The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
I suspect that although most people don’t consider themselves boxing
fans, the sport resonates with us because it’s been delivered
successfully via a story – whether that’s Rocky, Raging Bull,
or even Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!. Therefore, the Fight Night franchise
is the perfect place to do something gamers have wanted for years –
create more drama in sports games. Champion mode’s tale of Andre Bishop
and the characters that surround him is an excellent blend of gameplay
and writing, with each one complementing the other to produce a step
forward for the genre.
You can’t win a fight with just one kind of
punch, and Champion mode throws enough effective combos to be a
formidable fighter. The voice actors convey the story well, and their
characters are rendered with enough detail and subtlety to convey
emotion and drama. For a video game to deliver on all these fronts is a
minor miracle by itself, but part of what helps the mode work so well is
that it’s not just a string of regular matches bookended by cutscenes.
EA Canada tweaks gameplay perimeters of certain bouts in Champion mode
to mix things up. Sometimes your goal is only to survive for a few
rounds, or maybe you have to KO an opponent instead of winning by
decision. The reasons behind these staged situations vary. Sometimes
it’s to teach you about the gameplay, but usually it’s to serve the arc
of the story – whose flashbacks, colorful characters, and occasional
surprises work well because they are handled deftly enough to be
believable within the story as well as the gameplay.
Champion is almost two games in one, because the Champion mode doesn’t
take away anything from the core Legacy mode from past games. The
revamped career mode features an updated training regime and pre-fight
scheduling. Like in the ring, survival and success is a matter of
managing your stamina. Cash-generating sponsorship events, marketing
opportunities for increasing your fighter’s popularity, pre-fight
training, and even injuries must be managed in the days and weeks
leading up to your next fight. Pack your schedule with too many
activities, and you might enter your next bout with the tank half-empty.
liked the scheduling aspect of Legacy mode, but the training and
subsequent XP allocation is confusing. Different training camps around
the globe bump up your physical attributes in pre-determined ways, but
individual training minigames do not. While this means you don’t have to
do minigames you don’t like, it also undercuts a reason for having
different ones in the first place. Similarly, you can assign the XP you
get throughout the mode to a range of specific offensive, defensive, and
health-related skills (like a left upper cut to the head), but you
can’t inflict certain damage states (critical stun, flash knockdown,
etc.) until you reach appropriate skill thresholds. While I agree that
you aren’t going to be flash KO-ing opponents from the start, having to
meet these minimum levels means that early on regular knockouts are hard
to come by, which isn’t very realistic.
With such impressive game
modes, it’s easy to overlook the improvements to the already great
gameplay. EA streamlined the controls for punches, dodges, and blocks
without compromising the game’s overall strategy – which now takes
stamina into account better. Although your control inputs are often
faithfully replicated onscreen, I am surprised how many times weaker
miss-hits (where a boxer’s arm wouldn’t fully extend) register as
powerful punches capable of knocking someone out. I can’t figure out the
rhyme or reason behind the flash knockout system either, but the
excellent degenerative defensive system is a solid improvement.
online gyms comprised of your friends, smart gameplay changes, and
improvements to Legacy mode, Fight Night Champion is more than your
usual collection of modest EA Sports improvements. Some areas shine
brighter than others, but the developer’s inspired Champion mode is the
star feature that must be experienced.
Email the author Matthew Kato, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.