, one of which is to tell a high-drama tale of a fictonal prospect, one Andre Bishop.

The story here is a crash course in boxing stereotypes. With actual and fairly accurate commentators, and the addition of Brian Kenny in the ESPN Boxing Studio, the high production values are an admirable attempt at creating a familiar story arc. I was able to recognize nearly every personality present in the world of boxing. But while this was entertaining for a boxing fan like myself, the story doesn't really stand up on its own. Perhaps its the result of the flat main character, which is unfortunate because it is the personality and character of the boxers themselves that keep boxing fans intrigued.
This is the one area that I feel could use a little work. You mention that there are "two purposes". The first purpose is the story, but not exactly clear what the second purpose is. Not that you have to say, "The second purpose is...", but I feel like you only mention one purpose the way things are currently written.

FidgetyAcolyte 03-30-2011 06:28 PM

Re: Please Rate this Review: Fight Night Champion
 
The second purpose of the Champion mode is to act as a "semi-tutorial" by presenting you with various real life boxing scenarios, in effect teaching you how to fight aggressively, or focus on the body, or avoid specific punches.

I suppose it's not clear. I'll try to clear it up in an edit when I get a chance!

Thanks a bunch for the input!

Richard Naik 03-31-2011 11:10 PM

Re: Please Rate this Review: Fight Night Champion
 
Hey Fidgety, a couple of notes:

-Don't begin sentences with "But". Use "However" or something else.

-You've got some spelling mistakes in there, like "payed" in the first paragraph which should be "paid".

-frog is right about the "two purposes" point-the second purpose is not clear.

-I know it's a minor thing, but use italics when using a game's title, not bolding.

I think this has some potential, but run through it a few more times and try to smooth it out. Thanks!

FidgetyAcolyte 04-01-2011 01:52 AM

Re: Please Rate this Review: Fight Night Champion
 
*stretch* There. That feels better. I hope you guys agree. Thanks for the input! Any more is much appreciated.

I also did not know that OpenOffice's Spell Check is "off" by default.

Pedro 04-01-2011 06:09 PM

Re: Please Rate this Review: Fight Night Champion
 
That's a pretty good review; I can't fault it. Discussing what mechanics work and which don't is really interesting, and I like your hook about the moribund heavyweight division and Klitschko.

FidgetyAcolyte 04-01-2011 06:25 PM

Re: Please Rate this Review: Fight Night Champion
 
Thanks for the kind words. I had difficulty in thinking up a way to make a review about a sports sim interesting, but I felt the Klitschko angle was accurate enough without being a stretch or just cheesy.

Richard Naik 04-03-2011 02:20 AM

Re: Please Rate this Review: Fight Night Champion
 
Nice job Fidgety. Green light. I'll let the others know.

Richard Naik 04-04-2011 12:38 PM

Re: Please Rate this Review: Fight Night Champion
 
Oh, almost forgot-include a secondary title. The quote you use in the opening sentence would work quite nicely. Otherwise it's still good to go.

FidgetyAcolyte 04-04-2011 01:24 PM

Re: Please Rate this Review: Fight Night Champion
 
Alright, done, and done. Thanks a bunch!

SparkyClarkson 04-06-2011 08:54 PM

Re: Please Rate this Review: Fight Night Champion
 
Green light from me. Please expand the accessibility information a bit. Besides the absence of subtitles, are there any sound cues that are important for playing the game? Is there on-screen text to make objectives clear in Champion mode?

FidgetyAcolyte 04-06-2011 09:03 PM

Re: Please Rate this Review: Fight Night Champion
 
Oh, thanks! Additional necessary info has been added.

SparkyClarkson 04-06-2011 09:18 PM

Re: Please Rate this Review: Fight Night Champion
 
That's exactly what was needed. Good stuff.

brandonbales 04-07-2011 01:01 AM

Re: Please Rate this Review: Fight Night Champion
 
Green light from me.

Do I count?

Love you all,
Bales, Brandon

Richard Naik 04-11-2011 09:57 AM

Re: Please Rate this Review: Fight Night Champion
 
Hey Fidgety, forgot to mention, try not to use "you" unless you're directly speaking to the reader. I.E.,

"And if you look back at the history of boxing video games, you'll see that the adage still holds true."

Would be better as:

"Looking back at the history of boxing video games, this adage still holds true."

Using "you" in this case assigns value to the reader which you don't want. I only noticed a few instances of this, so clean those up and I think it's good. Sorry I didn't mention this before :)


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