If you think about it, the noble sport of boxing is the perfect basis for a videogame: it’s thrilling to watch but, in real life, painful to practise. And one franchise towers over the boxing games genre like Muhammad Ali in his prime: Fight Night. And now Fight Night Champion promises to be the franchise’s finest moment – its Thrilla in Manila or Rumble in the Jungle. Hence the change in naming convention: coming after Fight Night Round 4, you would have expected it to be called Round 5.
For Fight Night Champion to represent a quantum leap over Round 4 is a major achievement in itself: Round 4 stunned everyone with its astonishing level of graphical realism. Champion builds on that to such an extent it will surely be hailed as the most realistic-looking sports sim ever, adding a dynamic blood system (which could leave the ring awash after a particularly brutal bout), plus even more accurate bruising and body-deformation systems.
Champion Mode - One huge all-new feature is Champion Mode: a full story mode, in which you take control of raw but talented middleweight Andre Bishop and guide him through a career, which even encompasses prison-brawling and bare-knuckle fighting, alongside Bishop’s progression through the boxing ranks. Champion Mode was inspired by classic boxing movies, and adds a whole new cinematic angle to the Fight night blueprint.
Full-Spectrum Punch Control - Fight Night Champion also boasts a completely revamped control system, which developer EA Canada has dubbed, rather grandiosely, Full Spectrum Punch Control. Fiendishly clever, it has been designed both to make the game more accessible for novices and to let more experienced gamers exercise incredibly fine control over their punching. Basically, Full Spectrum Punch Control maps punching to the right analogue stick (with boxer movement mapped to the left stick). So, if you move the right stick to the right, your boxer will unleash a right-handed punch, and if you move it to the left, he will punch with his left. The angle you choose determines the type of punch: flicking upwards will launch a straight punch, to the side a hooking punch and downwards an uppercut – with a full spectrum of intermediate punches in between, hence the name.
If you don’t fancy the sound of that, you’ll still be able to use the face buttons to punch: you can choose from a number of controller maps. Also, this time around, Fight Night Champion makes use of a heavy-punch-modifier, and lets you perform stepping punches, where you move in towards your opponent (which adds power, but are easier to block). The game has a completely new reflexive blocking system, and it will be important to master subtle techniques such as weaving, stepping and ducking. Fight Night Champion takes account of fatigue much more realistically than its predecessors: punches thrown when fatigued even have different animations.
Legacy Mode and Online Gyms - Legacy Mode, in time-honoured Fight Night fashion, lets you generate a boxer, take on champion boxers of yore and work him up through the ranks, both offline and online. Another cool feature is Online Gyms which, as the name suggests, lets you create an online gym in which you can slug it out with your mates to decide who is top dog. And if you reckon you can handle it, you can take on other people’s Online Gyms via so-called Rivalry Challenges. One of the joys of your Online Gym is that you can make the rules – so you’ll be able to fight 15-round bouts or change the round length if you feel that way inclined.
There’s not even a shadow of doubt that Fight Night Champion will come closer to capturing the experience of being a boxer than any game before it. Indeed, it may well prove to be the most realistic sports game ever, bar none. If you’re a true lover of the pugilistic arts, then it’s the game you’ve been waiting for all your life.