PS3 Review – Fight Night Champion

The Fight Night franchise has always been a contender to be one of the best sports titles on the market. This year, though, they’re looking to come out on top as the undisputed champion. Fight Night Champion has been training hard in the gym and has picked up a few new maneuvers — but is it enough for the knockout? Or should this fighter hang up the gloves and retire?

At first glance, it doesn’t appear that all that much has changed from previous installments. It’s the same tight, true-to-life controls and gameplay that makes fans of the series eat up each new iteration. It’s mostly the same roster of fighters. The arenas, all stuff you’ve seen before, or at least like it. Aside from some minor upgrades to gameplay, graphics, facial animations, etc., it looks like a normal progression for the franchise, similar to the jump from Fight Night Round 3 to Round 4. That’s not so much of a bad thing, the formula works and it gets better every time. The real differentiating factor here, and the real game changer for not only Fight Night, but for sports games as a genre, is the all-new Champion Mode that was worthy of a nod within the game’s title. And how worthy it is.

I grew up watching a lot of boxing, it was in my blood. Every major fight, I was right there watching it live on Pay-Per-View. Some time ago – I can’t quite put my finger on when – I just stopped. Something was missing from Boxing. Fighters had all become generic, lacking any distinct personality and style. The passion in the sport just seemed to be gone as well. Fight Night Champion brings the personality and the passion back to the sport with the Champion Mode’s protagonist, Andre Bishop.

In past games, the Legacy Mode would have you create a character, and go through a series of progressively more difficult fights. As you win (or lose), you advance in rank and make your way up the ladder and toward bigger, tougher fights. But at its heart, it’s nothing more than statistics. Wins and losses. There’s a little training mixed in to add some spice to what would just be fight after fight.

Fight Night Champion‘s Champion Mode is the complete opposite of that dry, statistics-based way of progression. With Champion Mode, you get a chance to see what it’s like to fight your way to the top — and all the shit that comes with it.

Boxing isn’t just about showing up for a fight. Boxing is about the life behind the fighter, his passion, his accomplishments, his failures and the way he learns from them. Boxing is about the struggle that makes the man, a man that isn’t afraid to take on any opponent, in any condition. Such is the story of Champion Mode’s Andre Bishop.

In a real Rocky sort of way, Bishop starts off as a humble fighter, working towards his dream. With his old-timer manager by his side, he quickly makes a name for himself. But one thing is holding him back. His trainer doesn’t have the pull to get Bishop a title bout — he couldn’t get Bishop’s father a shot at the title either. But Bishop’s commitment to the old family trainer has him refusing a management deal with a real Don King-like promoter, DL McQueen, who is guaranteeing a title bout for the up-and-coming Bishop. McQueen isn’t someone you say no to, unfortunately.

No. His exact words of “you don’t know who you are fucking with” hold true. Bishop will soon have to pay for doing the honorable thing. McQueen begins rigging fights, paying of ringside judges, even hiring cops to come and set you up. This results in a 4 year jail-sentence, that potentially could ruin the boxer’s career before it even really gets started.

Prison makes for some nasty fight situations. Bare-knuckle brawls, fights until one fighter is incapable of standing are just some of the scenarios within the game. There’s certain handicaps tied to some fights that make for a more interesting and intense fight. When the judges are paid off, you have no other option than going for a knock-out. In another, Bishop’s right hand is broken, forcing you to rely on your left, but without giving away to your opponent that your right hand is hurt.

These situations and the rest of the personal trials and tribulations that Andre Bishop and everyone around him suffers through, helps build a fighter that’s capable of becoming a champion. The story of Andre Bishop brings back that passion that’s missing from boxing and does away with the statistics. You want to win, not just to be the #1 rank, but because you form a bond with the character. Champion Mode is the first real attempt at infusing a story into a sports game, proving that it doesn’t need to be a sim to be the greatest of all time.

Though, what good would all that be if it wasn’t presented properly? The story is fleshed out through flashbacks or TV spots on ESPN Friday Night Fights. The voice acting and facial animation help to really bring everything to life. Every character is well-scripted with the voice-actor bringing the role to life. There were times I felt more like I was watching a modern-day Rocky movie unfold.

Fight Night Champion is a great game in every aspect. Without the new Champion Mode, it would have been yet another successful installment under EA’s belt. But thanks to the game’s new Champion Mode, Fight Night Champion brings passion back to the sport of boxing and makes for the most entertaining sports game of all time. Fight Night Champion is a knockout, hands down. Everything else, is down for the count.

PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score

+Champion Mode is the real stand-out.

+Story is full of character.

+Controls are more responsive than ever.

10 out of 10