Fight Night Round 4 Review for PlayStation 3 (PS3)

Fight Night Round 4 Review for PlayStation 3 (PS3)

How Sweet it is

“Actual footage from game.” These were the inspiring words displayed before the first trailer for Fight Night Round 3 (FNR3) on the Xbox 360. It may seem a little ridiculous now, but at the time (a little over three years ago) they were completely necessary because no one had ever seen a game that looked that gorgeous before, especially during gameplay.

Fight Night Round 4 screenshot

With FNR3 essentially setting the bar for HD graphics in the early years of the now current generation of consoles, understandably much was expected from its follow up, Fight Night Round 4 (FNR4). However, these expectations don’t rest solely on this title’s graphics but also concern the realism of its gameplay and the career mode, which were the two main issues that players had with FNR3. Fortunately, all three of these areas are extremely well done this time around, making FNR4 very close to being a perfect boxing game as well as nearly meriting a perfect score.

Since the graphics were the biggest draw of the previous title, I’ll start there. With FNR3 looking so realistic to begin with, it would be impossible for FNR4’s visuals to create the same sort of jaw-dropping quantum leap we all experienced last time. That’s not to say that it doesn’t look better, because it clearly does. This time around the boxers look more realistic, their bodies move and deform accurately, sweat and blood naturally accumulate on the pugilists during bouts and spray when punched, the boxer’s trunks seem to dance naturally along with their wearer, and the various arenas and rings look as one would expect. There are even some very nice touches such as boxers noticeably changing their expressions when they realize in the split-second before their face hits the mat that they should have kept their guard up and throngs of photographers jockeying for better positions ringside to take pictures of some of the bigger bouts.

Not only does the game look fantastic, but it is also running at double the speed of its predecessor, staying locked at sixty frames per second without fail. While this certainly keeps all of the boxers’ animations silky smooth throughout, it also provides the opportunity for a much quicker pace for the sweet science. This speed combined with the all new physics-driven combat ensures that FNR4’s boxing is way more realistic than anything FNR3 had to offer.

Fight Night Round 4 screenshot

In the previous title in the series, every boxer had an invisible box around them that couldn’t be encroached upon by their opponent. This essentially nullified any differences between a lanky distance boxer such as Muhammad Ali and inside power fighters such as Joe Frazier. In FNR4, a boxer’s fighting style, as well as their reach, actually have a huge impact on a fight’s outcome. Muhammad Ali is now more effective when dancing around the ring while jabbing away at his foe, while newcomer Mike Tyson will attempt to get up close and personal in order to quickly pummel his opponents with powerful inside blows.

Punches are still thrown using different motions on the right analog stick, which is actually the only option this time around, with a signature punch being mapped to a face button and a haymaker modifier located on a shoulder button. However, due to the much faster tempo of the game you’re able to string these punches together just as quickly as you can perform the motions for them, making for some pretty effective and devastating combos. The damage a punch does is also now determined by several factors such as your statistics, current stamina, how your opponent is blocking or moving, and the timing of your punch. Instead of just registering as a hit, a miss, or a blocked attempt punches can now result in glancing blows which will have your glove sliding away from your intended target, resulting in less damage. This realism even helps make your well timed and placed blows feel that much more gratifying, with your opponent staggering back as the controller vibrates from the concussive force.

Fight Night Round 4 screenshot

Of course, the sweet science is as much about defense as it is offense and this side of the combat also works rather well. Whereas before players only needed to be concerned with protecting four different quadrants (upper left and right and lower left and right) and swatting away their opposition’s punches to land exaggerated haymakers, FNR4 delivers a system that more closely resembles actual boxing. Players can now only block high and low, with more of a focus on timing than location. This can also be combined with leaning and weaving to create a constantly moving boxer who is much harder to hit.

When timed correctly, just slightly before a punch lands, either leaning out of the way of a punch or blocking it will open up a split-second in which a player can land a counterpunch. These counterpunches do much more damage than a standard punch, can result in flash knockouts, and are the key to victory against the game’s more difficult opponents. If performed correctly, the screen will tilt slightly letting you know it is time to take a swing, with a satisfying light flash coinciding with a successful impact. Learning the intricacies of this technique is incredibly important not only because of the damage it provides but also to help save your stamina for later rounds, as opposed to punching yourself out against your opponent’s defenses.

Fight Night Round 4 screenshot

During a match, there are three bars at the bottom of the screen that will let you know what kind of shape your boxer is in. Damage refers to cuts on your face and swelling, stamina displays how much oomph you’re able to put behind your punches as well as the speed at which they’ll fly, and health lets you know how close you are to being knocked out. Performing well in a round will net you points which can be used to improve your status in any or all of these areas between rounds. This is a more strategic, less time consuming, and much more palatable way of doing this as opposed to the endless eye rubbing from FNR3. Players can even choose to store their earned points for use between later rounds in order to catch a dramatic second wind, effectively gaining the upper hand later in the bout.

