In a bid to satisfy everyone at once, EA now accommodates both the stick and face buttons on the same controller mapping, shifting Round 4's button commands to the d-pad. While the buttons will always win for precision, it's still easy to queue up devastating flurries of blows when fighting with the stick, though the age-old problem of imprecision often rears its head when you find yourself swinging three or four times accidentally.
Whereas Rounds 3 and 4 had more demanding punches mapped to increasingly complicated analogue movements, Champion gives each type of swing a particular direction - diagonally upwards to throw a jab, straight across the middle for a hook, and diagonally downwards to bust out the heavy uppercuts.
Buttons also give you access to left and right jabs, hooks and uppercuts, with the latter executed by hitting jab and hook together. Sticks, however, get a few extra moves; push it in a half-way direction between a hook and an uppercut and you'll get the ridiculously titled hookercut, known as a shovel hook in actual boxing. Meanwhile, go between a jab and a hook and you'll get a straight flare.
While making combination punching far more accessible, Full Spectrum controls rob the more advanced blows of some of their complexity and satisfaction, and in doing so ensure the legions of online big-hitters will have an even easier time spamming their constant uppercuts. Other changes include a dialling back on Round 4's heavy emphasis on counter punching (although these blows remain devastating), and automatic switching between blocks for head and body shots. The fighting feels faster as a result, and you're left to focus squarely on the punching, as opposed to the rock-paper-scissors mentality of previous games.
Elsewhere there's the returning Legacy mode, where you either create a boxer from scratch or pick from a stable of boxing legends and then juggle your personal calendar until you've gone toe-to-toe with enough rivals to be declared the Greatest of All Time. Progression here is handled by a new XP system, with you snapping up experience from the myriad of training games and then doling it out into your boxer's various attributes. Every now and then you'll unlock a perk which confers additional bonuses, such as a greater chance of stunning your opponent when you lamp them in the chops.
Most returning players will simply choose to focus their attention to local versus and online modes, with the netcode performance appearing identical to Round 4. XP also carries over to online play, which should suitably compel everyone to put down Call of Duty for half an hour and instead focus on grinding some more levels in this.
Mirroring the communal tendencies of boxers in training, online gangs can now also form their own boxing gyms and compete with each other over the course of a season - the top candidates squaring off in an elimination match to decide the overall champion. Rival gyms can also go toe-to-toe and compete for status, leaderboard honour, and juicy wads of XP. Note that while these features are clearly in place, they were unavailable for testing at time of review.
Round 4's silky smooth 60fps has been chopped in half here, yet in spite of this the game plays faster and the expert application of post-processing effects takes off some of the former game's vacuum-packed look. The law of diminishing returns is starting to kick in, however. Champion would have been a more significant update if it had some more robust changes to its core engine, as matches still feel like they take a bit too long to load, commentary tracks repeat far too often, and punch animations still occasionally look slightly wonky.
There's just not quite enough meat on Fight Night Champion's bones to recommend it to owners of previous games, however, and Champion mode itself is little more than a brief diversion you can bash through in an afternoon. The core mechanics still do a good job of imitating the sweet science, but EA could have done with a longer rest before getting back in the ring.
VideoGamer.com Score7 Score out of 10
- Champion mode is entertaining fluff.
- Fight Night still looks incredible.
- Ignores series' existing problems.
- Champion mode is very short.