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Fight Night Champion Preview (PS3)

You know, I could get the hang of this Fight Night malarkey. I had never intended to write a preview for Fight Night Champion, because I wasn't familiar with the franchise. Writing about something like that, especially annual franchises, is not something you should really do as a writer, but this I felt was a special case. Regardless, just bear it in mind as you read this that Champion mark my first 'entry' into the series.
 

Nothing's wrong with your face. You look fine, honest...
But basically, I was there, it was there, and someone had just handed me the controller so that I could have a play around with it and I ended up fighting against a good friend of mine from another publication. It was a good match, lasted well into the 7th or 8th round, with neither party really getting the upper hand. Eventually though, I managed to knock him down for the count and won the match. I was pleasantly surprised. Then, someone else stepped up to the plate and I fought against him. I won that one as well. So far then, kudos for making it accessible to new players. When you get to the 5th, 6th titles and beyond in these regular sporting franchises, widening the player-base is just as important as maintaining it.

The controls, despite being considerably different from previous titles as far as I can tell, are still fairly intuitive and easy to get to grips with. The various different types of punches and jabs you can do may be tied to the standard buttons, but the right stick can also be used to throw out jabs as well. Move it right for a right jab, left for a left jab, etc... from what we can gather, it's a bit more rigid than it used to be, but it's still a fairly fluid system, especially with the dodge and block buttons on the triggers.
 
Matches are less about super-punches now than tactical jabbing
Still, that's not to say that just because I won a couple of rounds I'm here to sing it's praises. Even as a casual observer, I still wasn't 100% convinced by what was on offer. Inter-round minigames are gone, that much we do know, which seems odd considering it was a fairly interesting way to mix things up. Also, while the graphics engine is improved, there seems to be something... off, with regards to punches actually connecting. We're not sure if it's just us, but there seems to be a lack of 'umpf' when a punch connects.

In fact the only thing to really signify that a punch as landed (since it looks like you're hitting a force field and sliding off their face half the time) is that the controller vibrates. That's like the cheesy sixties equivalent of the word 'pow' suddenly flashing on the screen like we were in an episode of Batman. Considering the franchise is supposed to take a 'grittier' tone while still maintaining that sense of realism, we couldn't help but feel some tweaking was needed in this area.

Speaking of the grittier tone - an important point with this game was the fact that it's the first EA Sports game to get an 'M' for Mature rating from the ESRB. Part of this can be put done to added visceral bouts - more blood, but most of it has come from the new Champion mode. In this single-player experience, you take the role of Andre Bishop as he fights his way through his career. We're expecting some 'behind-the-scenes' insights and horror stories to emerge here to fit the rating.
 
See? I dunno, that looks a little bit un-realistic if you ask me...

From what information we've gathered, we wouldn't be surprised if Fight Night Champion proves to be more successful with newcomers than with old hands. As with all fairly major gameplay changes, not everyone will like the new direction, but if you've not had any experience with the franchise at all, then there's not that same resistance to change. The new punch controls seem very intuitive once you get the hang of it, but it will be the Champion and Legacy modes that will really define the game, so hopefully those will turn out to be as rich as EA are promising. Fight Night Champion is due out on Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 on March 1st in North America, and March 4th in Europe.

Most Anticipated Feature: Definitely the Champion mode. IT will be interesting to see how rich the narrative really is.

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