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hey kid, the short, gnarled, stereotypical Irish-American boxing coach here. have you never seen a boxing movie? what about any movies at all? no, well then you're gonna be blown away by the originality of the new story mode in Fight Night Champion.
no, it's unfortunately not going to win the 2011 John Grisham prize (presented annually to a story with the fewest clichés), but having said that, it does add some much needed variation to what was becoming a slightly stale series.
the most impressive thing about Fight Night Champion is the visuals. right from the metaphorical first bell (which here means loading screen), it proceeds to clothe itself in crisp, detailed rendering, impressive animation and smooth texture shaped glory. the cut scenes are some of the best of this year (largely down to the highly realistic and convincingly expressive faces) and are incorporated in such a way as to blend near-seamlessly with the action. moreover, the sound and commentary is mostly spot on, with ESPN branded, TV-type flourishes like ring-side analysis and studio links waiting to add extra panache when you hit the big time.
but much of that lies ahead. for now, while your still slightly dazzled by the slickness of the production, the overwhelming rush of the hilariously predictable beast that is the story, begins. you awake to find that you have been floored by a probably-deep-down-decent-but-just-fallen-in-the-with-the-wrong-crowd and skull-tattoo laden white supremacist, during a tutorial which masquerades as a brutal, bear-knuckle bout. "oh boy" says Sam; although Ziggy says there's a 99% chance you'll beat this guy, 'cos that's how the game starts.
you play as Josh Lee, the fresh-faced son of tax accountant Val and veterinarian Jiang from the leafy college town of Ithaca, upstate New York. next year, rather than stay at home and take up the place you've been offered at Cornell, you're heading down to Duke on a full academic scholarship. however, for the meantime, you've annoyed your ever supportive parents by deciding to follow your passion for boxing. an abundance of acoustic and indie music will accompany you on your journey.
narrative is basically a load of truism filled, stereotypical (Raging) Bull.
nah, only joking. you're André Bishop - you po', black, and in the jailhouse and it's hip hop all the way, g. yours is a Hard Knock Life, and from the outset it's clear it's going to be a Rocky road, but don't worry, things are bound to come good for you - just like Cinderella, Man. yuuup, the narrative is basically a load of truism filled, stereotypical Raging Bull, but it does it's thing and you got to do yours.
for devotees of the Fight Night series, however, the familiarity largely ends with the pitifully predictable narrative arc and set-piece scenarios. much of the stuff inside the ring has been switched right up. gone are the callous-producing, ultra-precision right stick manoeuvres, in is a heavily simplified control scheme that sees all the punches in your man-arsenal ready at your beck and call, and summonsed by only a flick of the stick in a particular direction.
simplified punching gives way to more straightforward blocking, a more precise power punch mechanic (no more hhhhayyyyymmmmmaaaakerrrrrrs) and generally smoother, simpler and more straightforward interactions. on the one hand it's clearly a significant step forward which opens the game up in a much-needed way, on the other, past masters might be annoyed at how little good all those hand cramps and blisters does them here.
the action in the ring is swift (too fast for fans of realism) and more brutal than ever. teeth on-edge-setting 'crunch' sounds that we all know and love and now joined by a queasily realistic impact and damage mechanic. eyes cut and colour up, brows swell and heads lump and split just like for real. pretty it ain't, and it's out to leave you in no doubt how harsh a place the squared circle can be. having said that, quite often the amount of blood daubed around the ring seems more UFC than WBC (NB. World Boxing Council not Westboro Baptist Church).
action in the ring is swift (too fast for fans of realism).
however, for all the cuts and clichés - and i think they're all covered - the story mode is enjoyable and makes a decent job of breaking things up and adding little novelties which help keep the journey from getting too repetitive. the same cannot really be said, however, for the Legacy career mode.
while there is still fun to be had from following the standard Fight Night path of creating a fighter that looks like your pacifist uncle, giving him a really camp name and then training him to beat the seventeen bells out of everyone, by now, it's all really starting to feel pretty tired. the training mini-games, which were unbelievably tedious in Fight Night Round 4, have been spruced and spiced up by about 0.9%. there's still enjoyment to be gleaned, but if you're anything like me, you'll find yourself having to seek it in shorter sessions than you used to.
despite certain 'charms', with around six hours of Champion mode to brawl through and longevity added by means of on and off-line multiplayer modes (although i did encounter some issues with ... l.a.g ... when i played) Fight Night Champion packs a punch (oh %^*£@*, i think it's catching). it's not one for the young-uns or the squeamish though, PEGI weren't being prudish when they slapped a 16 up front.
anyway, that's enough from me, i leave you to get back to where you were. oh dear, did you pass out? wow, that man looks angry and all these people seem to want him to hurt you. ah well, man up.
[if you'd like to see more of the weird and wonderful world of reallyquitetired then the door is always open at his semi-detached house/blog]
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