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Jason Picker
04 Jul, 2009

Fight Night Round 4 Review

PS3 Review | The return of the champ.
The sweet science. The brutal ballet. The ferocious fandango. Ah yes – boxing, the battle of two sweaty men alone in a ring relying only on their skill, the power of their punches, and the words to Eye of the Tiger to get them through. Since the first Fight Night game was released in 2004, the series has been the best virtual representation of the strategy and brutality of this controversial and ancient sport. Now the wait is finally over for Fight Night Round 4 and the decision is in: ladies and gentlemen, please put your hands together for the undisputed boxing champion of the gaming world.

EA Sports’ much anticipated new entry in the Fight Night franchise is unlike other games in EA’s sporting suite; it isn’t merely a yearly update with minor changes to justify the new number tacked to the end of the title. In fact, Fight Night Round 4 has been three years in the making, with EA Canada taking over from EA Chicago and giving it a pretty comprehensive overhaul. The Fight Night franchise once straddled the fence between being a simulation of the sport and being an arcade brawler in much the same way as EA’s FIFA games are part sim and part arcade game to soccer or the Tiger Woods PGA Tour games are to golf. To cater to both camps, the Fight Night series gave players two control methods, one that relied on arcade button-pressing to represent the punches and one that uses the control stick to more accurately represent the fighters’ punching movements. Well those days are over. Fight Night Round 4 takes the controversial step of removing the ability to use the button-mapped controls altogether. This sets the tone for the rest of the game which tilts the balance further towards the simulation realm, with an even greater emphasis on the skill and strategy of the sport.

EA Canada recognises that the control scheme will take some getting used to for people new to the game or who were previously button-tappers, so the game features a helpful tutorial that greets you as soon as you load up the game. One of the biggest changes we noticed with the new setup was with the 'haymaker' punch. This wild punch is now thrown by holding one of the right shoulder buttons, which makes it a bit fiddly to do. We’ve also noticed that the haymaker doesn’t seem to be quite as damaging as it was in the previous game. Because of the increased pace of the game, it's even harder to land a haymaker, and your opponent can generally get out of its way and have a cup of tea before you've thrown it. This seems to have been done to deliberately lessen the impact and 'luck' associated with this punch.

"Your underarms look incredibly smooth - do you shave or wax?"

"Your underarms look incredibly smooth - do you shave or wax?"
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Gameplay has also been significantly adjusted, with one of the major upgrades being made to the countering system. If you successfully evade a punch or block one with perfect timing (i.e. just as your opponent is about to land it), you’ll hear a sound queue (which is quite similar to that of a landed punch, but never mind) which means you have a short opportunity to counter. You can counter with any sort of punch – from a jab through to a heavy punch – and successfully landing it will do more damage to your opponent. However, it’s not a free hit; your window of opportunity to counter is fairly short and if your timing is off, your opponent may avoid or block you and land a counter of his own. While countering opportunities are now more frequent and obvious, you’ll have to be skilful to take advantage of them, making the system feel more fluid and realistic.

Another tweak to the gameplay involves ‘stunning’ your opponent, which makes him dizzy and vulnerable. In this state, his health meter turns red and you have a limited chance to do major damage and to possibly knock him down. However, unlike a lot of the fights in Fight Night Round 3, simply landing one or two more hits during this period may not necessarily floor your opponent as it's based on the amount of damage they have left. So if you're dominating an opponent and he lands a lucky punch that stuns you, you won't be punished too much for it. After each round when you’re back in your corner getting a pep talk from your trainer, you will be awarded points based on your success in the previous round. Gone are the mini-games that involve rubbing ice packs on swollen eyes or swabbing a cotton bud on cuts to recover. Now you can spend points to recover stamina, damage and health. These points can also be saved up for latter rounds and spent on higher recovery items. While we quite liked the old system of being directly involved in the recovery of your fighter, the new system rewards your actual performance in the ring and makes more sense. It also adds a level of strategy. For example, do you spend all of your points after each and every round for frequent (but minor) recovery, or do you risk the chance of getting tired and knocked out by saving your points to spend on greater recovery options later in the fight?

"It's the eye of the tiger, it's the thrill of the fight.."

"It's the eye of the tiger, it's the thrill of the fight.."
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The legacy (career) mode is where most of the single-player action is, and it has been significantly re-worked. You’ll start by creating your boxer, and the level of detail you put into customisation is largely up to you, including picking the way you walk into the ring (are you confident and flamboyant or cool and focused?), your fighting styles, and your signature punch. You can also load your own face into the game via EA’s Photo GameFace option if you like watching yourself getting punched. In this mode, you’ll start as a lowly slugger who can challenge other fighters to move up the ranks, building popularity along the way and moving to bigger and flashier venues. Your fighter will also have an overall level (such as ‘Prospect’, ‘Champion’ and, eventually, ‘The Greatest’) based on statistics such as your popularity and win ratio.

