FIGHT NIGHT ROUND 4 XBOX 360 REVIEW

After three years of waiting, EA has finally released its highly anticipated boxing game, entitled Fight Night Round 4, which received significant amount of improvements for the Xbox 360 console. By now, many of you have already downloaded the demo off the Marketplace. Those of you who played the demo should have an idea of what to expect in the final build, at least in terms of the gameplay aspects. So what’s the score card for Fight Night Round 4? Well, let’s just say the game picked up valuable points in the later rounds, ending with a memorable TKO! Needless to say, the traditional bout is not all that easy to begin with, especially with the new Total Punch Control, where your punches are depended on the right stick.

Because of the new layout, Fight Night Round 4 is bound to create a storm of oppositions, a community of hardcore fanatics divided in standing ovation. On one side of the arena, you have a group of old-timers who demand their customary action buttons back; on the other side, you have a legion of newcomers embracing the latest innovation. Suffice it to say, the new layout have become a nuisance for some. However, the good news is that Electronic Arts is releasing a patch sometime this fall, and it should alleviate the tension of those prying for a more accurate solution, which may circumvent the relatively sensitive analog motion.

Yes, the right stick is a tad sensitive for gunning those well-placed punches, but more often than not, we are still able to hit our spots right. Once in awhile, you’ll get a different feedback for a style of punch you have registered. Let’s say you perform a motion for a left uppercut, there is a small probability you’ll end up with a low left hook. That’s normal. However, if you keep getting the wrong signals for your punches, most likely you have defected right stick. We have found evidence that it’s not always the game’s fault that your strikes are off on command. We tested all our controllers for consistencies and sure enough we found out that not all new controllers are created equal – some posed serious punching errors! The way you can tell if there is a malfunction is when you can’t consistently perform left uppercuts.

It will take you awhile to get used to EA’s new boxing engine. So familiarize yourself right away with all the punching motions and build your own combos while at it! The gameplay eventually grows on you and once you understand the mechanics, the road to hall-of-fame is so much fun! We have already laid waste on a number of legends in legacy mode set on G.O.A.T. level, which is the highest difficulty. And we continue to break records as an undisputed champion upon moving up two weight classes. EA did an excellent job designing the legacy mode, which is practically your career in a nut shell! What’s nice about it is that the interface is less cluttered and scheduling events such as your next fight and training move a long efficiently.

Most of the trainings in the legacy mode is fun except for the combo lesson – we couldn’t quite attain “ring legend” level let alone a “club fighter” status. It stems from a fact that the right analog stick gives you no room for error with respect to range of motion. If you slip up in angle just the slightest degree, you have blown your combos! Nevertheless, you’ll definitely enjoy the other training options, which include open sparring, double end bag, and “stay on your feet” just to name a few. As far as creating your own character, don’t expect too much creativity to it. EA simplified this section to get the player out of the assembly line fast and into the ring ready for action. Besides, who wants to spend an hour nitpicking a perfect eyebrow?

The game features well over 40 fighters, from the people’s champ Manny Pacquiao to the Irish phenom, Joe Calzaghe. However, the main attraction to Fight Night Round’s 4 lineup is not about having the greatest championship roster, but the arrival of Iron Mike Tyson to the video game main stream. For the first time in boxing simulation, Iron Mike shows up to be one of the highlights in today’s sports. It’s clear that EA had pumped up his attributes to make Tyson the man to beat in this game. We learned that lesson early on when we faced him head to head on G.O.A.T. level. We didn’t whine so much about the physical bruises we received on screen, but the multiple knockdowns from Tyson’s raging uppercuts definitely hurt our ego.

Graphically, the game is impressive. The knockdown animation is more realistic this time around. Unlike Round 3 where you see many of the same animated knockdowns, Fight Night Round 4 offers a lot more variety. You’ll see your opponent staggers frantically for balance, stumbles unconsciously through the ropes, or spin out after a vicious haymaker. The slow-motion cutscenes look even better compared to what we had seen in the past! You can’t help but enjoy the magnitude of your handiwork on someone else’s face, who is on the verge of a count out! The ripple effects, however, have been tone down a bit. Your opponent’s facial reaction to a powerful punch doesn’t jig as much; but at least, you can still enjoy the countless spits and blood from your competition as testament of your brute athleticism.

What you’ll appreciate most about Fight Night Round 4 is that the action is a lot faster! One of the reasons for scaling up the tempo is the AI have become quite aggressive. At higher difficulty setting, the computer will clobber you mercilessly if you camp out too much in corner. Your opponent will evaluate, adapt, and learn your tricks. So you’d want to mix up your punches or eat the mat. Fight Night Round 4 has no pausing between combos. In the previous Fight Night, the most you can dish out is four hits before your fighter pauses to recuperate. In this game, as long as you have gas in your tank, you can rip combos all day long! Just don’t get carried away or you’ll set yourself up for a quick knockdown.

Fight Night Round 4 is one of those sports games that’s hard to put down. Once you learn the swinging mechanics, you just want to keep the marathon going. It’s nice that EA is working on a (face-button) patch to get the rest of its loyal fans back on track. So far, we have enjoyed many of the game’s latest offering: the huge roster, glitzy graphics, incredible knockdown animation, upbeat tempo, etc. We love the fact that EA has signed in Iron Mike to add some aggression to the gameplay. What’s more is that EA is offering downloadable content such as a new gym for free! It has taken EA three years of shadowboxing before we are finally treated to some ring-side action. Nevertheless, Fight Night Round 4 is worth the wait.

FINAL SCORE: 8.0 OUT OF 10