So, given the game’s beautiful graphics, fluid animation, and much improved combat system, its lasting appeal comes down to its multiplayer offerings and single-player Legacy Mode. The Legacy Mode is FNR4’s version of FNR3’s career mode in which you can choose from one of the over forty existing licensed boxers or create your own from scratch and take them through their career until you eventually need to retire from the sport. As one would expect, the create-a-boxer options are very robust, allowing meticulous gamers to move sliders about to change appearances and change the colors of just about everything. Although, if you find this to be too tedious, you can always just hook up a PlayStation Eye in order to directly capture your features for your custom boxer.

Once you’re happy with your boxer’s look, you’ll start off as a bum, working your way up the ranks in order to hopefully become the greatest of all time. To advance up the ladder of ranks, players will need to schedule and win fights, train, and complete certain objectives. Scheduling fights is rather simple, just select a date on the calendar and challenge someone to a bout. After every match, you’re boxer will need around a month or more of recuperation time as well as a small or large window in which to train, depending on how many training mini-games you wish to participate in. Far from the fairly non sequitur mini-games from FNR3, the six included mini-games here will actually revolve around necessary skills in the ring, effectively training you to play better while boosting your stats. Still, in order to move up in the world, you’ll need to fulfill certain objectives such as having a high enough winning percentage, have fought enough times, and defended your title for a sufficient number of fights. This mode is definitely deeper and more enjoyable than the previous title’s, but it still would have been nice to have had some sort of story or out of the ring component to make it more involving.

However, if you want to take your chances against human opponents, FNR4’s got you covered. You’re able to take the fight online in either ranked or unranked matches. Quick matches will pair you up against the first available opponent while you can also set certain time limits, weight divisions, and perhaps most importantly, disconnect ratings when creating a match. Correctly setting the last option will mostly keep you from running into those nefarious pugilists who yank their broadband cable at the first sign of defeat. There is also one more online mode which should keep players coming back the boxing ring. It is called Online World Championship, and it pits everyone in the world’s rankings against one another in order to crown an online world champion.

If you’ve somehow made it to this point in the review and you’re still unsure if FNR4 is worth your money, then you may just be a lost cause. However, I’ll continue to list off random things that are included in the game that you may not be aware of that may help you decide. FNR4 has commentary provided by Joe Tessitore and Teddy Atlas, which is quite good until it begins to repeat after twenty to thirty fights. Players can upload their created boxers for other people to use, and they can also use other people’s created boxers. You are able to capture the best portions of fights using the game’s instant replay, tweak camera angles and replay speeds, and also upload them for everyone to see. There are even a host of ESPN related options that allow you to customize a ton of sports related news to check out. This allows for everything from audio updates to recent sports related information streaming across the bottom of the screen, which can also be made to be sport-specific if you wish.

I’ve got to say if you’re a fan of the previous Fight Night titles or even boxing in general, you really should pick up this title. FNR4 is the most realistic video game portrayal of the sweet science to date as well as being incredibly enjoyable to play. It has improved upon the previous Fight Nights in every way imaginable, even after the series switched developers from EA Chicago to EA Canada. But as you can tell, this new team definitely knew what they were doing, so make sure to break yourself away from UFC 2009 Undisputed long enough to check out Fight Night Round 4.

Everything looks great and moves realistically from the boxers to their clothing. 4.7 Control
While I’ve always been a fan of the analog stick being used for punches, there are some who will be disappointed by the lack of a button punching option. However, it still works very well. 4.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The soundtrack is decent if you like hip hop, and the commentary is great, at least until it gets slightly repetitive after numerous matches. 4.4 Play Value
Although the Legacy Mode could still have been done a little better, it is a vast improvement over FNR3’s career mode. An Online World Championship mode also ensures that you’ll always be able to find some good competition online. 4.7 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Master the sweet science: The powerful new gameplay engine keeps the action inside the ring faster than ever, delivering the truest representation of the sport’s incredible speed, accuracy, timing, and power like never before.
  • Fighting style: Be a brawler, a counter-puncher, or an inside fighter, and master distinctively unique styles that cater to your height, reach, and other attributes.
  • All-New Legacy Mode: Leave your mark on the sport by moving up the rankings as an unknown fighter, pumping up your popularity, and dominating fighters in multiple weight classes on the way to becoming a legend.
  • The greatest championship boxing roster: The game features a deep and exciting lineup of boxers, allowing you to play as one of over 40 licensed boxers, with a mix of today’s best and the greatest of all-time.

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