Fight Night Round 4 Xbox 360 Review

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It seems in recent years that EA has become the only contender when it comes to developing boxing games. Series such as Victory Boxing, Ready 2 Rumble and Super Punch no longer offer any challenge, and so EA has been left to its own devices without having to worry about the competition. While Facebreaker provided an arcade take on the sport, Fight Night Round 4 is here to provide a more realistic option. Without the competition to keep EA on its toes though, the question is whether FNR4 is still a prize fighter, or if the series should hang up its gloves.

The two elements of Round 3 that wowed gamers were the visuals and the control scheme. Both have improved here. Manoeuvring your fighter around the ring is fairly standard, with the left analogue stick used for backing away or advancing, and side stepping too. It’s common to find yourself back into a corner or against the ropes, but a push of the X button to push your opponent away sorts that out, or dodging to the side.

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It’s the right analogue stick and the trigger where the controls really shine. The left trigger lets you bob and weave – vital for dodging punches and setting up a big counter – and the right trigger blocks, either up head or body depending on where you push the right analogue. The right stick is what will get the most use though, with jabs, hooks and uppercuts all being administered via various directional pushes on the stick. It can feel annoyingly imprecise at first, and a few fights will be needed to really get to grips with it and find the sweet spot every time, but once you’ve got it, it works very well. Combing a right analogue movement with RB makes for a power punch, letting you unleash some devastating hooks and uppercuts.

Dodging, and countering immediately with one of these does even more damage, and is often the precursor to a knock down. Expect furious blocking and holding attempts at this point from your opponent, or prepare to engage in that yourself if you’re on the receiving end – it’s the only way to stay in the fight. In between rounds, your corner can working on patching you up with points that are accumulated in the prior round. The better you fight, both defensively and offensively, the more points you get, allowing for damage, stamina and blocking to be better for the next round.

It’s in these close-up modes, and the replays, that the graphical detail shines through. Sweat, blood and muscle definition look great, with none of the horrifically shiny models of previous EA sports games, and some incredibly realistic animation and physics showing face-rippling punches, and fighters hitting the deck in painful and wince-inducing ways.

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In terms of modes in which to play FNR4, there’s the usual exhibition and online modes, but it’s the Legacy mode where you’ll likely spend most of your time. Here you create a boxer from scratch (or pick an existing one) and attempt to fight your way to the top, ultimately retiring as one of the sport’s greatest. It’s a tough mode, with training sessions that really punish you for failing, resulting in minimal stat increases – therefore resulting in tougher fights and slower progress overall. Work hard and train well, and as long as your basic fighting, blocking and countering techniques are sound, you won’t have too much trouble.

Of course, multiple plays through this mode will be required to get all belts and achievements, and with just training and fighting repeated over and over, it will get repetitive. If you enjoy the fights though, which EA has done a good job of making it easy to do, it will seem less of a slog than it might have been. Playing against a human opponent, be it online or in local multiplayer, is a preferential option, but the AI does a good job of providing a challenge, and different fighting styles and personalities are very evident.

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Commentary is only present in the bigger fights (once you’ve left behind the training gyms) but it’s hard to fault it, with fighter-specific comments, relatively little repetition and no annoying one-liners that get endlessly repeated. The arenas and background visuals look good too. The game isn’t flawless though – much to some people’s annoyance, there’s no option to fight using the face buttons. It’s analogue or nothing here. While this ensures an fair fight against human opponents and forces everyone to operate on a level playing field, it does seem strange to not give players the option. However, EA is scheduled to release a patch enabling this, so if it’s an issue that might have put you off, fear not.

The career mode, with its repetition and sometimes overbearing difficulty, can frustrate, but the exhibition and online modes, with the chance to fight as legends like Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, George Foreman and more recent greats, provides a lighter diversion, while still letting you enjoy the brutal and realistic gameplay.

If you’re a boxing fan this comes highly recommended, and it’s worth checking out even if you’re not a fan of the ‘sweet science’. Great production values from EA, which hasn’t rested on its laurels and has gone all out to make a great game. Cracking.

8/10

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Version tested: Xbox 360, Playstation 3

Developer: EA Canada

Publisher: EA Sports

Genre: Sports

Players: 1-2