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

Thankfully, it floats like a butterfly and stings like a bulldozer

Y’know the main reason we never quite got on with Fight Night Round 4? Exchanging face-crumpling punches (especially as both boxers lost stamina) felt about as impactful as a glorified pillow fight… sadly minus the hot women in their undercrackers.

Above: Seriously, pillows

But sweet baby Jeebus has developer EA Canada ever put this right in Champion. Within seconds of our first bout it’s clear how much more weight both fighters and their punches carry. Even simple jabs feel eye-watering compared to the previous title, helped in no small part to the most convincing damage model we’ve seen from the series.

Forgive us for going weapons-free with the cliché gun, but there are points during fights were we physically flinch at some of the game’s bone-crunching blows.Because every punch now feels like its being backed up by 20 stone of murderous muscle, Fight Night finally matches the wince-inducing impact of THQ’s UFC titles.

Above: David Haye is the biggest new addition to the series and boy does he love breaking out a beatdown

Bouts are more unpredictable than a date with Mike Tyson

The Heavy Punch Modifier not only makes knockouts and knockdowns hella exciting, blink-and-you’ll-miss-them events, it also makes the action totally unpredictable. One second you might think you’re tenderising your opponent like a 16oz ribeye steak. Then BAM! You’re making sweet mouth whoopee with the canvas.

Above: Expect to see these sort of faces a whole lot

Knockouts can come from any kind of punch now, meaning it’s finally possibly to lay someone out with a jab. Punches are much more difficult to read, too, thanks to a myriad of swift, subtle new animations. The days of seeing a telegraphed Haymaker come from half an Ice Age away have well and truly gone the way of the dinosaur, dodo and Ricky Hatton’scareer.

Champion mode could be a game changer

We might be a bit conflicted over how EA’s latest pugilist handles itself in the ring, but we’re still damn pumped for its story-driven Champion mode. Putting you in the criminal jumpsuit of Andre Bishop, you’ve got to bare-knuckle box your way through illegal prison bouts.

Above: We love the smell of cracked knuckles in the morning

And that’s before you get confronted withRocky-style crotchety trainers, corrupt promoters and even threatened with bloody guns. Its story also packs a fair amount of pedigree, having been written by Oscar-nominated screenwriter Will Rokos. If the mode can deliver a decent tale, Bishop’sadventure could finally stamp the kind of personality onto Fight Night the series has needed for years.

Fight Night Champion is out March 4, 2011, which hopefully means EAcould yet address the issues we have with the stripped down controls and blocking. If nothing else, though, this fighter packs one hell of a punch.

Plus it totally has Eric ‘Butterbean’ Esch in it.Between you and us,the jiggling of his virtual man boobsmay be themost hypnotic thing we've ever seen...

Feb 1, 2011