Like Manny Pacquiao, pound for pound the worldâ€™s best boxer, Fight Night Round 4 has all the qualities of a champion. Itâ€™s a game thatâ€™s technically exacting, dramatic and satisfying. However, while it looks great and has a remarkable attention to detail, it also takes a few chances. Dangerous tactics in the fight game where protecting yourself at all times is paramount.
Fight Night Round 4 makes it simple to jump straight into the action. Load the game up and within moments youâ€™ll be choosing from fifty current and past champions. Among them Roy Jones Jr., Roberto Duran and Sugar Ray Robinson, all lean and in their prime, are just waiting for the chance to show their skills.
Once you enter the ring the standard of the graphics is immediately apparent. Each fighter is unique and recognisable. They glisten and bristle and flex. Each fighter carries themselves with an air of invincibility that is perfectly animated and as close to the real thing as any fight fan fed up with paying thirty dollars for the latest televised PPV fight could hope for.
At the sound of the bell youâ€™ll get your first taste of the challenges ahead. The fighters move smoothly and have real weight. As the cameras flash around you and the crowds get to their feet, you have to keep moving, keep fighting momentum and fatigue, to find the opening in your opponentâ€™s defences. When punches land, skin and muscles distort and sweat, blood and spit flies.
There is no traditional button mashing here. With Fight Night Round 4, EA Canada has transferred its Skate control system to the boxing ring. Your fighterâ€™s footwork is controlled with the left stick. Holding down the L1 trigger will lock his feet and enable you to lean, sway and bob your way out of trouble. L2 instantly switch stances, a move that will stymie even the most intelligent boxer.
The right stick is used to throw punches. Flick the stick left and right to throw shots at your opponentâ€™s body. Up at an angle will attack the head. Sounds simple? For those who still have lost sleep over the intricacies of the Skate combinations, prepare for some more night terrors. Down and around, left and up, up and backwards. Straight jabs, left hooks, uppercuts and overhand rights, all performed without touching a face button. Life was so much easier when you could just mash X.
But that is just the start of the complexities of the control system. While the R1 button lets you pull back and cover up, protecting yourself either high or low, the R2 button activates your haymakers. In essence this means pulling back and winding up for that knockout blow. Of course, this opens you up to be blocked or countered or simply beaten to the punch. It also drains your stamina, reducing your power and making you an easy target.
Your boxerâ€™s movements are also factored into the effectiveness of your combinations. If youâ€™re swaying out of the way with L1 this will change your punching angles. In this way you are able to get around your opponentâ€™s defences.
Get around your opponentâ€™s defences and the bout can end very quickly. Alternatively you can wear down your opponent from the outside. Over a number of rounds you can watch his eyes close and cuts open and bleed. Depending on how well you fought you earn points that can help you recover health, stamina and damage between rounds. If your health or damage gets too low, youâ€™ll be open to take massive damage, ending your night quickly. If you do get knocked down you get the chance to steady yourself and stand up. But the more youâ€™re knocked down the harder it will be to carry on.
If that all sounds complicated, it is. Which is why the game lets you be Mike Tyson, and then lets you fight like Mike Tyson. Chin down, straight ahead, throwing bombs. In two-player mode and early on in your career this works fine. But as your opponents get more experienced youâ€™ll need to develop your skills and ringmanship, or theyâ€™ll pick you apart and youâ€™ll go back to being the bum you always were.
Online also offers you plenty of scope to unleash your inner Tyson. You can upload your custom fighter or your fight settings. Or you can take part in quick matches, tournaments or championships. All the fighters stats are levelled so you all start on the same footing. Therefore winning will come down to your own skill and your choice of fighter.
Choice of fighter is important because although fighters have a number of modifiable attributes, like their real life counterparts, they also have their own style, strengths and weaknesses. Finding these, compensating for them in your own fighter and exploiting them in those you fight will count a lot towards your success in the ring. This is not only true when youâ€™re playing online, but also in Fight Night Round 4â€™s excellent career mode.
Career mode, in Fight Night Round 4, is dubbed the Legacy mode. Here you take a pre-set or created fighter from the backstreet gyms to headlining at the MGM Grand. On your calendar you have fight days and training days available. Click on a fight day and fighters, usually ranked a few places above you, can be booked. Once a fight is booked training days open up. On training days you can choose to either auto-complete or play through various mini games.
Successfully completing training mini-games will add to your stats. For example, you can increase your powers of recovery by surviving a sparring session with high damage and very low stamina. Power can be increased with work on the heavy bag, while a session on the double end bag helps with footwork and endurance. However these can also negatively affect other stats, too much strength work might reduce your speed, so knowing your opponentâ€™s abilities and tailoring your training to suit can be the difference between winning and early retirement.
Good fights affect your Legacy in a number of ways. The less beat up you get the sooner you can fight again. The more fights, the faster you rise, and the more popular you become with the crowds. Soon you donâ€™t have to go begging for a match, fighters are lining up to challenge you. Eventually youâ€™ll be getting awards and title shots. Move up weight classes and in the end, depending on your skills, your chin, and your heart, you will be retiring a ring legend.
Fight Night Round 4, like the real fight game, is tough but rewarding. Where else could you keep Mike Tyson at bay with a few solid jabs before rocking him with a left to the body and sitting him down with an overhand right? Sure, at the time I was a young Muhammad Ali, but even so itâ€™s a moment of gaming nirvana, the kind of moment you only get in a video game. Despite the difficult control system, that can lead to you just throwing haymakers and hoping, and the limited appeal of what is comparatively a minority sport, Fight Night Round 4 is a solid contender.
So if you want to get your revenge on Manny Pacquiao with a younger, hungrier Ricky Hatton. If you find Anthony Mundine incredibly annoying and want to shut him up once and for all. Or if you just want a tough, great looking game. It's time to step into the ring and show us what youâ€™ve got.