Fight Night Champion hands-on: exciting, savage... and slightly dumbed down

Find out why EA's most thrilling fighter yet could also be its most worringly simple

We won%26rsquo;t lie. We%26rsquo;re really conflicted when it comes to Fight Night Champion. On one blood-stained glove, it%26rsquo;s arguably the most surprising and thrilling game in the series. And on the other%26hellip; well, lets just say theboxing is currently more %26lsquo;Hulk smash!%26rsquo; than sweet science. Based on our hands-on with the game at a recent EA event, it%26rsquo;s definitely got all the hallmarks of a champ%26hellip; just with a bit of chump snuck in there, too.


Above: Champ or chump? Find out below


One punch knockouts are amazing

So much so, we reckon they%26rsquo;re the most exciting thing to happen to the series in years. Yeah, yeah. We know they were supposedly in predecessor Round 4. But over dozens of fights we were lucky if we saw more than three or four of the buggers. Thankfully, our afternoon with Champion is different, because nearly half our matches end with these bout-kiboshing mega shots.


Above: Smokin' Joe Frazier loves laying the knockout juice on thick

Not convinced? Just use your eye holes to watch one of them below, shortly after the two minute mark...


Above: Champion also has refs on-screen during bouts now. That's worth an extra point, right?

The new Heavy Punch Modifier (which can potentially turn any shot into an instant KO bringer by pressing RB/R1 when you unleash a punch), mean fights are often over before you%26rsquo;ve time to pick your shattered gum shield off the mat. Thank Manny Pacquiao%26rsquo;s beady little eyes, the fiddly Haymaker system has been ditched. Because the split-secondknockouts Champion%26rsquo;s new heavy punches bring to the table are (and excuse our non French) shitting brilliant.

BUT%26hellip;


The action feels worryingly dumbed down

There%26rsquo;s no getting around it. Despite the fancy Full Spectrum Control moniker, Champion%26rsquo;s revised punching system feels oversimplified. Past Fight Nights felt so visceral thanks to their arching circular right stick gestures, which forced you to recreate the general motion of a hook or an uppercut with your thumb. But now, you simply perform hooks by flicking the stick left or right and uppercuts with downward diagonal flicks. Sadly, it makes the stick feel like a glorified set of face buttons.

This simplified system also means you%26rsquo;ll find yourself throwing far more punches because they%26rsquo;re easier to pull off. Of course, this isn%26rsquo;t necessarily a bad thing. What it does do, though, is rob fights of some of the natural ebb and flow of the earlier games.


Above: Stamina now regenerates on its own, depending on how many punches you throw

Because the mid-round healing system is now automated, fights feel more even than in the past. From the ten or so bouts we play, it%26rsquo;s harder to dominate your opponent. And the automatic blocking system (which sees your fighter defend himself from all face and body shots just by holding down the block modifier) puts more emphasis on mindless punching than careful blocks and parries. In a word or%26hellip; eh, several; Champion currently feels less tactical and involving than Round 4.

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