Fight Night Champion Demo Impressions

Posted February 2nd, 2011 at 4:30 pm

The Fight Night Champion demo released yesterday with a full month to go until the game hits store shelves. Reaction has been mixed though a segment of the community has been highly critical. Over the years the boxing community has proven to be extraordinarily passionate and outspoken regarding any gripes or perceived slights in games representing the sport. Some of the complaining at the forefront of FNC seems justified in this case as the gameplay, at least at first, seems to appeal more to a casual audience.

There are quite a few things I like a lot about Fight Night Champion based on the demo and a list just as long that drags it down. With the “Champion” story mode being the big selling point of the game that remains worth of anticipation. However the gameplay has issues that are hard shake off. The fundamental changes have benefited the experience but that may not be enough.

The first reaction I had when playing FNC was simply how fast the action is. The fighters are quick and punches can fly at an intense rate. That seems to be primarily due to the new right stick punch system and the lack of stamina drain.

I’m a big fan of the new “Full Spectrum Punch Control” which involves pushing the stick in various directions rather than completing motions with the stick. It is a much less intensive process and allows for putting together combos quicker when the openings present themselves. It took some time to get used to the change as I found myself (and still do) throwing unintended follow-up punches as it played out a sequence I had apparently entered with the stick accidentally.

The new 360 degree camera angle is great and I also appreciate the automated blocking which simplifies things. Being defensive should put the fighter in a protective state rather than having to pretty much just guess at where to block. I like the change and support it but at the same time understand why some wish they would have more control over it or find it to be too easy for their opponents to block their shots.

The lack of stamina drain and ability for fighters to throw near or even over 100 punches a round is the most evident problem seen in the demo. Even if long-term stamina effects are properly implemented (won’t know for sure until fights can go past the three rounds) the short-term effects are not. There is the possibility of running out of gas when throwing heavy-modified shots over and over but the stamina regenerates within seconds and the numbers seen in between rounds show little (if any) drain present.

The one-punch knockouts and knockdown shots seem almost to be completely random. I’ve also seen several wonky shots result in knockdowns including punches that missed (see below), punches to the back of the head, grazed shots that barely connect, and punches that look more to be clotheslines than flush hits. It is ugly to see those things and they are impossible to overlook.

Presentation and commentary are two areas that really haven’t received much enhancement from FNR4. For those who didn’t play the previous game (or spend much time with it) deficiencies in those areas won’t be as obvious. There even seems to be a tip-off as to which fighter won when going to the cards based on what scene plays out. The graphics are fantastic but that may have come at the expense of the frame rate.

Other issues include the inability to move while punching to the body, questionable judging, and poor sound effects. Online performance has been decent but not without hiccups. On the 360 it has been responsive but occasionally experiences pauses and from reading around it would seem the PS3 performance has been worse off.

Given that the game is M rated I take no issue with anything that takes place in “Champion” mode or the effects that are seen due to the brutality in the ring. However there are a couple places where EA Sports has pushed the limits seemingly just because they can and without necessarily needing to. One is in the menus where the songs contain explicit lyrics and I’ve heard from several people who have been unsettled by that. The other is the gratuitous shots of the ring girl where the camera does everything it can to zoom in on and focus on particular parts of the body while lingering there for an uncomfortable length of time. It is just completely unnecessary.

Its unfortunate that there isn’t anything beyond a trailer for “Champion” mode included in the demo as that still looks to be what the success of Fight Night Champion will ultimately ride on. Otherwise EA Sports has delivered a terrific demo with plenty of time to play and even get to fight head-to-head online which is a big development. All that time now until release of the game can be taken advantage of by responding to feedback and getting a tuner set and/or patch out. More to come in a video Padrecast that will go up either tomorrow or Friday!