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Previews

Fight Night Champion

EA returns to the ring with a flick fight

The Fight Night series established a whole new approach to punching men in the head and body.

The introduction of EA's Total Punch Control meant gamers needed to bring a certain amount of technique to the ring and got a more organic experience in return.

What's that? You've never taken part in an EA sponsored bout? Allow us to give you a quick intro to the theory. Take a knee son.

Total Punch Control is all based on the right analogue stick. A quick, straight, diagonal flick up to the left or right triggers a left or right jab, while a quarter turn on the stick will make your boxer unleash a hook to the side of his opponents head.

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By pulling back and pushing up on the right stick players can hit opponents with an uppercut and all of the punches can be strung together and modified to target the body using the shoulder buttons.

You might have noticed that the movement on the right analogue stick replicates, to some extent, the movement of the real-life jaw-breaker.

It was a system that EA Sports rolled out to its other major franchises; skills moves in FIFA and Skate, and recently EA MMA's own slapping and kicking were all given the same Total Control system and we never looked back.

Until now that is. In our first demo with Fight Night Champion - the latest in the Fight Night series - we were introduced to a new control system, which introduces more variety to the violence but somehow isn't quite so total.

Gone are the days of pleasuring your pad with twists and arcs of the thumb. Now it's all about the flicks and there are loads more of them.

This time it's the angle of those flicks that makes all the difference. For example, flicking the stick up will give a jab; a slightly lower flick will produce a slightly different jab - it might be sloppier, it might come in at a different angle.

The jabs keep changing as you flick closer to ninety degrees until the punch eventually evolves into a hook half way down the semi-circle.

We weren't able to slip our hands into the gloves ourselves so we can't actually say how the new system felt, but our initial impression is a cautious one.

The new punch system allows for a much wider arsenal of punches, each with their own nuances. That's a major plus for the franchise since it will make the boxing experience a more realistic one - How many punches have exactly the same shape and trajectory as their predecessor in the real world?

EA Sports also points out that the new system means that throwing a right hook won't be quite so awkward. Classic Total Control meant that players had to pull their thumb into their own hand before swinging it round for that particular shot. We managed just fine but we can kind of see the point.

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Our biggest concern is that, if all punches are reduced to a quick flick, the organic feel of striking through the controller will be lost and - worse still - the effort required to pull off the bigger punches will be diminished.

Yes looping your thumb around the edge of the analogue stick field was a bit more awkward than flicking for a straight but only as much as we imagine swinging a hulking great arm would be compared to a quick snap jab (we're all wistful, creative waifs so we can only imagine).

For us that extra effort meant that we couldn't throw hooks willy nilly because we'd eventually knock ourselves off our stride, sending our thumb into a whole world of inaccuracy.

That brings us to our second speculative qualm. Surely, if all punches are reduced to simple flicks, there's nothing to stop players flicking at random to string together incredible combos with little challenge.

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