You can pick the dates of your fights on your calendar based on the availability of other fighters, and depending on how far away the fight is, gives you a certain number of training sessions to improve your statistics. There are six training modes you can undertake that will increase some of your fighter’s statistics while slightly reducing others. However, we found that at the start of your career when you can’t punch your way out of a paper bag, these training exercises are very difficult to do. You need good statistics to be good at them, which largely defeats their purpose. While the game offers an auto-train option, this only gives you half of what you could otherwise achieve if you did well yourself. We think the game should have had different training levels offered to you at different times of your career, rather than a training system that punishes you so harshly in the early years.

When Fight Night Round 3 was released in 2006, it was considered a major technical feat and was the first game to show the graphical potential of the new hardware, not to mention the potential of better physics and collision detection engines. While not initially as dazzling, Fight Night Round 4 looks better in every way to its predecessor. The way the boxers’ muscles flex, their changing expression based on where they are in the fight, and the realistic ruffling of their trunks all look wonderful and run smoothly without a hint of slowdown. Knock-downs still feature the slow motion, bone crunching close-ups, and it looks much better and realistic than in Fight Night Round 3. Heads recoil from the impact of punches and their faces distort from the blow with a spray of spittle from their mouths (rather than the litre of liquid that seemed to flow in Fight Night Round 3). We also need to acknowledge the new physics engine which works so well you barely notice it. Punches register realistically and you’ll rarely see the glitches that were present in the previous version of the game.

Not pictured, little birds circling his head.

Not pictured, little birds circling his head.
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The online mode has also been reworked. One of the major upgrades to this is the new World Championship mode which makes every player equal in statistics, and ranks people purely on their fighting prowess. While some people have had gripes about this system, and while a lot of people are picking tall fighters with long reach to try and get an advantage, it seems to work pretty well for the most part. The fights themselves run very smoothly and we experienced barely any lag during our time with the game so far.

While we had the odd minor quibble with the game, (particularly the training in Legacy Mode), Fight Night Round 4 is a deep and engaging boxing experience. In fact, it’s the best boxing game ever made and one of the best looking games around. While some may object to the move towards making the series more of a simulation than a button masher, we think it works well. Even if you only have a passing interest in boxing or fighting games, Fight Night Round 4 both floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee. It's time to get in the ring, sucka.
The Score
Despite a steep learning curve for newcomers and the odd disappointing feature, Fight Night Round 4 is the ultimate boxing game and one that revels in both the skill and brutality of the Sport of Kings. 9
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related Fight Night Round 4 Content

Fight Night Round 4 update on the way
08 Jul, 2009 Players to get option to use button controls.
Fight Night Round 4 images
18 May, 2009 More sweaty, shirtless men invade our media panel.
Let's get ready to rumble
28 Apr, 2009 New Fight Night Round 4 images surface.
19 Comments
4 years ago
Awesome review, and as an owner of the game, I highly recommend it. However, there is one glaring fault with the game that you have not touched upon: stamina usage vs. punches thrown. The previous entries in the series would heavily penalise a player who throws hundreds of punches without thought or planning, zapping their stamina. In this iteration however, a stick swinging happy player can throw over a thousand punches with very little impact to their stamina. We all know in real life any boxer would be down right exhausted after such a feat, if at all possible. This isn't experienced that much when playing against the computer, but once you tread online, be prepared to face many an opponent who endlessly spam punches in quick succession, more or less removing any strategic aspect of gameplay. Hopefully EA will address this.
4 years ago
Thanks for the comment, but I'm not sure I agree. Perhaps that's true with an established boxer, but with a new boxer in legacy mode I found that my stamina is always low and is always where I spend my points, and I throw about 500 - 700 punches per 10 rounds.

Perhaps it's more generous than previous versions, I'm not sure.
4 years ago
True, you are correct there, it's far more noticable on an established boxer. The amateur boxers aren't as 'ox' like icon_wink.gif Still, it has a serious impact online.
4 years ago
I don't like the game so am against a lot of things in it, but even so, I can't work out how a game with known bugs, laggy EA servers and no option for face button configs can score a 9.
4 years ago
Phreakuency wrote
I don't like the game so am against a lot of things in it, but even so, I can't work out how a game with known bugs, laggy EA servers and no option for face button configs can score a 9.
Having only the stick control is good. It is an innovative way to play, and makes it fair. I remember in the third one if you used buttons, you couldn't do as many moves so playing online you would probably do worse, and two types of controls would make it unbalanced.
4 years ago
Phreakuency wrote
I don't like the game so am against a lot of things in it, but even so, I can't work out how a game with known bugs, laggy EA servers and no option for face button configs can score a 9.
I'm all for the analogue feature, I didn't even know three had a button option. Though I reckon it was a bit weird to cut it out entirely, didn't Skate 2 have analogue only controls or could you use a button configuration as well?
4 years ago
I don't know about the so called known bugs or laggy servers, but in my opinion no button mashing option is a good thing. There are plenty of other button mashing boxing games on the market already.

