Fight Night Champion takes the heavyweight crown

Knocking out pretenders and poseur’s in its bid to become the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, EA Sports’ latest piece of pugilistic perfection is in a class of its own amongst boxing titles.    

With more and more diverse sports being turned into videogames by developers seeking to find that one blockbuster that will propel their sales to a level that would make Justin Beiber envious, it would seem that they may well have to look elsewhere instead of the boxing ring for future success, as judging from EA Sports’ Fight Night Champion  Electronic Arts have got the boxing game all sewn up.     

Fight Night Champion has swaggered into the arena to the sound of Tina Turner’s ‘Simply The Best’ blaring through the loudspeakers as the smoke and fireworks light the entrance of this hard-hitting sequel. In a series of titles that has already led the way with their cutting edge graphics, superb realistic action and breathtaking line-up’s of true King’s of the Ring, what then would Fight Night Champion be able to bring to the melting pot so that fan’s of the franchise would be persuaded to part with their hard-earned pennies on the latest title in EA’s bonecrunching series of boxing games? Well, to be honest with you, if you have played the rather excellent demo that has been doing the round’s, ( geddit? ‘doing the rounds‘  Oh please yourself! ), then you will understand perfectly why, as a boxing fan and/or a gamer, you must buy this game.

Fight Night Champion offers up the single greatest piece of pugilism that has ever graced a games console. The fact that the line-up of boxing great’s and downright legends has been expanded and improved upon is one thing, as is the fantastic atmosphere that virtually crackles and sizzles across your screen with all the electricity of a live event. But it’s when you get into the first class story mode that you see the changes that EA has made and experience them in all their Golden Gloves glory. Did we just say ‘Story Mode?’ you bet your broken and bruised knuckles we did!

In fact, let’s start off with a comprehensive look at that all-important new inclusion to the greatest boxing game. You enter the game as Andre Bishop, an up and coming fighter who has to negotiate his way through the veritable minefield of dodgy deal’s, backstreet brawls and shady promoters that he must face on his way to becoming a ranked contender. But as we all know, the fight game has many pitfall’s for a young boxer who just won’t lie down and play ball, and so, after one run in too many with the games hated villain, our amiable hero is incarcerated in the local penitentiary to learn the errors of his ways as he is framed for a crime he did not commit.

The opening scenes place Andre on the canvas of the his penitentiary gym floor as you are thrown in at the deep end to learn the skills of your trade against a head-butting headcase that has more ink on his chest than a printer’s apprentice. So from here you must quickly get to grip’s with the control system or risk being pummeled to pate by the hateful halfwit of Cell Block H. One sharp boxing lesson later and your selecting your difficulty level and moving into the real story of this forlorn fighter.

You are then magically teleported back in time to four years earlier. Young Andre Bishop is in the ring fighting as a talented amateur against a nine time winner from Cuba. This is a good opportunity for you to learn some of the fight craft that you will need to progress in the game, as well as for you to learn some of the back story that will open up some interesting insights further along the games tale. All you need to do is pay attention to the characters in the scene that follows Andre’s popular win to learn who will be players in this well scripted story of back stabbing and underhand deal’s.

From there it is a short trip to the first pro fight for our boy Bishop as he enters the ring against the more experienced and ‘cagey’ fighter, Palmer. But in a touch of genius the shock win is then announced live on ESPN in some smart live footage that gives the new Fight Night Champion that credibility that other titles, no matter how hard they try, just do not have.

The storyline will change the way that gamers look at sports titles in the future, giving more far meat and substance to a genre that has been lacking in that area in the past. This bodes well for gamers as well, let’s face it, Electronic Art’s hold most of the licensing rights for just about all of the best sports that are out there anyway. So the fact that they have managed to pull out a storyline that, even when you are fighting, manages to pull you in like a magnet thanks to the soul inspiring music and heart pounding action.  So with all that blood pounding in your ears you continue swinging and sending out those big right-handed bomb’s, even though you know that they are going to lead your man right into the kind of trouble that will lead you to the game’s opening sequences. 

