Giant Bomb Review

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Fight Night Round 4 Review

4
  • X360
  • PS3

Between its legendary roster and authentic gameplay, Fight Night Round 4 is a great homage to the sport of boxing.

Warning: Game features punching, hitting, and gloves.
Fight Night Round 3 proved to be a great early example of the graphical prowess of the current generation of consoles. The 2006 release had well-conceived control that let new players pick up the strategy of boxing, and on top of that it looked terrific. Round 4 picks up where that game left off, offering better graphics, a similar control scheme, and a lot of underlying differences that might not seem immediately apparent, but actually add meaningful depth to boxer selection and fighting styles.

The big difference with Round 4 is that fighter heights and reach are now a factor. When you pick the taller guys with the longer reach, you'll do better if you can keep the fight at arm's length, hammering away with jabs and straights while the (hopefully) shorter fighter can't even effectively retaliate. But those shorter fighters can be way more explosive once they do manage to get inside, with hooks and uppercuts that are built to knock dudes down. At the same time, the taller, outside fighters don't excel at closer ranges. So in these fights where there's a meaningful difference in height, those stylistic differences sort of dictate the pace of the fight.

A big part of the gameplay in Fight Night now focuses on counterpunching. Sure, your normal shots do damage when they land, and you can swirl the right stick around in different ways to throw all sorts of combinations, but you're going to need to figure out the defensive actions if you want to do well at higher difficulty levels or against skilled human opposition. You can block high or low and sway around in different directions to dodge punches. The catch is that you want to time those actions just right, blocking or dodging at the last second. When you do, you set yourself up to land a counterpunch, which is more effective than your standard punches. The game feels like it sort of slows down for a second when a counterpunch is possible, and when you land one, there's a bright flash as it hits. Considering that the timing windows for both setting up and landing a counterpunch can be sort of tight, slowing it down makes total sense from a gameplay perspective. But in a game that feels mostly focused on realism, the system feels a bit more "gamey" than you might expect.

Outside the ring, Fight Night Round 4 starts to struggle a bit. Aside from "fight now," which is the game's exhibition fight mode where you just set up matches and go, there's a career mode, called Legacy. The core idea is that you want to set up your created boxer's legacy and retire as the Greatest of All Time, and to do that you'll need to play through your fighter's career and complete certain tasks. The career mode is needlessly wrapped in layers and layers of unnecessary menus, like an e-mail inbox that literally never tells you anything of any value. Or a calendar that forces you to simulate the days leading up to your fight, even if nothing that matters to your fighter actually happens on those days. A simple screen that lets you select your next opponent and choose how many training sessions you want before your next fight (with the trade-off being that the more time you spend fighting, the closer you get to getting old and needing to retire) could have streamlined this process without losing anything meaningful along the way. In this mode you'll also have the option to play a few training minigames. If you choose to auto-train, you only get 50 percent of the maximum benefit you could get by acing the training session. I did so horribly at my first few sessions that I decided to auto-train for the rest of my career. That decision never came back to haunt me.

Dodge right after he winks, then counterpunch!
Fight Night Round 4 has 48 licensed fighters in it, many of which come from the annals of boxing history. I mean, it's awesome that Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson are in the game and on the cover, but it's kind of a sad commentary on the state of boxing that these great, long-retired fighters are still the most recognizable faces in the sport. Even the commentary in the game makes a reference to how boxing used to be a major sport. But with the game's great create-a-boxer features, you can fill out the game's roster however you see fit.

While you can go through the standard process of adjusting sliders to move brows and tilt noses, the game also supports photo imports, both from the cameras on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, as well as via EA's website, where you can simply upload much better, higher resolution photos. From there, the game seamlessly downloads the photos, you adjust a few markers to point out the features of the face you're importing, and it generates a head. While it can go wrong in several ridiculous ways, when it gets it right, the head importing feature is kind of scary. Beyond the faces, you can also place your created fighters into different weight classes, select from different fighting and blocking styles, tweak your height or your reach, and place points into multiple attributes, such as right arm strength or stamina.

