All right. I don’t know why it ruined my XBox 360 to put Fight Night Round 4 in it, but somehow that did the trick. I had to buy a new one (or pay $179 to fix it compared to $199 for a new one) and that’s what I’ve done. So now I’m ready to review it.
The short of it is this: Like each of its recent predecessors, Fight Night Round 4, by improving on what came before, is instantly the best realistic boxing video game of all time. But like each of its predecessors, once you set aside that fact, there are reasons for complaint.
I’m not going to give a big long lecture the way some reviews have about how the boxing controls work. I’m assuming that you’ve probably played one of the Fight Night games before. The controls are, for the most part, the same, a good thing.
In the things EA changed, they made some improvements and some minor new problems. It used to be you could duck or block endlessly without consequence. Anyone who follows the sport closely knows that defense takes up energy. Ask Acelino Freitas a la his showdown with Diego Corrales. The game has adjusted to that reality. If you want to move your head around and duck shots, you’re going to lose stamina when you do it. Likewise, when you block punches continuously, eventually it’s going to take its toll on your guard. There’s a new “block” meter that makes it so that if you block eight or nine punches in a row, eventually your opponent’s shots are going to force their way through your guard. Such is boxing life.
The game has simplified body punches, and in so doing, has done a good thing and a bad thing. It used to be you’d have to hold down a trigger button to throw a body punch, but now a simple right joystick move can throw a body shot. Body punches are a part of the sport, and throwing them quickly and easily is more realistic. On the other hand, the specific way in which EA has simplified the controls has made it far more likely that you will throw an inadvertent body punch.
The addition of a “hold” button is a welcome one. Boxing, in real life, does feature clinches. Fortunately, the game isn’t slowed down excessively by the addition of this feature the way real boxing matches occasionally are.
Overall, with all the pluses and minuses, the controls remain the most awesome of any control system I’ve ever dealt with in an at-home boxing video game for a traditional video game system. I include nonrealistic video games like Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! for the Nintendo Entertainment System. The only thing that tops it is boxing video games where you actually get to punch, like those for the Wii and the motion capture game you’ll find in arcades at the moment.
Here’s my biggest gripe about the whole entire game: It has far overemphasized the importance of counter-punching. Previous incarnations of the game did the same, but Fight Night Round 4 does it even worse.
Styles, as promised, do indeed make more of a difference in this game than in previous versions. Short, stocky fighters do indeed fight in the way short, stocky fighters do in real life — weaving their way in, working the body, etc.
But the one style that trumps them all is a counterpunching style. When an opponent throws a shot that you duck or block at the last second, you’re awarded the opportunity to score extra damage with a quick counter. Often, this results in you staggering your opponent, if your boxer has any pop in his fists at all. And that means that counterpunching is the quickest way to score a knockdown. In real life, a missed punch is, truly, a recipe for getting hit in a way that can lead to bad news. But not always. The best way to get hurt with a punch in the actual sport of boxing is to get hit by a huge puncher, counter or no. Getting clipped with a couple hooks from Mike Tyson is how you get knocked out. The guys who beat Tyson were the guys who figured out a way to doge the majority of his punches. By artificially inflating the value of counterpunching, the game has once again missed the opportunity to create a system whereby knockdowns most accurately reflect the way knockdowns most frequently occur in actual boxing matches. Usually, that means you’re going to be better off creating a long-armed fighter who can keep his opponent at a distance between counter shots.
My biggest previous gripe from Fight Night games was how easy it was to defeat the computer on even the hardest difficulty levels. So far, so good. I’ve had my share of difficulties beating the AI, and hardly ever in a way that made me want to throw my controller at the television screen. When I’ve been beaten, it’s often been fair and square. Except for the whole “counterpunching matters too much” problem.
The one exception to the AI quality I’ve discovered is that if you just go crazy throwing a ton of punches, the computer-generated opponent doesn’t seem to know what to do. You can overwhelm it with volume, whether your boxer has much power or not. It doesn’t even tend to counterpunch very well when you go buck wild.
Still, the game has largely eliminated the eight-knockdown phenomenon that was rather common to Round 3. The most knockdowns I’ve scored in a fight is four — after that, my opponent ain’t getting up. And generally speaking, with the new system for getting up from a knockdown, YOU won’t be getting up from four knockdowns, either. Much better.
A lot of people had complaints about previous versions of the game having a crap legacy mode, but that never was a big issue for me. Still, Round 4 improves on many aspects of that, and makes a few minor modifications that are not for the better.
There are a greater number of training regimens, which reduces the repetitiveness of that exercise. They are still endlessly frustrating. I’m sorry, I just don’t enjoy that aspect of the game. I recognize the realistic nature of it, and understand the reason for it, but it still fails to make me happy. It’s a chore that must be performed, rather than a challenge that must be overcome. And simulating it — unlike simulating the chore of healing your fighter between rounds of a fight — doesn’t offer the same gains.
It’s a good thing that you’re mandated to have recovery time for a few weeks after a fight, but it’s annoying that you have to wait six months or so to get in three training sessions.
Far too many of the e-mails one receives in legacy mode are excessive and uninteresting. If I’m a light heavyweight, why do I care if some computer-generated boxer has won the championship in another division? And yet, one out of every four e-mails or so are of that variety.
Overall, the legacy mode in the game remains a tad less interesting than the legacy mode in Don King’s Prizefighter. But it’s the only real deficit between the two games to Fight Night’s disadvantage.
I’ve never given proper credit to the Fight Night crew for its music tastes. I can’t even believe I have the option to come out to a Santigold song remixed by Three 6 Mafia. Or that in previous versions of the game, Atmosphere played. That is the best.
The addition of Teddy Atlas to the announcing crew is a huge bonus. I like being told that my opponent not only has spaghetti legs, but that they ain’t al dente, either. Still, the dialogue gets repetitive awful fast.
The graphics are better than ever. I find it hard to believe some people were complaining about this. The realism level of “things that might happen in the ring” is higher, too. You can actually get your arm tangled with your opponent if you throw at the same time.
The number of current and former boxers available is higher than before. That’s great. And you can complain Floyd Mayweather, Jr. isn’t in it, but I get that. EA
has to negotiate rights with each fighter individually. Some are going to be egomaniacs who demand too much money. I think we all know that Mayweather is the kind of fighter who would do that.
The absurd advertising has come way, way down. No longer will you walk out with the Burger King himself.
I’m sure I’ll notice some more things as I play the game longer, good and bad. Still, the bottom line is, I want to play it for hours and hours on end. That’s a good game, usually. Fight Night Round 4 is a helluva good game.