Fight Night has been the premier boxing franchise for many years, but with this year's installment, EA Sports want to take it too the next level. They've become the first EA Sports title to include a storyline, and they've also ditched the numerical increment to the game's name and instead gone with the singular moniker of "Champion". It's a fitting change too, as this really is the champion of boxing titles.
Whereas most sports titles, EA or otherwise, just allow for a career mode and various exhibition options, Fight Night Champion features a full-on story mode where you take control of Andre Bishop. A promising young boxer, Bishop has the world at his feet, that is, until he decides to stand-up to a promoter and ends up getting sent to jail based on a bogus conviction. While in prison, Bishop hones his skills and when he gets out, gets back into the ring - there's some scores to be settled.
The film has various elements of other boxing-based films down the years, like Wesley Snipes' Undisputed. It paints a very dim picture of the "behind-the-scenes" world of boxing, but it's one that everyone knows exists. The only disappointing element to it, is that it's rather short, taking only an hour or two to complete. It's still a big step in the right direction for EA though, and including it, alongside all of the game's other content, can only be seen as a positive.
To compliment the story mode, there's the standard Exhibition, but there's also Legacy Mode, which is rather similar to other EA Sports' titles. In this mode, you can create a boxer, then take him all the way from the bottom rung, up to being the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. It works in a way that other fighting games have also employed. You schedule a fight, then you can train/rest in the weeks that lead up to it. The different training exercises can take a little bit of time to get used to, and getting the top scores can be a bit tricky at first, but your fighter isn't a world beater. It gives you something to work for, like you're actually having to improve. The mode also offers a nice array of statistics, so you can monitor your progress over time.
It's a competent mode, and it can occupy you for quite a while, but it doesn't really stray too far from the tried and tested. It would have been nice to see some different ideas floating around, maybe from the management side of things, because otherwise it all just becomes a bit routine and boring.
Moving away from that though, and onto the gameplay, the developers decided that Fight Night: Round 4's controls didn't necessarily work out as planned, So, they went back to the drawing board and came up with Full-Spectrum Punch Control. It's a system that builds on the previous version, Total-Punch Control, by allowing punches to be thrown a lot more effectively with the right analogue-stick. Flicking it to the diagonal-up, will launch a jab, flicking it to the left or right will launch a straight and flicking it diagonal-down will launch an uppercut. As you probably guessed, flicking left or right denotes which hand you throw the punch with.