Fight Night Champion
|Xbox 360||PlayStation 3|
|Surround Support||Dolby Digital||Dolby Digital, 5.1LPCM|
It's all change for the Fight Night franchise. With the original development studio disbanded, EA Canada has now taken over, implementing a series of changes to the game's control setup, the composition of its single-player mode and indeed the basics of the rendering tech.
It's difficult to imagine that anyone would have any issues with the story and objective-driven Champion mode, which provides some much-needed narrative and works well in addition to the beefed up Legacy option, which significantly improves upon the Round 4 offering.
However, the changes to the implementation of the analogue punching stick along with complaints about the responsiveness of the controls rage on and these are factors that are identical on both Xbox 360 and PS3 versions of the game.
Indeed, the quality of the final game on both HD console SKUs is probably the one of the least controversial elements of the package. It's uniformly solid work from Electronic Arts.
A lot of changes have been made to the look and feel of the game since the well-received Fight Night Round 4. There's a clear visual upgrade here - the boxers are even more detailed and better-lit, the referee is now included in the action, and there is a clear improvement in the quality of the animation, further enhanced by the implementation of some really smooth motion blur.
The feeling of solidity and reality in the action is highly impressive, and it's given a significant boost by an almost complete lack of clipping in the fighters and the surrounding environments. It's also clear that the quality of the lighting is significantly upgraded over the last game too.
There are some similarities with its predecessors, however. Fight Night Champion operates at native 720p with 4x MSAA on Xbox 360, with the PS3 game swapping in quincunx AA instead. This adds a blur to the artwork, detracting just a touch from the precision look of the visuals on the Sony platform, but this is the only really noticeable blot on the copybook in terms of a direct head-to-head comparison.
Other differences are far less significant. In this shot, for example, we see a more aggressive LOD in place on the Xbox 360 version of the game, impacting the audience. Perhaps polycount is reduced owing to the bandwidth overheads of the tiling that the 4x MSAA consumes. However, conversely texturing is worse on the PS3 rendition. Switch to the conventional view of the fighters during gameplay and happily the two SKUs are effectively identical.
One of the areas where the game has managed to divide its fanbase is in the frame-rate. On the plus side, we see platform parity in all areas of the game, but on the minus side, this is the first Fight Night on HD consoles to operate at 30FPS. In terms of the fluidity of the visuals, the high-quality motion blur does a really impressive job of making up for the reduction in temporal resolution, but there is a deficit to be paid in terms of the controller response - it takes noticeably longer for your commands to be registered.
There is almost a sense that the differences in the control scheme between Champion and Round 4 are related to this. The freeform Total Control system of the old game is exchanged in favour of a new Full Spectrum Punch Control, which has much more in common with a traditional mechanism, with stick directions taking the place of button presses (though these are supported too, simply with a more limited range of moves on offer).
As evidenced by the comments thread on the original review, some like it while others are not so impressed, but it is definitely a shame that both input mechanisms are not supported. Bearing in mind the additional latency, you have to wonder if the old control scheme simply wouldn't work that well with the new setup.
For the purposes of this analysis, it's really difficult to level any kind of criticism at the quality of the two games in relation to one another. EA has established an excellent reputation over the last couple of years for cross-platform parity and Fight Night Champion can only be chalked up as another major win.