The storyline may be a Rocky styled cliche-fest, but truth be told it works extremely well and even the obligatory love interest manages to reel us in. The writers have combined with the developers and bring us a game that appeals to everyone, as opposed to only having raised the interested eyebrows of the boxing fraternity. Fight Night Champion has introduced a level of depth and sentiment into a sports title that even the none-sporty types can feel an affinity with, and, dare we say it, even bring in more gamers of the opposite sex to the ‘noble art’.

But without wanting to litter our review with list of spoilers that reads like the fight card at Madison Square Garden we will refrain from indulging any more of the games excellent single player ‘campaign’ to concentrate, instead, on all of the massed delights that Fight Night Champion has to offer. And this game has a great deal to offer let us tell you.

Not content with overhauling the way that we all look at sports titles EA  have also gone on pack their latest boxing bonanza with as much quality content as one disc can carry. Take the first-rate create a fighter customization tools that allow you all to build your own prospective champion from the ground up , and then take your mountain of muscle out onto the circuit to punish some puny pretenders who have the sheer audacity to stand in your way. The creativity that is afforded players in this mode is stunning, to say the least. After you set to work in creating your boxing big man you then get to train your fighter to get him to peak condition. From there its off to the ring with your boy as you get into some scheduled bout’s to test your characters mettle before you pit him against heavy and more talented fighters.

The new control system helps immensely, as now all you have to do is press a few buttons to push, or should the you prefer, just flick the right analogue stick, as you clutch the right and left triggers for guard and body movement respectively. The left analogue stick covers basic movement, but with a little practice in between bouts you will be able to discover that there are a whole menu full of hook’s, uppercuts and jab’s just waiting to be discovered. The new control system actually encourages far more gamers of the casual variety, as opposed to die-hard fight fan’s, as the system really has been stripped down and streamlined to make a far more practical approach for players from the novice to pro levels.

There are an absolute arsenal of modes for you take the game online too, as EA have not only enhanced the single player option, but the multiplayer also. Gamers are now able to train, as well as fight, alongside friends and even challenge rival gyms, ( clans? ), to boxing tournaments from which the victors will emerge with bragging rights so huge it is doubtful that one gamertag’s motto could cope with the literary ribbing.

So all being told, has Fight Night Champion got what it takes to persuade gamers to part with their money once again? Let’s put it this way shall we?  Do bears do whoopsy in wooded area’s? Question answered. Go buy this game…now!

Graphics: Simply awesome. The motion capture on some of today’s greatest fighters proves just how far the technology has come, as when we stepped into the laced boots of UK Champion David Haye the accuracy, fluidity and attention to every conceivable detail was literally jaw dropping stuff.  country mile over anything else in its class.  9

Gameplay: The new control system will no doubt bring fledgling gamers to the first-rate franchise, and rightfully so. EA Sports have scored another massive win with this excellent title that leaves you breathless as you bob and weave and hook and jab your way to world Heavyweight glory! The new storyline was an inspired move, and one that will prove highly successful of that we have no doubt. An immense title.  10

RePlay Value: The storyline and careers modes will have you coming back for more, but it is in the Fight Now with friends , as well as the cracking online modes that will make Fight Night Champion live long in the memory. Never growing old, never running out of steam this is one sporting title that has far more nite than most in its genre.   9

Presentation: Once again Electronic Arts have produced the goods in a year that will see them release more AAA titles than any other developer. There is not one title that has not been released by this studio in the past twelve months that has not ben worthy of extremely high praise and Fight Night Champion is no exception to this rule. Delivering more than what the people expected is always a good sign, and that is exactly what EA Sports have done with this premium game.  Superb visuals, an excellent storyline and top-notch online modes all blended with first-rate sound effects for that realistic bone crunching ‘haymaker’ make Fight Night Champion a true contender for sports title of the year.  10

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