Violent competition is an inherent part of boxing, but the Fight Night games have been without a serious rival for some time now. It stands alone in the ring, posing and punching the air before a crowd of cheering fans, content in the knowledge that it only has its own past form to beat. Thankfully there's no sign that the franchise is about to start slacking off its training in favour of doing adverts for HP sauce, or something equally silly. If anything, EA Canada seems keen to eclipse its achievements with Fight Night Round 4, which was arguably the best-received entry in the series to date.
Many of the improvements in Fight Night Champion are quite technical, with blocking being a major focus for the development team. There are now two options when it comes to defending against punches: simply holding down the block button will result in your fighter doing their best to deflect incoming blows, with their success being determined by their raw stats and fatigue level, as well as the properties of the punch itself. If you're feeling a bit braver, however, you can opt to manually block individual attacks; to pull this off you'll need good reflexes and an ability to anticipate your adversary, but if you're good you'll achieve a cleaner, more powerful block.
These refinements open up new tactical approaches to your efforts in the ring. It's now possible to punch from a defensive position, so clamming up and keeping your guard tight at all times is a viable strategy. The downside is that your footwork will be a good degree slower while you've got your fists up, so your opponent may be able to out-manoeuvre you, circling to get at an opening.
On the more aggressive side of proceedings, the lauded Total Punch Control system has now evolved into Full Spectrum Punch Control. It's a self-aggrandising name, for sure, but the accompanying changes sound perfectly sensible. According to the rep at EA's showcase event, there's a whole load of research that shows people were finding it hard to perform quarter circles to the right on the right analogue stick; movements to the left were a cinch, by all accounts, but arcs to the right were giving people major grief. As a result, the 2011 game will only use single-direction flicks for dishing out all your attacks. The left and right side of the stick are still used to govern your two fists, but now it's simply the angle of the flick that determines the punch. Imagine that the right stick is a clock, and that each hour corresponds with a different flavour of violence. And now imagine that the clock's hands are wildly spazzing time all over your opponent's face.