EA Sports took a risk with Fight Night Champion making it their first ever M-rated title. In a sense they had to do something creative as boxing games simply haven’t been reaching the wide audience that they used to. The ‘Champion’ story mode was definitely intriguing but short – while other critical areas of the game ultimately failed to impress.
The ranking of games in the best of 2011 list is based on number of factors including the personal amount of enjoyment had with a particular title, whether advertised features were fully delivered, post-release support, community interaction and communication, overall gameplay experience, feature set, and online play performance. Again this is largely a personal take and one with the advantage of tracking the games beyond just the release frame and does not act as some sort of recap of those with the highest scores on Metacritic. The analysis is weighted heavily towards those high in fun factor while considering them as a whole and compared relatively to the field.
The main selling-point for Fight Night Champion was in the story mode. Like it or not that is where the title as a whole was ultimately going to be judged. The story was largely cliche-ridden and didn’t really become overly compelling until near the end. The mix of certain stipulations made for interesting variety and that is something that is hard to come by in standard fights. Completing it in just 3:19 though was disappointing as there was absolutely no incentive to going back and playing through the mode again. Makes it worth a rental in that sense – or in the case of PSN a purchase of just the mode alone for $5.
Other positives included an extensive roster and vastly improved right-stick controls. Graphically FNC continued to be a strength of the series – with blood effects enhanced due to the M-rating – and though a drop to 30fps was unfortunate it didn’t stand out as troublesome.
Sadly though one of the faults of the game this year has been the use of “tuner updates” by EA which have seemed to do more harm than good. Blood effects were pretty much removed from the game seemingly as an unintended side-effect while gameplay balance has been all over the place due to the frequent changes. At one point EA actually decided to just reset everything to release levels. Scoring by the judges was inconsistent and unreliable and that was never really fixed and sliders were broken out of the box.
Beyond those issues Legacy mode was largely tedious and presentation was generally poor. One offensive aspect was the ability to buy XP for created fighters which were then to be used online in the “World Championship” mode. There was no way to compete online unless money was being spent on ratings upgrades.
On a technical level Fight Night Champion can be applauded for many achievements. That has really been the story with the series all along. FNC’s flaws however either display a lack of clear direction from the development team or trouble implementing the necessary functionality and failed balancing efforts. EA deserves credit for trying to expand the value of the product with the ‘Champion’ story mode but once that was through there wasn’t much left to become invested in.