Fight Night Champion Story Mode Review

Posted February 28th, 2011 at 10:30 am

Fight Night Champion is being sold by EA Sports on the strength of its “Champion” story mode. Certainly on a personal level the mode is what I was looking forward to most, having never been a huge fan of the Fight Night series though still recognizing its achievements. After completing it in 3 hours and 19 minutes of play-time here are my full thoughts on “Champion” mode.¬†Warning: There are minor spoilers contained within this review.

The theme of the story is essentially all about overcoming adversity. It extends beyond just a straight-forward path to the top, as the main character Andre Bishop is first found fighting for himself in prison. It then flashes back four years prior toearly in his career before making its way back to the present and going beyond with his comeback. The story is linear in its progression meaning certain outcomes have to be achieved in order for the story to advance.

The fights themselves include some scripted elements which will either be perceived as adding to the unique experience or bothersome as the events aren’t organic. I actually liked some of the things that happened in the fights I just wish they had happened in a less obvious way. For example there is a fight where you have to protect a cut that is opened up early. The cut happens on the first punch of the fight no matter how weak it is. It would have been better if it just would have happened at some random point in the first round. In general though it was nice to have every fight feel completely different based both on opponents and circumstances.

For some reason there is one particular fight, which occurs relatively early in the story mode, that was hugely frustrating. It got so bad that I had to turn off the game and take a break, later returning and nearly giving up for good before finally getting over the hump. One left hook (which they warn is his strength) and you’re sent to the canvas.

What made it all the more puzzling was even after turning the difficulty all the way down to “Amateur” the knockdowns were still unavoidable and it took a lucky break (after having to restart several times) to eventually knock him out. Prior to that fight I was basically breezing through and after that fight I never experienced anything like it again.

Outside of that one example the difficulty was fairly level, growing gradually as the opposition became tougher. Combining in with that were various in-fight story-dependent goals. Those could be related to injuries or bribed judges and refs.¬†There is one twist near the end of the story that I don’t want to give away but I particularly enjoyed in how it played out.

The story doesn’t really ramp up until the last hour. That is when the main villain, boxer Isaac Frost, begins to play a bigger role. As the evil promoter at odds with Andre, DL McQueen does not work nearly as well as the direct antagonist. I didn’t feel invested in the story or the even the main character until Frost got more involved rather than being in the background. Cliche-ridden as it is, the story does add some gravity and purpose to the fights which makes it more of an experience and valuable in that sense.

One ill-timed glitch occurred in the very last fight, when the CPU opponent stood still for the entire 4th round taking all the punishment that could be doled out. Things were back to normal after coming out for the fifth. No way to know whether this was just a random happening or if there may be some issue in that fight that could lead to it happening for others as well.

Technically the mode is put together very well. The presentation is excellent and the voice acting is superb. It is easy to tell Eliza Dushku has done this before because she in particular delivers her lines in a very natural manner. The dialogue is gritty and realistic but most impressively there really are no cringe-worthy lines or developments in the story. The use of Brian Kenny in the Friday Night Fights studio is a nice touch as well, though sadly the first time it came on it was missing the accompanying audio.

The commentary is unfortunately largely the same as what is heard in every other area of Fight Night Champion. It grew tiresome to hear how Bishop had told them “to have success he would have to land combinations” in every…single…fight.

There were moments of brilliance though as some commentary was recorded specifically for the mode. One in particular that caught my attention was how a certain injury was a recurrence of one first sustained while in prison. Others mainly had to do with issues taking place in the ring. It is just disappointing that there wasn’t more of that. The commentators could have really added to the backstory and pushed along immediate events by providing additional information more often.

3 hours and 19 minutes is short, there is no getting around that. The play-through can be extended artificially by raising the difficultly level leading to fights being taken deeper or the need to be re-play them in order to come out victorious. I’m not sure how much of a factor that should be though in evaluating the mode. Ultimately the story is a determined short length and boxing can be longer. Getting stuck re-playing fights doesn’t necessarily make for a richer experience.

It would be difficult to recommend Fight Night Champion to those interested in the game solely for story mode. The level of content wouldn’t justify the cost and the actual story wasn’t all that compelling until the final hour. For those who see the story mode as additional content to the rest of the game however it at least succeeds in that regard.