Last summer, we played Fight Night: Round 4 for all of a week. Don’t get us wrong. It was a hell of a week, full of multiplayer knockouts, hooting, buckets of blood and even a little bit of hollering. And then… well, we never played it again. Partly because fighters felt a little too weedy, partly because the game’s Total Punch Control felt a bit unwieldy.
That’s why we were so pleased to see the radical changes being made to Fight Night Champion at a recent EA event. With a simpler, more intuitive punching system and the most wince-inducing, meaty punches we’ve ever seen with our eye holes, EA’s latest boxer really could be a champ.
Punching a man’s face off is easier than ever
Get ready for another exciting new EA box art phrase, kids. This year, Fight Night is all about Full Spectrum Punch Control. Replacing the previous Total Punch Control, the new system completely reworks how you break a man’s mug with the right stick. In the old games, you would perform arching, circular gestures with your thumb to dole out hooks and uppercuts. Now, though, you simply flick the stick in different directions to pull off punches.
Above: Manny Pacquiao is one of the few fighters to have been announced so far. True to form, he's amaze
The reason behind the drastic change? Developer EA Canada discovered most people tended to favour left handed punches in the game, simply because pushing the right stick to the left, rather than pulling it to the right, was a more natural gesture. It’s this desire for more natural control that’s inspired Champion’s more intuitive boxing, which makes turning your opponent into the Elephant Man simpler than ever before.
Haymakers have been ditched
Say sayonara to Round 4’s megaton match enders. EA Canada describes the previous few games' wound up, stupidly telegraphed punches as cartoony. And it’s right. Compared to Champion’s new Heavy Punch Modifier, laying a pugilist out with the old Looney Toons-style shots looks ridiculous. Not only is the new system more realistic, it also encourages you to go for bigger punches, as it’s now much quicker to put some knockout sauce on a punch by holding the modifier down.
Above: The Heavy Punch Modifier means you won't miss haymakers a jot
Still, we can sense that upside down frown forming at the thought of losing the old titles’ flashy ultra KOs. Not to worry. Champion now packs one punch knockouts, which can lay your opponent out at anytime during a match. And we really do mean anytime. During the fight we watched between current WBA World Heavyweight Champion David Haye and Roy Jones Junior, the Brit laid out his foe with a gut-ruining blow to the stomach in the opening 60 seconds. BAM!
Blocking is all about timing now
Stopping a rival boxer from punching you into two weeks on Tuesday in previous Fight Nights was a tad cheap. You could basically just hold down the block button with a bit of stick shimmying and suck up most of their punches like a six pack-sporting sponge. But that’s all changed. Champion encourages you to parry blows precisely with its Reflexive Blocking System. If you tap the right trigger and judge the right direction a punch is going to hit you from, you’ll automatically knock your opponent's glove away, letting you move in for a counter punch.
Above: This is blocking... done really badly
Leaning has also been changed. Where before you could just rotate the stick to make your boxer lean in and out of shots, now you hold the modifier down and simply flick the stick to start moving about like the world’s most punchy mambo dancer.
EA have streamlined the action between bouts
Yeah, the mid round cut men who used to fix your face after you’d taken a beaten? Gone. Now, the process is much quicker because you’re patched up automatically after a round. The rate at which you recover from cuts or regain stamina is also directly tied into how you fight. Get your face smashed into a delicious pulp by fighting like a reckless mental and your team will struggle to repair the damage.
Above: Get cut badly and your team won't be able to put you back together again
Recovering stamina works in a similar way. Go in like a mad man, dancing around like Muhammad Ali after he’s downed 44 black coffees, and you’ll tire yourself out. This means your stamina will recharge less than if you’d fought more conservatively by moving less and throwing fewer punches.
It’s bloodier than a Carrie-sponsored prom
Honestly, the red juice of life gets everywhere. Once a boxer is cut open the blood will stain his body, his trunks and the ring for the rest of the fight. See that picture below? That’s a mild cut. Better gear yourself up for a bloody good time. Or, y’know, just a bloody one.
Above: Bloody trunks. Marvel at the power of games, petty mortals
Fight Night Champion looks set to make the series more accessible than it’s ever been before. Don’t worry about the game being dumbed down, though. From what we’ve seen, the changes to the punching system merely make the game more natural and brutal than before. There’s also a potentially mega exciting story-driven career mode snuck away in Champion, which we’re not allowed to talk about yet. We’re such dirty teases.
Nov 8, 2010