While you can certainly spend a lot of time fighting against the various levels of AI in the quick fight or career modes, this is a boxing game. It almost goes without saying that you'll enjoy it more if you're playing against another person. Naturally, the exhibition fight mode lets you square off locally. But the game also has an online component to it. It offers the standard ranked and unranked fights, but there's also a cool mode that revolves around the created fighters and has separate leaderboards, complete with a champion. This mode, called World Championship, levels the stats across the different created fighters and lets you duke it out, work your way up the rankings, and hopefully challenge for the belt.

Presentation-wise, the game's got great graphics. The crowds in the larger arenas, specifically, look great. Faces deform in a slow-motion replay that shows off punches that make fighters fall down. And punches generally look like they're doing damage and glancing off of blocking fighters properly. The audio of the fights is great, and the commentary is solid, at least at first. The duo on commentary have plenty of great stories about the real-life fighters in the game, but those only come up outside of career mode. Created fighters don't have any such stories, so the guys run through some various anecdotes. You'll hear every single one of those after 10 or 20 fights in career mode, which makes the commentary kind of annoying. Also, it's worth noting that you can import your own music and use it for menus and boxer entrances on the Xbox 360, but you'll have to disable the existing music entirely to use any external music, which seems a little weird. If you want to just import one track for your fighter, it seems like you're totally out of luck.

Some of the things surrounding the boxing in Fight Night Round 4 are kind of annoying, especially if you're planning on primarily playing the game by yourself. But the fighting itself is fantastic and the online feels sharp enough to substitute for local opposition. Provided you haven't completely shifted any love you might have for boxing over to mixed martial arts already, you'll probably love it.
Jeff Gerstmann on Google+
66 Comments
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Posted by JJOR64

I heard great things about Fight Night 3.  Might have to check out this one.

Posted by RedSox8933

The demo was fucking AWESOME, so I think I'm definitely getting this.

Posted by Snail

I don't really care for boxing games. That's probably because I don't care for boxing.

Posted by theMcNasty

I was looking forward to this title.  Glad to hear it came out alright.

Posted by Nasar7

I'm glad FN4 came out good, I dislike MMA to no end.

Posted by PeasForFees
@Nasar7: I cannot agree with you more

Posted by Hairydutchman

The demo put me off. The stick controls just don't work properly.

Posted by Out_On_Bail

it's out already?  doesn't it come out ont he 25th?

Posted by VWGTI

Well this review is quite suprising. I excpeted a lot worse.

Posted by musdy

Looks solid.

Posted by Meltbrain

Is the picture on the main nav bar a fighter made from a catpure of Jeff's face? I could maybe see that. It doesn't look super accurate, but it's definitely cool. I'm glad it's turned out well, though. I loved 3 and I shall be sure to check this out.

Posted by zityz

Lol @ the dodge right comment under Tyson. Game actualy looks really good.

Posted by JoelTGM

Hmmm, I don't think I need this game.

Posted by chronicsmoke

I pick my copy up friday cant wait!!!!!!!!

Edited by TRUEfoe

Hey Jeff:
Please note that the custom music feature for ring entrance was shafted from the PS3 version. =(  Check the EA forums for the crazy petitions to get it back in.  =P
Thanks for the review!

Posted by jakob187

Well, the achievements aren't sponsored this time, which makes me sad, but they still look to be not-so-difficult to get, so I'll probably end up playing it.

Posted by Kohe321

Great review! I can't wait to play it!

Edited by Stephen_Von_Cloud

Holy shit that boxer on the front page really looked like Jeff

Posted by RHCPfan24

Are the achievements easy? :D

Seriously though, I am definitely going to play this game. The last one was so great and this looks better in every regard.

Posted by Death_Burnout

I said it on Twitter but i'll say it again here, Virtual Jeff, you truly are Tom Cruise.

