Fight Night Round 4 PlayStation 3
Published by: EA Sports
Developed by: EA Sports
For a long time Fight Night Round 3 was one of the better sports games on the current generation of consoles and there hasn't been a boxing game to even come close. In fact the other boxing games, Facebreaker and Don King Presents Prizefighter, were disappointing games to say the least. Fight Night Round 3's time as the best boxing game is now over however as here we have the sequel, Fight Night Round 4 which manages to improve upon most things found in the previous game.
The modes in Fight Night Round 4 are Fight Now, Legacy Mode and Online. Fight Now allows you to set up one-off fights between some of the greatest fighters of all time. There are more than forty boxers in the game including the likes of Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson. Fight Now isn't a mode that will hold your attention for long however. The real heart of the single-player game is Legacy Mode. Here you can either create your own boxer or take an existing boxer and start their career from scratch. Multiplayer gaming, whether local or online, is well catered for with impressive support for online championships allowing you to become the virtual boxing champ of the world.
To get the most out of Fight Night Round 4, you're going to want to engage in the multiplayer aspects of the game. But if online gaming isn't for you, you'll be concentrating mostly on the Legacy Mode. Assuming you want to create a custom boxer, you'll get to use some rather sophisticated tools that enable you to create a virtual you either by importing your likeness via the PlayStation Eye camera or using digital photos that you can upload to EA's servers and the results can be very impressive. You'll get to customise your boxer in a variety of ways choosing their weight class, the length of their reach, their style and trademark punches etc. When you're done you're thrown into an amateur tournament and once you've completed this, you'll begin your career in earnest.
The Legacy mode doesn't allow you to carry on indefinitely. You'll begin as a young boxer and eventually you'll come to the point when it's time to hang up your gloves. The idea is to rise from being ranked as a "Bum" to being the "Greatest of all Time" during the course of your career. You'll arrange fights, get to train in between fights via a series of mini-games which can help to boost your boxer's stats (you can auto complete these but you'll only get 50% of the stat boosts), play out the fights (which can be simulated if you prefer) and arrange more fights that you can take when the recovery period has finished. It does get repetitive and you do wish there were more things to do but thanks to AI boxers actively rising and descending through the ranks, you are give the illusion of being in a virtual boxing world.
The Total Punch Control system that was present in Fight Night Round 3 has been refined this time around and it's definitely an improvement. Virtually all of the punches are performed by moving the right analogue stick in various ways whilst the left analogue stick controls your boxer's movements. Using the right analogue stick whilst holding down the R1 will allow you to block. Holding down the L1 whilst moving the right analogue stick will enable your boxer to lean and avoid a punch. The L2 button switches your boxer's stance whilst the R2 is the Haymaker modifier. The triangle button performs a clinch, the square button a push and the circle button an illegal blow. Finally, the X button will perform your boxer's signature punch. I found the controls very responsive and very easy to get to grips with.
There can be little doubt that Fight Night Round 4 will go down as one of the best sports games of 2009 and one of the best boxing games to date but it could be better in a couple of respects. It's a shame that the option to use the buttons, to throw punches, instead of the right analogue stick has been removed. I don't say this because there's anything wrong with the controls because I think they are great, but it's always pleasing when a game gives you the option to use controls that suit you. It also has to be said that the game could be more interesting as a single-player experience. The Legacy mode is enjoyable but it's not a mode that can be played indefinitely due to your virtual boxer hanging up his gloves at some point. Sure, you could replay the mode over and over again with different boxers but it's no compensation for such a lack of single-player modes.
Fight Night Round 3 was a visual treat and it's impressive that Fight Night Round 4 manages to look slightly better. The boxer models are superb and look more realistic than in any previous boxing game I've seen. The other character models in the game such as that of the referee and the spectators don't look so good but this is hardly a problem when your focus will be squarely on the boxers. The game does have a lot of small load times, particularly in the Legacy mode, which can be a minor source of irritation. The frame rate remains smooth throughout which is great to see.
Whilst Fight Night Round 3 didn't cause any major problems for deaf gamers, the game certainly didn't go out of its way to be deaf gamer friendly and plenty of the dialogue was not subtitled. Sadly this is also the case with Fight Night Round 4. The commentary isn't subtitled, neither are the messages from your trainer and neither are those from the referee during a fight. The tutorial isn't subtitled although there are text messages displayed on screen to show you which controls to use so it's not a total loss. There are some training videos (found in the My Corner menu) which provide some helpful hints and these aren't subtitled which effectively means they are a waste of time for deaf gamers. Despite these problems however, it's still possible to enjoy the game. Messages and all other important information received in Legacy mode, including legacy goals etc., is displayed in text. During fights the HUD displays all of the crucial information. Whilst you're missing out on some of the game's ambience then, it's still possible to enjoy Fight Night Round 4.
Fight Night Round 4 is one of those rare games that's easy to heartily recommend to anyone with an interest in the sport or games based on the sport. The game gets a lot right and the game's longevity is good, especially if you're going to play online and get the most from the experience. As a single-player only experience the game does come up a little short. The Legacy mode could have had more substance to it although that's not to say it isn't enjoyable because it certainly is. The refined control system is excellent and whilst it's a shame that the option to use the buttons to punch has been removed, it's difficult to fault the control scheme on offer. In short then this is arguably one of the best boxing games to date.