Review: Fight Night Round 4

Back when we first entered the current generation of consoles with the release of the XBOX 360, I recall being quite skeptical about the graphical and technical improvements that had been promised. My skepticism quickly vanished when I first saw my boxer landed a punch that sent his opponent’s blood and sweat flying across the ring in Fight Night Round 3. Fight Night Round 4 improves on the Fight Night Round 3 formula, but it doesn’t provide the same ‘wow’ factor.

Graphically, Round 4 shines. You can almost see the pain that the other fighter is feeling as you deliver that atomic uppercut to his chin. As is customary in Fight Night games, whenever a fighter is knocked down the camera goes into a Burnout style ‘knockout cam’. The responsible punch is replayed in slow motion from a variety of close-up angles and it creates a sense of grandeur and importance that, while exaggerated, is also highly satisfying.

The controls are mostly what you would expect. The right stick controls your fists and by doing flicks or making semi-circles, you can throw straights, hooks, or uppercuts. The left stick controls your body and in conjunction with the triggers, allows you to perform blocks and dodges. Mastering the blocking and dodging skills is important, as performing a block or a dodge allows you to throw a counterpunch, which will do slightly more damage and have a higher chance to stun your opponent than a normal punch. If you plan on doing well in your toughest fights (both online and offline) then you need to get a really good handle on the counterpunching system.

Aside from counterpunching, the other major gameplay addition is importance of reach. Reach usually correlates directly with size, with taller fighters (i.e. Muhammad Ali) having longer reaches and more compact fighters (i.e. Mike Tyson) having shorter reaches. Fighters with longer reaches fighter better on the outside and have stronger jabs and straights while those with shorter reaches are more powerful when they can get inside and throw hooks and uppercuts. This really helps to give each fighter their own unique feel and it also adds a bit more strategy to each fight as you are constantly having to battle for the position that is most advantageous for your fighter.

The main single player mode in the game is the ‘Legacy Mode’, where you create a boxer and move him through his career with the goal of being crowned the greatest fighter of all time. Where Legacy Mode really shines is in its character creation system. You can either choose to recreate the career of one of the over 40 licensed boxers in the game or you can create your own boxer from scratch. If you choose the second option, EA then gives you the opportunity to make a boxer from one of their models or to create a new model based on a picture using the Photo Game Face feature. The easiest way to import your picture into the game is to take a standard photo and upload it to EA’s website. Once uploaded, you can configure the image and send it to your console so that the game can generate your boxer. The result is usually pretty decent if you get the background, lighting, and formatting right.

Unfortunately, Legacy Mode gets bogged down with a calendar that serves no real purpose. The general progression is schedule a fight, simulate for 2-6 months, train for 1-3 weeks, fight, and repeat. The constant simulation of large blocks of time, although not game breaking, is just plain annoying. There is no reason why the same function couldn’t have been accomplished using a slicker, more trimmed down interface that only worried about your next fight or training session. I also found the training session mini-games themselves to be frustrating and more difficult than necessary. Thankfully, the game does give you the option to Auto-Train, where you simulate the mini-game for the cost of 50% of the maximum statistical bonus. This may sound bad, but it is usually enough to be effective in combination with the occasional manual training.

The best way to play Fight Night Round 4 is online. You can take your created fighter online and fight matches against other players; all with the goal of claiming one of the championship belts that EA has created. I found the matchmaking to be clean and crisp and almost all of the fights I have had so far have been lag free and very enjoyable experiences.

Overall, Fight Night Round 4 is a solid and entertaining experience if you plan to play all of the modes included in the game. If you are only interested on having a single player experience here, you will likely leave disappointed. However, if you like the idea of making a fighter and taking him online to hand out some punishment to other created fighters, than Fight Night Round 4 will satisfy your craving for the sweet science.

Final Score: 4/5

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