That being said, I also hate it when people use the three-click-mode in Tiger Woods rather than the stick, so I am biased.
4 years ago
Would have thought there would be at least one screenshot of Anthony Mundine getting hit... Oh well!
4 years ago
Phreakuency wrote
I don't like the game so am against a lot of things in it, but even so, I can't work out how a game with known bugs, laggy EA servers and no option for face button configs can score a 9.
ROFL were you abused by an EA mascot or something dude? I just had a look at your post history and you take every chance you can get to bag them out.

Seriously, "known bugs"? Something that every single program more complicated than 'hello world' ever written shares?
4 years ago
I wanna buy this game. This game looks great. I really wanna go mike tyson and muhhamad ali. I wonder if roy jones junior in it?
4 years ago
He is in the game yes

Heavyweight Division
*Tomasz Adamek
*Muhammad Ali
*Eddie Chambers
*George Foreman
*Joe Frazier
*Lennox Lewis
*Tommy Morrison
*James Toney
*Mike Tyson


Light Heavyweight Division

*Joe Calzaghe
*Roy Jones Jr.
*Anthony Mundine
*Jermain Taylor

Middleweight Division
*Amin Asikainen
*Marvin Hagler
*Jake Lamotta
*Carlos Monzon
*Sergio Mora
*Kelly Pavlik
*Ray Robinson
*Cory Spinks
*Ronald Wright

Welterweight Division
*Emanuel Augustus
*Julio Cesar Chavez
*Kermit Cintron
*Miguel Cotto
*Vivian Harris
*Ricky Hatton
*Thomas Hearns
*Ray Leonard
*Paulie Malignaggi
*Shane Mosely
*Victor Ortiz
*Manny Pacquiao

Lightweight Division

*Marco Antonio Barrera
*Nate Campbell
*Deigo Corrales
*Roberto Duran
*Arturo Gatti
*Roberto Guerrero
*Vinny Paz
*Pernell Whitaker

Featherweight Division

*Yuriorkis Gamboa
*Erik Morales

Bantamweight Division

*Billy Dib
*Fernando Montiel

Flyweight Division

*Jorge Acre
*Monito Donaire
4 years ago
Really enjoyed FN Rnd3 however two things make me nervous about this, 1. I'm not sold on the use of only the analogue stick and 2. I'm still enjoying kicking people in the head in UFC and taking them to the ground and submitting them. So I'm not sure I'm going to get the 'complete' experience by going back to just punching..
we shall see.
4 years ago
this game looks sick.
I want it
AlphaDark wrote
Really enjoyed FN Rnd3 however two things make me nervous about this, 1. I'm not sold on the use of only the analogue stick and 2. I'm still enjoying kicking people in the head in UFC and taking them to the ground and submitting them. So I'm not sure I'm going to get the 'complete' experience by going back to just punching..
we shall see.
1. I was worried about that too, but I think the controls in FN4 are better than 3. They feel more intuitive.

2. The punches in UFC are more satisfying and they feel like actual punches, where as in 4 it still feels like you're punching the crap out of someone, but it's like there's less weight behind them or something.

What boxers have you guys been using? My favourite so far is George Foreman.
4 years ago
Phreakuency wrote
I don't like the game so am against a lot of things in it, but even so, I can't work out how a game with known bugs, laggy EA servers and no option for face button configs can score a 9.
I agree re the button config.
Flicking a stick around to punch is crap and for anyone who thinks the same there should be an option to use buttons instead.
The old game had this option and it was great. I used the buttons for standard punches where using a stick would be retarded, then used the stick for punches you need to wind up like uppercuts and haymakers.
Calling me a "button masher" is a crappy excuse, if I really wanted I could buy FNR4 and become a stick waggler, but I won't because that would be as boring as being a button masher.

No control options = me not buying this game.
4 years ago
EA are considering the button option for a download. Not sure on the progress of that.
4 years ago
Jason Picker wrote
EA are considering the button option for a download. Not sure on the progress of that.
Knowing EA it'd be DLC you'd have to pay for icon_rolleyes.gif
4 years ago
The button option has been announced as DLC to be released in September.

So that's when I will buy it icon_smile.gif
4 years ago
I've played the demo to death, so when I'm back in aus, its going to be game on. This review only reinforced my opinion of this game. I'm pumped.
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  2/07/2009 (Confirmed)
Publisher:
  Electronic Arts
Genre:
  Sports
Year Made:
  2008

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