Sport games tend to be predictable. New editions appear like clockwork, refined but rarely breaking the mould. EA Sports' latest boxing title is different, daring to shift the focus to its story.
Usually these fusions of sport and story are ham-fisted failures, but Fight Night Champion combines the two with skill. The story might be a clichéd tale of a boxer's rise, fall and comeback but it is well told. And, more importantly, the narrative defines the objective of each match so in one you might need to knock out your opponent, in another an injury forces you to focus on punching with one hand.
In the ring, it's all about realism. As in real-life, Fight Night Champion is as much about skill, tactics and timing as raw power. In keeping with this the controls are intricate, requiring time and effort to get to grips with. But once mastered the game comes alive, offering you plenty of scope to float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.
But while story takes centre stage, the real substance of the game is in its more traditional legacy mode where you guide a boxer of your choice or creation through their career. It works like a role-playing game, each match earning you experience points to spend on developing your fighter.
There are flaws though. The in-match camera is a tad slow to move when your opponent or the referee blocks your view and it can be hard to tell how well you're doing due to the limited on-screen info about your opponent. In addition the subtle audio and controller vibrations don't quite do enough to convey the sensation of landing and receiving blows.
But taken as a whole, Fight Night Champion succeeds in delivering a realistic boxing game that captures the sport's brutality and beauty.