Fight Night Round 4 – The PS3 Attitude Review
We’re at E3 and Kudo Tsunoda is showing ‘real-time’ footage of what the PS3 is capable of doing for his Fight Night franchise. Of course, what is shown at E3 didn’t transpire when Fight Night Round 3 arrived on our beloved black monolith, raising questions of whether it was real-time after all.
Whilst that footage never really drew the universal derision that seemed to be held back for Killzone 2 alone, we still await that level of detail and emotion in any boxing game.
Does Fight Night Round 4 finally deliver the realism we crave, as demonstrated four years ago?
With Round 3 being launched in December 2006, we must admit we’ve been hoping for big things this time around. A three-year gap is a considerable amount of time for any sequel. Therefore, this review was written with a good level of anticipation regarding what EA might have done with the art of boxing during that time.
Fight Night Round 4 delivers the usual polished EA presentation, albeit with their current penchant for telling us everything as if we’re reading a health and safety manual. Whilst other games simply tell you not to switch off your PS3 during an autosave, EA games tend to give you three dialog boxes full of what reads like a full terms and conditions agreement. And these appear every time you load the game.
FNR4 offers a Fight Now option, a career mode (now called Legacy Mode) and online fighting along with the usual mix of settings and extra content. A My Media menu allows you to re-visit your greatest moments from the built-in Instant Replay editor, which allows you to create your own multi-viewpoint videos and upload them to EA’s servers.
Fighting opponents in Legacy Mode is interspersed with a number of training mini-games that allow you to increase your stats and, therefore, become a more formidable opponent. These range from heavy bag work through to sparring bouts and speed training.
As you play through the game in either Legacy, Online or Fight Now modes, you’ll eventually have such a good fight that it will be deemed an ESPN Classic, and this feature allows you to look at the stats of these great bouts from the relevant menu.
You may be excused for thinking that the three-year gap hasn’t delivered much in the way of innovation, and you’d be right. Round 3 had a career mode. It had the EPSN Classic Fights feature. It had online fighting. It had training mini-games. In fact, Round 4 has only delivered one real innovation in comparison with its three-year-old brother and that seems to have been the talk of the Internet this week – the controls.
Instead of using the regular buttons to control your boxer, Fight Night Round 4 makes use of the analogue sticks in what can only be described as an homage to the Skate series from EA.
Apart from the odd tap of the X button for your ‘signature move’ or other buttons that allow you to clinch/push your opponent or perform an illegal move, the game is essentially played using the two sticks and the shoulder buttons.
One shoulder button controls your guard, the other your dodging manoeuvres. A third allows you to switch stance, and the last brings on the heavy-hit modifier. Everything else is controlled through movements of the two sticks.
Just like Skate, however, it is often difficult to get Fight Night Round 4 to do exactly what you intended. A left hook all to often becomes a slower left uppercut, leaving you open to a counter.
Where FNR4 really packs a punch is in the graphics department. Whilst the level of detail is not quite what we saw being demonstrated in 2005, you certainly can see real emotion on the boxers’ faces. In fact, the graphical detail extends to various levels of flexing muscles with blood, sweat and tears rolling down the faces and bodies of the exponents involved. And with 48 licenced fighters in the game – all with their own style and swagger – this title does offer a great range of fighting options.
But for every good point to be found in Fight Night Round 4, there is a counter-punch. The commentary gets very old very quickly. You often hear exactly the same phrase in every round of a bout. If we have to hear about Ali’s heart, soul and mind one more time we’re going to throw in the towel.
In addition, the ESPN Radio feature always starts from the beginning of the broadcast every time you return to the main menu, and mostly features North American sports news that isn’t necessarily relevant to the other 350 million potential consumers that could buy this game around the globe (of which maybe 1% will). And there seems to be no option to turn it off and just listen to the excellent and well chosen ‘EA Trax’ song list either. Unfortunately, if you don’t agree that this year’s track list rocks, FNR4 doesn’t support custom soundtracks on the PS3.
And then there’s the AI. A Gold Trophy awaits you if you can beat Mike Tyson using the G.O.A.T. difficulty level (Greatest Of All Time). To achieve this most difficult of trophies is actually just a matter of picking Ali (or anyone with a long reach), walking backwards constantly and landing left hook after left hook. Tyson never cottons on to your cunning tactic and goes down so quickly, you’d swear the Mafia paid him off.
Of all the negatives levelled at Round 3 in 2006, it seems none of them have been fixed or improved in Round 4. We’ve talked about the AI being poor and too easy already, but the product placement is still over-bearing, the mini-games are still tedious to the point where you’ll choose to ‘simulate training’ rather than bother with them, and the career mode is still lacking in any real depth.
The online element is much better than the previous version, which gives this edition of Fight Night more longevity. And the ‘game face’ feature is much improved. Yes, you can take your dull Burger King-laden exterior and, in no time at all thanks to a much faster process, get a 2% body fat version of yourself in the game. They’ll even give you a trophy for doing so. You can’t get body-slimming results this good or fast even by taking Amy Winehouse’s weight in drugs.
Fight Night Round 4 is a game that is so nearly a classic. There are a lot of plus points; the graphics are superb, and close to the (dare we say it) ‘target render’ shown at E3 2005. The general audio and soundtrack is excellent. The controls, whilst sometimes difficult to nail, are actually a step up for the game and create a feeling of involvement with the boxer on screen. The online gaming is great fun and brings you back for more each time.
If you like boxing games, this is certainly one of the best ever produced.
But the lack of game options, the uninspiring career mode, the repetitive commentary, the ESPN radio and the poor (and far too easy to beat) AI let the game down, so if you’re not a real boxing afficionado, this one might be better rented than bought.
For a three year gap between titles, it just seems like a bit of a let down. Time out – roll on Round 5…