The last “Fight Night” from EA Sports, 2009's “Fight Night Round 4,” was a huge hit with my friends and I. We played as legends like Muhammad Ali, modern boxers like Manny Pacquiao and downloaded created boxers like Chuck Norris (Note: He never loses). The game was the most realistic boxing game ever. Does “Round 4's” sequel, “Fight Night Champion,” surpass its predecessor or does it get Koed to the mat?
With subtle changes to the gameplay, a simplified control scheme and a story mode that is the best ever in a sports game, “Fight Night Champion” (See the slideshow for pictures) takes the boxing game championship belt from its predecessor. While a casual fan may not notice anything but the easier control scheme, so many many changes were made under the hood that make this game even more realistic than “Round 4.” The biggest difference is that pulling off a counter strike is harder because the timing window to perform the move has been dramatically decreased. I became a counter master on the previous game and won most of my bouts because of it. Now, you have to rely on quicker reflexes and more strategy. If you are using a boxer who likes to fight on the outside, you better do that or you will be at a disadvantage.
In Champion Mode, the game's story mode, you play as Andre Bishop, a former light heavyweight box who is becoming the next heavyweight star. As a movie, the story told in Champion Mode would probably be considered cliché, but as a game it works because you get to control Bishop, giving you a lot of satisfaction in the end. What draws you in even more is the top-notch music. During fights, the triumphant “Rocky-esque” music makes every fight more important and pushes me to try my best. The mode's cutscenes stutter every now and then. Every time that it happened, I thought the game was going to freeze, but it did not.
The aforementioned controls are simplified from “Fight Night Round 4.” On that game, the analog controls required precise motions such as moving the stick in quarter-circle motions to perform different punches. Now, on “Fight Night Champion,” moving the analog stick in different directions causes the different punches, making it easier to use the analog stick. By default, the face buttons perform most of the punches as the analog stick, but not all of them.
As far as boxing and sports-simulation games go, “Fight Night Champion” sits at the top. No “Madden NFL” or “MLB” game compares to how realistic feeling this game is. Its intangibles are hard to convey, but after playing just one round, you will see what I see. On top of being the best in both of the previously-mentioned genres, it works amazingly well as a fighting game. I wish it would receive the recognition it deserves and was played at fighting game tournaments like the Evo Championship Series tournaments.
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