Fight Night Round 4 Review

Written by Joe Martin

July 4, 2009 | 09:48

Tags: #boxing #brawl #fighting #review #sports

Companies: #ea-sports

Fight Night Round 4

Platform: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
Publisher: Electronic Arts
UK Price (as reviewed): £39.99 (Incl. VAT)
US Price (as reviewed): $55.99 (excl. Tax)

There aren’t a huge number of realistic boxing games and since we don’t have a huge wealth of experience with the genre we were initially quite sceptical that it would be possible to make a decent videogame based on the sport. Afterall, it’s hard enough to make a compelling beat-em-up, let alone one where you can’t kick, use huge swords or toss a Hadouuuu-ken! at your enemy.

EA has taken a swing at the challenge, and truth be told though there’s a surprising amount of depth to its Fight Night Round 4 though, which is equal parts beat-em-up, management sim and in-depth RPG and boasts some of the best graphics and animations we’ve seen in a game.

It’s those graphics which are perhaps the most attractive feature of Fight Night Round 4 and rather than trying to pad the game out with needless features and extra locations EA has stayed with the idea of creating a small space in great detail, rather than the other way around. The result is pugilistic, polygonal perfection; each of the boxers, from the instantly recognisable Ali or Tyson to the lesser and (for all but complete boxing anoraks) completely unknown sportsmen are rendered with a breathtaking amount of detail. Each bruised bore and rivulet of sweat can be spotted and traced with ease.

Fight Night Round 4 Review Fight Night Round 4 - Review
Try as he might, the superglue was too strong and Tim couldn't unstick Bob's face from his glove

Every character moves realistically too, and though the animations aren’t as distinct for each boxer as they should be (so that when the timing matches up occasionally you’ll have two different boxers throwing identical punch combos at the same time) it’s ignorable for the most part.

Given how excellent the graphics are then, it’s honestly a little disappointing that the character creation stage of the game – which is the first thing you’ll likely jump into after the obligatory training sessions – feels so shallow. There’s a huge amount of options you can tweak when creating a boxer to play through Legacy Mode with, but the reality is that effect of all the settings is pretty negligible. Tweaking what logo is on your gloves and shorts and what sort of body protector you’re wearing might be good for EA’s sponsorship deals, but for players it’s totally transparent filler.

The good news though is that creating a character from scratch isn’t at all necessary to get started in Fight Night Round 4 and, if you want, you can just jump in and start playing with an existing boxer in either the Fight Now! or Legacy Mode options. While Fight Now! is just a straight up quick-match for either one or two players, Legacy Mode is where the real meat of the game is and gives you the chance to rise steadily through the championship ranks over a number of years.

Fight Night Round 4 Review Fight Night Round 4 - Review
With his gloves on, Tyson needed help doing up his zipper after a toilet break

To raise yourself from being just a thug in padded gloves to being the number one pro-puncher in the world though you’ll need more than just the ability to hit things hard – there’s a whole stat-tracking and management side to the game that comes into effect in Legacy Mode. In fact, if you’re playing through the singleplayer campaign properly then it’s unfortunately likely that you’ll spend more time crawling through menus and considering dates and training schedules than you will actually fighting.

That’s what the majority of the Legacy Mode is based around; looking at your calendar and planning when your next fight will be, who it’ll be with and what you’re going to train in in the run up to the fight. Managing your calendar properly is absolutely critical if you want to become a boxing legend in Fight Night Round 4, but unfortunately it’s also incredibly tedious trying to figure out who you need to fight and what you need to train in.

You can’t do all these things blindly either, as training in one area will weaken you in another and fighting poorly may leave you in recovery for as much as two months and you need to make sure you cram as many successful fights into the year as possible if you want to gain any respect. Honestly though, don't boxers have managers, agents and secretaries to handle all this planning stuff for them? Shouldn't there be a separate game for them - Don King's Boxing Scheming 2009?
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