Fight Night Round 4

Throws solid punches but still not quite a knockout

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Fight Night Round 4
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By  Jason Saundalkar Published  October 6, 2009

Ratings Breakdown

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Key Specs

Number of players: 1-2
Online play: Y
Price: $73

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Electronic Arts' Fight Night series has always been of interest to this reviewer so, as you can imagine, Fight Night Round 4 (FNR4) was an eagerly anticipated title. Was the wait worth it?

Overall, we'd have to say yes. Out of the box FNR4 features a new 'Total Punch Control system' that makes you to use the controller's right joystick to perform punches. Depending on whether you want to throw a jab, hook or an uppercut, you'll need to perform the appropriate action on the joystick. The system works on a number of levels in that it draws you into the action and also helps to stop the game from turning into a mindless button-bashing fest. That said using the joystick to perform punches hour after hour left our fingers quite sore and we're sure that prolonged play would lead to blisters.

Thankfully for gamers who prefer to use the older button-based controls (or for those who just want to enjoy a quick bash), a download pack that brings back button-based punch control is available. The only downside is you'll need to be connected to Xbox Live to get hold of this content.

Beyond the controls you can adjust how difficult Round 4 is to play by modifying the game's settings. Using this you can speed up the action, make boxers tougher and more, so depending on what you want, you can tweak the game until you are comfortable. On the default difficulty and standard settings the game calls for finesse and strategy because swinging blindly will see you losing round after round. The game is realistic here because rounds can quickly change favour depending on how you play. If you keep swinging - and missing - or your gloves just find the other boxer's defense, you'll find that you run out of stamina and swing less powerful punches.

The game features over 40 license boxers by default, so you're almost certain to find someone you like and want to play as. If not however, Fight Night Round 4 features a powerful creation tool that will let you create your very own boxer. It's using this tool that a number of real-life boxers have been created by fans of FNR4.

A number of game modes are available so you can enjoy the game playing against the clever AI or go head-to-head with friends locally or via Xbox Live. The game's new 'Legacy' mode provides reasonable enough entertainment though we could do without the pointless and rather annoying messages from your trainer. The menu system EA Sports has used for this mode is also somewhat clunky and only serves to keep you out of the ring for longer than we'd like.

One area where FNR4 really stutters is with its boxer training. You're allowed to hit the gym in between fights and the maximum number of training sessions you can fit in, before you fight again, is three. However to be able to train thrice before your next fight, you'll have to schedule the fight six months away from your last one. Unfortunately in the career mode your boxer ages, so you can't really afford to fight only twice in the year just because you want to train heavily between fights.

Beyond the time issue the six new training mini games are also quite frustrating. They are quite difficult to master and while this makes the game challenging, even when you do score well you'll find that the benefits are minor.

Like its predecessor you can choose to simulate the training but this automatically caps your improvement to 50% of the maximum potential gain. Ultimately the training seems almost useless given that your fighter has no less than 12 attributes, each of which ranges from a low of 1 to a maximum of 100. While not being able to train your fighter to become an absolute powerhouse won't slow you down initially, you'll find rounds difficult when you come up against fighters that have far higher stats than you. Having said that, winning isn't impossible though it will definitely be challenging.

On the graphics front Fight Night Round 4 is flawless. The game's graphics engine churns out the frames smoothly so the action is fluid and, with the clever AI, quite intense. Character animation has improved over its predecessor so movements and actions seem very lifelike. Unfortunately the game's audio component isn't as strong. While we couldn't fault the game's numerous music tracks - which seemed to just fit the game - the audio commentary became repetitive quite quickly. On one occasion a commentator actually used the same dialogue in four back-to-back matches with four different opponents. Considering that we found the commentary in EA Sports' Fifa 09 top-notch, we don't see why Fight Night Round 4 falls down in this regard.

For: Regardless of whether you are a hardcore, experienced gamer or a casual, occasional player, FNR4 has something for you. It can be a mindless button mashing fest or it can be a highly technical, strategic title that rewards finesse.

Verdict:

Despite its few annoying gameplay quirks, there's more than enough substance to keep you coming back to FNR4 again and again. A noticeable improvement over its predecessor.

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