Prior to writing this final assessment of Fight Night Champion, I was going to unleash my anger directly at the displeasure I was having during game’s final fight. At that point, I was well into my second hour of attempting to finish the game and was unable to progress any further. I was disappointed because it was such a predictable challenge and yet, its unreasonable difficulty made it feel cheap. While it was in my opinion the low point of the game, I still absolutely loved the mode and hope that other sports title incorporate something similar.
The second half of Champion Mode moves at a quick pace. You begin your journey as a heavyweight boxer first proving yourself in Mexico against a couple of different fighters. Because of Bishop’s upbringing as a middleweight fighter, your speed over the power of most heavyweights works in your favor.
As you make your way up the ranks and towards the conclusion of the game, more situation-based fights begin to appear. In one fight in particular, you severely injure your right hand and must defeat your opponent by throwing only left handed punches. Of course you can risk throwing rights, but as you do, your health begins to deteriorate, leaving yourself open to an easy loss.
In another fight, it initially appears to be pretty normal until you begin to hear the Referee in the ring begin to warn you about low punches. Of course, you’re not actually throwing anything low but it appears that the he might be in the pocket of D.L. McQueen, the promoter and the game’s antagonist . For the entire fight, you have to rely on throwing punches towards the upper body and head and avoiding the low strikes that will result in a deduction in points and/or your disqualification.
These varying fights are interesting because in a story mode like this, you want to get some variety. Learning to fight alternative ways is a sneaky way of teaching the player that you can’t simply win by mashing buttons or doing the same thing time and time again.
To avoid some spoilers, the two lead-up fights towards the game’s final bout also change up things but are still quite challenging in their own regard. But as you reach this point in the game, you strongly believe that not only has Andre Bishop become a great boxer, that you as the player have developed to the point that you can take on any challenger.
Of course, your skills get thrown out the window when you reach the final fight. Rather than let you fight your fight, you are completely restricted into a scripted bout. Even if you manage to stun Frost to the point that a knockout would be possible against any other fighter, you have zero chance of dishing a KO until the later rounds of the match.
The Frost fight is broken up into four sections, each lasting about 2-3 rounds. In the first two rounds, you are instructed by your trainer, Gus to simply avoid Frost at all costs. So, for the first six minutes of the contest, you are walking around the ring avoiding an onslaught of attacks. During those first two rounds, Frost might throw anywhere between 150-200 punches; while only half of them may land, you are still extremely vulnerable and could likely hit the canvas. But what makes this even more unfair is that the majority of his punches are power punches; when they land, they more often than not stun Bishop and leave him practically defenceless.
If you manage to survive the first two rounds, for the next three you finally get to go on the offensive but are limited to what you can do. This time, you are instructed to go for Frost’s body to wear him down. You have three rounds to land 75 body punches but doing so leaves yourself even more vulnerable to Frost’s vicious attacks.
Because you need to target his body, the most effective way of doing so is to get in close, throw a few punches then back away. But while you’re attacking that part of his body, it leaves yourself even more open to his punches. Since you leaning downwards, your head is wide open and with Frost able to punch and almost always connect with your head, the likelihood of being stun is increased.
Additionally, because you have to hit him 75 times over the three rounds, even if you magically do it in 2 rounds, that last round still has to play out before your strategy is changed.
The next task puts you back on the defense. During the last three rounds, since Frost is attracted to your face, you’ve developed a cut above the eye that needs time to heal. For the next two rounds, the objective is again to avoid Frost at all cost. If he lands 8 punches to that hit the part of the face, the ref will stop the fight. This part is actually not so difficult if you simply keep moving and not allow Frost to attack the head. Even if you intelligently protect your head, Frost’s punches are capable of breaking through your protection.
Once you manage to last those two rounds, it seems like Frost is at the end of his ropes and it’s your opportunity to finish him off. The eighth round should be where you finally end the fight. The objective here is to land a good, powerful punch that Frost doesn’t see coming. Once you land that key punch, you break into a slow-motion scene that allows you to punch him a few more times before he drops.
There are a number of problems with this final fight. On top of you losing the ability to fight the way you’ve been learning and playing in previous fights, the increased difficulty of Frost and the way it all ends is disappointing. Fine, Bishop has a vendetta against Frost but being so overpowered that it feels that Bishop is a child fighting against a man is infuriating. Then, to be able to beat him by only landing roughly 75-100 punches over 8 rounds feels weird and illogical.
The final fight could have probably played out in two ways. The first was to make it a long-dramatic bout where it was all about survival of the fittest. Let the player fight the way that they have learned leading up to this point and let the game only end after reaching the 10th round. Having both Frost and Bishop fall during the fight so the player feels a number of different emotions would have been so much more enjoyable that what the fight actually was.
The other way was that it appeared that the fight actually should have been longer. As already mentioned, being able to take down Frost after only 8 rounds feels unrealistic considering our gameplan. Regardless of the fact that Frost hasn’t had to fight such a long fight, his physique and experience as a fighter would have still allowed him to at least last a couple of more rounds. Also, to be able to knock him down only once and for that to be the final nail in his coffin felt unbelievable. This is especially true when other fighters in the game take at least two knockdowns before they lose. It strongly appears that the developers intended for the fight to go to the tenth round before Bishop ultimately wins; they just were uncertain how they could prolong the fight and to find an interesting offensive mechanic which would allow for that.
While the final fight in Fight Night Champion could have been played out differently and been much more enjoyable, this is a problem that is faced by so many games. In any case, the overall experience of Champion Mode is something that was not only surprisingly enjoyable but also one that surpassed any expectations of what is possible in a sports game.
It’s probably unlikely something like this could be included in a team sports game like a FIFA, NBA 2K or Madden, but individual sports titles like Tiger Woods, Top Spin and even an upcoming UFC game is quite possible.
With EA acquiring the rights to the UFC and that the Fight Night Team at EA Canada will be responsible for the title, incorporating this mode in that game would be quite incredible. They could something quite similar: you play as an up-and-coming MMA fighter and endure the ups and downs that most people in that profession face. There are so many different ways it could be approached that would be interesting and varied.
Those who want something different in a Sports game should definitely pick up Fight Night Champion. In an interesting move, EA Sports released the Champion Mode of the game as a PSN download last year. For 4.99, you can download the mode and experience the story. At that price, it’s more than worth its asking price. Additionally, the game has already been heavily discounted at most retailers that you could probably find it for anywhere between 15 and 30 dollars. Again, this is a very different take for a sports game and hopefully it won’t be the only time a developer is willing to take a similar risk.