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Fight Night Champion Review: A Benchmark in iOS Sports

Before downloading and playing Fight Night Champion from Electronic Arts, I would have never called myself a fan of boxing. But I’ll be honest, the thought of dancing around the ring and trading blows with an opponent has been going through my head pretty often as of late—probably because I can’t help but pull my phone out of my pocket to get involved in an epic bout whenever I have a spare moment. This game has hooked me, and it’ll hook you, too. Miraculously, Electronic Arts has taken a fairly complex console game and made a spectacular version for iOS devices. From the dazzling visuals to the sublime control scheme, Fight Night Champion raises the bar among iOS sports titles, and affirms itself as one of the platform’s best.

Newcomers to the game will likely be looking for quick action, and Fight Night delivers with the “Fight Now” mode. Here you can pick from a wide selection of boxing’s greatest names, including guys like Eddie Chambers, David Haye, Evander Holyfield, Lennox Lewis, Mike Tyson, and Muhammed Ali, just to name a few . . . My history with boxing might only last as long as I’ve been playing this game, but it’s readily apparent that the sport is well represented by the boxers on hand.

But before getting into the ring against an AI opponent or a friend (using Bluetooth or Wi-Fi), you’ll want to at least have a loose understanding of the controls. Some walkthroughs are available from the main menu if you tap the question mark symbol, though Fight Night doesn’t force you to go through any tutorials. What makes the game function so well is its incredibly innovative use of touch controls. Think of it like this: The screen is divided into four sections, and tapping or swiping any of those four section will launch a blow toward the corresponding body part . . . For instance, tapping the top left of the screen will cause your boxer to throw a left-handed jab toward the opponent’s head. Swiping the top left or top right will throw hooks, and if you direct your swipes up or down, your boxer will throw uppercuts directed at either the body or the head . . . There is a lot of detail involved, and more types of punches than you can comprehend all at once. But after spending some time with the game, it becomes very instinctual, thanks to the clever design of the controls.

But just as important to your success is the ability to use those quick feet. While you’re contemplating what kind of punches to pull out of your arsenal, you will also need to be tilting your device to keep your fighter dancing around where you want him to go. This is one way to avoid getting beat down, though you’ll also want to make use of blocking, which is accomplished by tapping and holding two fingers on the screen, and the leaning your fighter where you want him to go.

Once you’ve got a handle on all of that (and don’t be surprised if there’s a relatively long learning curve), you’re ready to launch a career and make your legacy. This mode of play comes with all the player creation and customization you’d hope for. It’s a satisfying way to play, though the action is much slower than when fighting with the behemoth pros, and you have to take your time to grow your fighter into the monster he can become.

At risk of heaping too much praise on the game, it’s worth noting that the parrying and blocking system could stand improvement. Fights tend to resemble brawls more than boxing matches—probably because blocking is still a bit clumsy and ineffective. In addition, a typical fight in legacy mode can last quite awhile–nearly 20 minutes, in some cases. Realistic, maybe, but that’s a long gaming session on a phone.

But other than those minor detractions, it’s all here: The signature knockouts and bloody, visceral effects you know and love from the console version have made their way to the retina display. And successfully dropping someone to the mat using this detailed and challenging control scheme has never been more satisfying . . . To summarize, this is a must-have sports title for fans of iOS gaming in general—the pros deliver instant, gratifying action, the legacy mode is a long and rewarding journey that provides hours of gameplay, and the ring girls are more scantily clad than you’d expect Electronic Arts could get away with. Like the physique of a middleweight boxer in the prime of his career, this game is very near perfect. Can I make it more clear? Fight Night Champion is certainly worth your five bucks.

Our Score: 4.5 Out of 5


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