Do you like video games? You're here, so we know you like boxing. Waldo Rastel drops in for a Bad Left Hook Special Report!, as he reviews the newest entry into the EA Sports boxing franchise, Fight Night Champion.
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The latest attempt to perfect the sweet science is here, in the form of EA's Fight Night Champion. Some of you may be gamers, and some may just be boxing fans interested in how modern boxing games work, so I'll try to keep it a little light and less technical (I may save that for the comments). For people new to the Fight Night series of games, here is the gist. These games aim for realism, unlike Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!, and use a sophisticated physics engine to model contact and accuracy. This series also takes the realism a bit further into boxing simulator with the legacy mode. In this mode you can create your own boxer and train him until he reaches the top. Usually, you have to balance a variety of stats (speed, power, accuracy, defense, etc.) so as to maximize your own personal fight style. This particular game is either the fifth or sixth of the series (depending on where you think the series started), and should be the best that there is to offer in terms of modern boxing games.
The game starts out with a bang and it sucks you in to the new Championship mode. This mode follows the story of Andre Bishop. This is interesting mostly because it is new and it is a good way to introduce players into the control scheme of the game. The control scheme is the full spectrum punch system which is a fancy way of saying that you flick the control stick and it throws punches. Gone is the complicated system of making joystick movements and this flick system along with one-button one punch controls replace it. Is the new system better? Meh, it's different, but I really didn't have a problem with the previous system.
As for the story mode, it's really clichéd. Take the show "Lights Out" and multiply by about five. It's got everything and if you like that kind of thing, it's fine. If you don't, then this part of the game is going to be a little nagging and I would skip it. Overall it's at least engaging and fun.
It's faster than the previous years and that by itself makes it a better game. There is an appreciation for the speed and the finer points of the science which is nice to see. Counters in this game are different now too. Now you just have a block button and then you take your shot after that. However, you can now hit around a guard and the AI takes full advantage of it (this can be annoying as all get out).
Movement has always been my major complaint about this series and it rears its ugly head here again. EA's developers just can't seem to get the right fluidity down in the ring. The fighters feel very weighty and very slow with the result being that most fights are trading punches inside a phone booth. Jabbing from the outside and keeping your powerful opponent at bay is almost impossible. Also, punches don't seem to have the right kind of impact. Punches, even when blocked, should carry some weight, and they simply don't. The punch modifier is a nice addition with no more overpowered haymakers.
It's the best boxing game out there, but it is by no means perfect. However, if you want to beat up your most hated fighter with your personal favorite, this is the game for you. If you liked the previous games, you are going to like this one.