Let’s get ready to rumbleeeeeee. That’s right boys and girls, it’s that time again, time to step into the ring and prove that YOU are the “greatest of all time” in Fight Night Round 4. FNR4 really brings boxing to life by giving the player more control than they have ever had before. The Fight Night franchise itself had reached what I like to call a fork in the road. It had by far established itself as the best boxing simulation around, with Fight Night Round 3 being what some folks believe is the best boxing simulation ever made. When you make such a masterpiece, its becomes very hard to top but they did it with this one.
Normally, I start off reviews by talking about the gameplay but for this one I am not going to do it that way because somebody always told me to put the bottom line up front. And let’s be honest the thing that all of you really want to know about is the controls. Ever since EA announced that this would be the first Fight Night to use the analog stick exclusively for punch control, save the signature punch, gamers were in a frenzy. In our opinion, they had a right to be as the buttons were comfortable and the analog control was less than optimal at times. Notice that I said they “had” a right to be, because FNR4′s controls are great, so great in fact that as someone who the first thing they did was to change back to the button controls, I didn’t even miss them. I felt like the analog stick gave me much more precision with my punches and allowed me to do combinations that just wouldn’t be possible with buttons. So you can breathe now, a completely analog punching system has not ruined Fight Night it has in fact made it even better.
Now on to the gameplay. The gameplay is great and that doesn’t matter whether you are putting Tyson up against Ali in Exhibition, taking a created fighter through Legacy Mode, or you are online trying to show everyone in the world who is really the best pound for pound. New to this year’s Fight Night is Legacy Mode, which takes career mode and cranks it up a notch. In Legacy Mode, you feel like you are a real fighter and not just fighting matches to move up a list and that is important.
You will start off as an amateur and work on your skills a bit before you turn pro, the amateur fights are as much a learning tool to get you comfortable with all the controls before stepping in with the big boys as it is a part of the story. Once you complete that, winning the amateur belt no doubt, you will turn pro. Legacy Mode is a little different from what you would expect because now you get to choose when and where you fight your next opponent. Once you schedule the fight, depending on how much time you have in between will determine how many training sessions you have and that is where you increase your skills. Do you spend give yourself more time in between fights to get more training sessions at the cost of time and we all know a boxer’s career is relatively short or do you risk it all and try to shoot to the top of the rankings as quickly as you can? You can either do the sessions manually or simulate them, but the penalty for simulating is that you can never get more than 50% of the total possible increase (um, that’s fine with me those durn mini games besides sparring are still hard).
Legacy Mode really brings it home by not allowing you to fight for an extended period after a fight just like in real life (we are talking like a month), because no real boxer would fight two weeks after he just had a slobberknocker. It works on the premise that you need time to heal after each bout, before you can even begin to think about your next opponent. Once you are actually in the ring the game is superb, as it captures every bone crushing blow that is delivered. The game now features a brand new physics engine that allows for things like “glancing blows”, which adds a whole other dimension to fights by making more punches count even if they don’t quite hit their mark. Once you get in the ring you will feel the urge to want to slug it out and that may work for you first few bouts, but as you move up you will learn that it’s all about technique and brains beat brawn everyday. If you get in and just start swinging away, you will use all your stamina, become slower and more susceptible to a knockout, so be smart and use the weave and counter to set up openings that you can then use to deliver what could always be the “knockout” punch.
The other star of FNR4 is of course the online battles which are done very well but would we expect anything less from EA Sports, I don’t think so. Online you can battle it out with your friends or try and become the online champ, the question there is not if you can win the title the question is can you keep it? May only major issue with online play is that most of the people you will fight, all they do is body shots the whole fight. Even if you are landing just as many head shots as they are body shots they always seem to eventually knock you out. I understand that it’s a strategy and one that works but I just feel like if you are going to box, then box. There is nothing wrong with using body shots, in fact you should but don’t be cheap about it and be a one punch guy. FNR4 is in fact one of the first EA Sports games that I didn’t really feel any lag while playing online, it felt like I was fighting right on the console and if they can deliver that feeling with the NBA Live 10 then 2K Sports better be on the look out and step it up too.
We never give you the good stuff without the bad. There isn’t much bad we can say about FNR4 besides we would have loved to see a lot more variations on the facial expressions as you deliver that KO punch, the game slows it down as to focus on it in the replay but after you do it a couple of times you notice that no matter what boxer it is, they all really make the same ugly face. The severity of the facial damage is great as you can really pound a guys face into mush, but sometimes it did seem like it took an awful lot to get that first cut, I mean I pounded a guy for like three rounds before I got some good swelling and cuts on him. We felt like there was decent enough variation on the faces for the created characters, even if out of 20 choices ten were essentially the same face with only a slight variation, we can’t help but feel like that was better in past games. The last thing is the computer AI, its by no means stupid but sometimes we wished it would be more aggressive, lots of times they just wait for you to punch and then counter punch, I mean that’s smart on their part but it doesn’t make for a good fight.
We checked the judge’s scorecards here at ZKG and we have to call Fight Night Round 4 a TKO, it would be a KO but they don’t really have any competition in this genre. For all you boxing aficionado’s out there you can rest assured that FNR4 delivers a boxing experience that might make you want to lace up your own gloves and get back in the ring, we are going to say you are probably too old for that so just buy Fight Night instead. Fight Night Round 4 definitely will have some staying power in my system for a while because I have to show everybody who’s the greatest. In the end I think that Fight Night Round 4 hits all the notes that EA wanted to address and took what some players thought was a loss of control in completely dropping the button punches and turned that into one of the biggest strengths of the game. To make the decision to drop a control scheme that so many of your fans love in favor of one that they have never really been happy with because you feel like you can deliver an even better experience your way takes guts and since they actually pulled it off they must be commended. With that we give Fight Night Round 4.7 out of 5.0 stars.