Of all the places I thought Fight Night Champion would start, I never considered the floor of a prison. Maybe an impressive cutscene, maybe straight into the menu system or even a FIFA arena style set-up. Fortunately, Fight Night never really followed the rules set by the rest of EA Sports' vast catalogue of games. It strayed with its releases and seemed to want to experiment more than other sports games.
The Fight Night
series has always been a consistently improving one, with Round 4
being as close to boxing perfection as we've seen on a shiny round disk. It didn't add too much to Round 3
but enough to refine and tidy up where it had gone wrong.
Fight Night Champion
is more about the bigger changes and it doesn't come much bigger than Championship mode. Once you complete your first gaming act of clambering to your feet, you get straight to the punching and before you know it you find yourself involved in a plot line.
Every Battle seems Personal
In Championship mode, you play as Andre Bishop; a rising star in the amateur boxing scene. His biggest downfall is that he is too much of a nice guy and won’t side with the corrupt background of the sport; making him a target.
As clichéd as this all sounds, a storyline like this adds to each fight. You're no longer picking your favourite boxer to go head-to-head with another living legend. You're involved in a fixed match with only one option for survival: knocking your opponent out.
With a back-story, fights become deeper despite how shallow the story is at times. You can predict each twist and understand each character in a matter of moments but that never seems to be a problem. When it comes down to Andre versus his opponent, every battle seems personal.
Three Hours Long
Ultimately - at three hours long – it feels more like a tutorial than full game. The convoluted plot forces you into situations that help you learn the mechanics of the game. At one point during his story Andre must see out two rounds by not getting hit; forcing you to block and dodge all incoming punches.
During another fight Andre breaks his right hand forcing you to only use your left. It's a clever and well worked way to teach you how to play the game properly; something that was missing from Round 4
A Hell of a Lot of Promise
Behind this tutorial lies a hell of a lot of promise. If you lose a fight in Championship mode, the game sends you back to a checkpoint to start again but something told me that this wasn't the original idea. I could tell that the developers wanted to branch the plot line at times, with each loss or success sending you into a new part of the story that wouldn't otherwise be experienced.
Maybe it's too risky to take on an idea like this on a first attempt, and I can only assume that this is the reason that Championship Mode hasn't got more depth. Despite this, it’s painfully obvious that the idea is a successful one that will be improved on in the future, maybe even rolled out to other sports games.
Still, as it stands, it's a satisfying experience and once it’s completed, you're left with the game you expected. Legacy mode is still very much intact and as fun as ever but isn't as refined as I'd like to have seen in a sequel. Menus are sluggish, making even the simple task of creating your fighter a chore. The old calendar-style progression is needlessly clumsy and feels extremely dated.