Fight Night Round 4 Xbox 360 Review
It has been three years since Fight Night Round 3 brought its combination of amazing graphics and well-tuned gameplay to the next generation consoles. The question is, can EA Canada improve on it?
There is no doubt this is a good-looking game from the moment it starts. Venues range from a dingy gym to massive arenas, lasers and smoke herald the entrance to the ring and then the action starts. The boxers move fluidly and realistically, punches are thrown and connect solidly every time. This is high-definition gaming, and the slow-motion impact of the knockout punch (with the ability to switch camera angles) must rank as a milestone moment.
The player can jump in and Fight Now with up to 50 different boxers in various weight categories. The names are famous boxers past and present, from Ricky Hatton to Muhammed Ali. Best of all, the different weight categories play differently, with the lighter men unleashing a flurry of punches and the heavyweights stepping back to find the opening for a killer blow.
The Legacy Mode follows the career of an up and coming young boxer, training to improve his skills and increasing his ranking to become a champion. The calendar layout will be familiar from other EA Sports games, messages from the trainer and manager helping to spell out what to do next. Scheduling a fight gives the opportunity to take part in one of six training games to improve the boxer’s stats, or let the computer simulate the training for less gain. These training games do become repetitive though. When it is time for the actual fight, there is also the option to let the computer simulate the bout (with a text commentary scrolling by at variable speed describing the action) or to step into the ring. Reaching G.O.A.T (Greatest Of All Time) status will take a commitment of many gaming hours. Minor niggles, such as the way simulated fights always result in lower percentages of punches landed, do detract from the experience.
In terms of the sound, there are good and bad points. For many the hip-hop heavy soundtrack will not be to their liking, but it does suit the game. There is an option to import a track to serve as ring entrance music in the Legacy mode. The commentators do a good job, but it will not take long for the player to hear the same phrases and hyperbole more than once. There is a lot of atmosphere generated by the crowd noise and the thump of glove against flesh, and the shouts from the trainer are actually good hints on changing tactics during a fight.
The Total Punch control system adds a lot to the game. Simply pressing buttons does not have the same feel and touch of mastering the movements of the right stick. Learning the combinations and how to block incoming attacks is satisfying. It is the counter punch that becomes the most important skill, able to rock an opponent and inflict the most damage. Ironically, EA has announced plans for DLC (downloadable content, which in this case will be free) including a patch to give button-based control, which could be seen as a negative. I was unable to test the online championship and multiplayer modes, but general opinion online seems to be positive. It remains to be seen how well the game and its online presence holds up long-term.
So, in conclusion, Fight Night Round 4 is the best boxing game yet and has raised the bar for other sporting simulations in terms of graphics.