Here’s another sneak peak at my review for the Omaha City Weekly this week:
Fight Night is like sushi, oysters or stinky French cheese: it is an acquired taste. It is a complex game with a non-traditional control scheme. Once you master the controls, however, you will relish the versatility the scheme provides. The challenge is hanging in long enough to reap the massive rewards in this game.
If you are a Fight Night fan, Fight Night 4 delivers enough improvement to justify upgrading. First, the character models have never looked better. Realistic muscles move under the fighters’ skin and beads of sweat are atomized with every punch.
Second, EA has improved the game’s physics, providing an unprecedented level of realism to the series. Punches land with authoritative force. But if your timing is off, you will only glance your opponent and deliver a partial impact. Knocking your opponent’s mass to the mat feels right. In past games they might have fallen like a rag doll, but now they buckle, fold and topple with a sense of weight.
Third, the opponent artificial intelligence has been improved to force flexibility. As the match progresses your opponent will adapt to your style. For example, after continuous right hooks to the temple in the first several rounds, your opponent will begin blocking or countering you more often. If you don’t switch it up, you will get knocked out.
It is easy to be overwhelmed when first picking up the controller. Punches are delivered via movements on the right thumb stick. Up and slightly left results in a left jab. Push it down and quickly rotate it back up and you get an uppercut. Push it right and rotate it up to deliver a right hook.
The motions made with the controller are rough translations of the motions the boxer is using in the ring. This makes memorizing the controls much less imposing, although it could still be a barrier to entry for the impatient.
Fight Night Round 4 is successful because it translates so much from the sport into the game. Blindly punching is not a winning strategy in either the game or the sport. Blocking or dodging and countering your opponents punches will net more damage. You must pay attention and attempt to read your opponent if you are to be successful.
Pulling off counter punches is central to mastering this game. It’s all about creating and taking advantage of momentary holes in your opponent’s defense.
Boxing fans will appreciate the nuances different fighting styles bring to the game. Between bobbing and weaving, chaining combinations, defense and countering, there are many considerations to weigh when making your move.
Fight Night Round 4’s marquee match up, Muhammad Ali vs. Mike Tyson, is a perfect example of this. Ali, with his reach and quickness uses jabs and hooks in a devastating outside attack. Tyson, with his brute strength, evens the match with powerful uppercuts and devastating body shots.
Legacy mode is where you will spend most of your time. Here you can create a new character with a unique style, or choose a real boxer to bring up the ranks to super stardom.
After winning the amateur tournament, you enter the world of professional boxing, scheduling fights, accepting challenges and training. The longer you wait between matches the more training sessions you can squeeze in.
Training minigames are the only way to increase your boxer’s attributes. Although not broken, the minigames are more hassle than they’re worth. They mirror more closely what you’re doing in the ring than training in past Fight Nights, but they also are frustratingly difficult, especially early on in your career. I found myself simulating them most of the time, taking half the points for the guarantee of at least gaining some points.
Legacy mode is otherwise pretty shallow and not very immersive. While you have direct control over whom and when you fight it largely doesn’t matter. There is a ton of information about other fighters in other divisions moving up and down in the rankings, but no way to use that information to your advantage. Luckily the mode serves well enough to get you in the ring against your next opponent quickly, which is all it really needs to do.
The Online World Championship is where you can test your skills on the world stage. It functions as a leader board. There is one championship belt for each weight class, to win it you must climb the ranks and eventually challenge the titleholder. I can’t help but wonder what happens if the titleholder stops playing the game so nobody can challenge the title?
Fight Night Round 4 is a beautiful game that well honors the sport of boxing. Fans of the sport will enjoy the game’s realism and nuanced tactics. Gamers will appreciate the difficulty in mastering the game and the challenge in climbing both the Legacy and Online rankings. Fight Night Round 4 is in every way an improvement over its predecessors. Fans will find endless replay ability here. Those who aren’t so sure may be served well by testing the game demo out before purchasing.