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Fight Night Champion seems to be the title where EA Sports got everything right in a boxing game. What they produced was a well-balanced title where the difficulty could be adjusted to how good the player was, but allow them to increase the challenge as appropriate. In previous titles, it was very easy to get used to how the artificial intelligence played and therefore score a well-timed knockout. Fight Night Champion puts the player in the fight for the long run, the drama of the fight unfolds when a player decides to use his melon and throw shots at the right time. First though, let's talk about the graphics; the animation is awesome with very few glitches. The copy I played was for the XBox 360 and apart from the odd arm through the ropes, there weren't many glitches. Boxers seem to get knocked over as they would in a real fight and the player is able to hit them until they go down, just like the sport itself. There is a huge number of licensed boxers in this game when we think of how professional boxers used to get an entire game dedicated to them, it's strange to see the likes of George Foreman, Evander Holyfield, and Mike Tyson all in the same game together.
Float like a butterfly.
Back in the 90's, they all had their own titles on the NES, SNES, and Sega Mega Drive. There are 6 weight categories on the game, these are bantam, feather, light, welter, middle, light heavy, and heavyweight but the player can cross fight boxers in one division above and one below. This allows for some interesting match ups—one of my favourites was Peter Manfredo vs Joe Calzaghe which did actually happen in real life.
I'm the pugilist specialist!
This flexibility with the weight divisions also allows the player to create some dream match ups in both the exhibition and career mode. The virtual boxers fight like their real life counter parts; you will find George Foreman with his cross armed defense, Muhammed Ali with his quick footwork and Ricky Hatton with his brawling plodder style. The game is clever in that although the fighters have these distinct styles, no one style gives much advantage over another. You will find that although Ali can get out of the way much better than most, his punches won't have the same effect as that as a Tyson or Foreman. Although big punchers can hurt a guy easily, they have trouble getting out the way of an oncoming attack. This is similar with defence. "Winky" Wright has an airtight defence but his punch power is lacking. Roy Jones' defence is porous but he has awesome footwork. The game has been developed and designed very well.
I'm leaving for Hollywood.
It's one button to block which the game chooses appropriately to what punch the fighter is blocking but the player controls the head movement. The counter system introduced in Fight Night Round 4 is in Champion as well; the camera will give a visual cue and zoom slightly prompting the player or the AI to throw a counter shot. These can have devastating effects, although this has been reduced from the previous game and the player must use tactics to win the fight other than knocking out their opponent. At times you will need to throw fewer punches to allow your fighter to recover; this may have you giving up rounds at times. Any player looking to button bash will quickly find their fighter drained of energy. Body blows drain the stamina of your opponent, so it is good to use these tactically with headshots throughout the fight. Your fighter's stamina can also be drained by too much head and foot movement, so you have to think about how much work you want to put into a round as this will affect your fighter's recovery.
The cosmetic damage is awesome and it makes a fight that much more satisfying when the claret gets spilled, although like the real fight game, this can lead to a fight being stopped. The game is clever in that players have to be careful if it's their fighter's blood which is spilled. Champion gives players the option to use the right stick or the buttons to throw punches, this is good as it does not shun a particular type of player like previous titles. I personally like to use the right stick though, as this is what I have used from the initial game in 2004. The game modes are numerous, there's an exhibition mode, a career mode and now a 'Champion Mode' which puts to you a Hollywood-esque boxing story with all the choppings of the fight game nuzzled into it. You take control of Andre Bishop, a fighter coming up from the amateurs and looking to have a pro career for himself. New to the Fight Night series, you will get to play as an amateur in both the career mode and as Andre Bishop in champion mode which uses the controversial point scoring system just like the real amateurs. Playing through champion mode, Andre Bishop's story unravels which will even have you fighting bare knuckle in a prison. This mode is a breath of fresh air and throughout Andre's career, you will encounter obstacles that real professionals tackle such as corrupt officials and stupidly good opponents. It's a unique take and varies the game from the standard modes players are used to; the career mode is particularly in-depth and boxing fans will have a lot of fun with it. Players are able to create their own fighter at whatever weight they choose; they can customize their fighter's looks and even their fight style. You'll take them through their amateur career right up until the pros and the championship fights. Training mini-games are used to improve your fighter which will find you sparring, working the heavy bag and the double end bag . The player then gets to distribute points to their fighter's arsenal of skills. I particularly enjoyed this although certain mini games can be difficult. EA have really done their homework as you will find training exercises the professionals used in their prime. Mike Tyson's maize bag exercise for head movement is particularly difficult but any boxer fan who's given the opportunity to train like a virtual Mike Tyson will feel a degree of satisfaction I'm sure; I know I certainly did.
The jab is the key.
When training your fighter, you can also adapt him to your play style; For example, I like using the jab, so therefore I was constantly improving my fighter's jab. It's a good little quirk and certainly in those early career fights, you are going to need to think about what you need to progress in the game.
Now for the bad bits of the game, 'Bareknuckle mode' separate from the Champion mode actually comes as "downloadable content."
This is annoying but it is a good mode, you will find a lot brutality in there to make it different from your standard exhibition mode. The fighters get damaged more quickly and the player gets to experience a sort of 'gypsy rules' contest. It's fun but it depends on whether you think you should have to pay for such a feature. There are also a number of old time fighters who are available as 'downloadable content.'
These include the likes of Jack Dempsey, Rocky Marciano as well as a classic 'De La Hoya' and Roy Jones Jr to name a few. Personally I don't think you should have to pay for these additional fighters but unfortunately that's the way games are being produced these days.
Girls love fighters
The online modes are excellent, allowing you to play as the selection of professionals or as a created fighter in an online career mode. Both are very appealing and I believe players will have a lot of fun with this. The servers are still open and last time I logged in there 450 people playing the game; players can also use their mic if they want to talk trash to their opponent; but of course, we are all nice players and we don't encourage that.
Overall I would like to rate this game 4 out of 5, would be perfect if you did not have to purchase additional features to get the whole product. Add a tasty soundtrack which includes "Plan B," "Tinie Tempah" and "N.E.R.D"; then you have got yourself a winner.
Verdict 4 out 5