When I heard "Fight Night Champion" was going to be EA Sports' first M-rated video game, I figured they were just going to play up the blood and gore factor of the sport.
What I didn't expect was the game to start out in prison.
That's right, prison (and it has nothing to do with Mike Tyson being in the game).
But when I sat down to view a clip of the new Champion story mode last week at an EA media event, that's exactly where I found the game's lead character. There he was, boxing in prison, hands wrapped but no gloves, ring surrounded by other prisoners cheering and shouting (no visible shanking), while dressed in their orange jumpers.
Then between rounds, it didn't take long for my cut-man in the corner to drop F-bomb after F-bomb, even referring to my white opponent as a "cracker."
Not what I expected at all.
"Essentially what we wanted to do with Champion mode necessitated this being an M-rated game," explains producer Brian Hayes. "It's a story with mature themes. Not topless mature themes, but it's gritty. Being an unlicensed sports product and being in the world of boxing where there is a lot of stuff going on ... if you're going to tell a story about boxing, it's not going to be, 'Hey, I just got an e-mail from your rival and he's really upset.' There are a lot of fighters who we drew inspiration from, and they've been through some real mature experiences. So we laid out our vision for Champion mode and we said, if we do this, there's no way this can be T.
"Then some of the ancillary benefits were, great, now we can finally do real damage in gameplay. It no longer needs to be softened up. But the catalyst for it all was that we wanted a new Champion mode, and we didn't want to sugarcoat it at all. And if we weren't going to water it down, it had to be mature."
A move that Hayes knows will shock a lot of consumers.
"I think people will be surprised, but I also think they're going to be excited," adds Hayes. "I've been working on the mode for over a year now and I'm still excited about it. 'Fight Night' has never had an M-rating, EA Sports has never had an M-rated game, so we're in a unique position of being one of the only sports games to be able to do it because we don't need to run anything by David Stern or whoever.
"It's up to us, and as long as our boxers are cool with it, we can take the story where it needs to go."