Posted by InFamous91

f**k fight night, its all about ufc: undisputed 2009

Posted by Bigandtasty

Virtual Jeff looks like Little Mac to me

Posted by graf1k

I too don't enjoy the stick controls so as fantastic as it looks visually, I'm probably going to pass.

Posted by sinning

Fight Night Round 3 was one of my favorite 360 games.  This is a definite pick-up.  Thanks for the recommendation Jeff!

Posted by Kiemoe

You guys should just do a quick look of the whole crew importing their faces, if you're bored or something

Posted by JamesF

Might be the creepiest photo I've ever seen. Still laughed my ass off when I saw it.

Posted by CL60

I cant wait to put some faces in there!

Posted by Hoopstown

Great review.

Posted by HeaveyMental

i'm just wondering if you can turn off commentary and dissimulate the HUD
those are the only deal breakers i found in the demo
but sports games always end up being the same over and over again ... still this game would be a perfect deal for me at 30 or 40$

Posted by KimFidler

LOL

I'm just on my way out so I'll read the review later but I just had to say that seeing the front page screen of in-game Jeff actually made my day.

Posted by Interpol

Virtual Jeff is freaking me out!

Posted by Scorched

lol
love pic

Posted by joelalfaro

I second the request for a quick look with everyone importing their faces!

Posted by TomA

Jeff looks like a baby.

Posted by joelalfaro

Virtual Jeff looks like Shenmue's Ryo Hazuki.

Posted by gzl5000
@joelalfaro said:
" I second the request for a quick look with everyone importing their faces! "
Thirded!
Posted by TheGreatGuero

Virtual Jeff bears a pretty strong resemblance. I'm impressed.

Posted by BranDong

That is the most amazing thing I ever seen... and I mean the recreation of Jeff Gerstmann in the game on the feature story tab.  I knew immediately when i saw it it was Jeff.  That is fucking awesome...  I mean seriously I don't think i've seen a CAW dude look so much like somebody else.  Nice work!

Posted by BranDong
@Hairydutchman:  the stick controls make me SICK ... as in I just hate punching with sticks can you turn that off?
Posted by sizu

It is probably down to my lack of experience with FN games but I really couldn't get into the stick controls while playing the demo on my PS3.

I'm not really into boxing as a sport anyway so I will give this one a miss.

Posted by Crono

Yes, this game requires the GB staff to upload their faces and have a tourney... or at the very least a QL.  Please make it so!

Posted by Seananigans

They need to have a Giant Bomb gameface  fightathon quick look, that would be fantastic. I agree with all of yous

Posted by OptimusPrime

i don't agree with this review, I felt like the game was too cartoony compared to round 3 and it seemed like a step back instead of fowards.  The controls were also too easy, and movements were unrealistic. For example, i would punch a guy the same way in the same part of his face about 40 times in a row and he would get 39 times and perform the same animation each time.  


It's little things like that, that bug me about this game.  I'm glad I didn't have to pay money to play this game.
Posted by phlegms

Really wanted to justify buying this...but I'm flat broke so  a rental it shall be :(

Posted by Oni

Holy shit it's 16-year old Jeff! Uncanny!

Posted by andrewf87462

Another fantastic review Jeff, I will be buying this on Friday (uk)

Edited by The_Dude_Abides

Wonder when we'll see a five star review from you guys for a proper Sports title? As i'm sure Punch-Out is a better game than this.

*sigh, i just went there* gah!

Posted by simon1

thanks for the review.  i'm probably looking forward more to the online fights with people on my friends list rather than in single player.  

Posted by raidingkvatch

I'll probably get this anyway as I've enjoyed the series since the first one. One very important question though is Lennox Lewis in  the game? I need to recreate those classic Lewis/Tyson fights + Lewis is one of my favourite boxers of all time (I named my cat after him)

Posted by Aska

Virtual Jeff is freaking me out...  good review.

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