EA's last Fight Night was one of the very first games to show us what high-definition would be all about. Debuting way back in November of 2005, it was an early example of upcoming technology and what EA had in store for us. Granted Fight Night Round 3, while a good looker, didn't quite live up to the expectations EA set us up with in the trailer. Still, since it was quite early on into the cycle of the generation, we're talking three years ago with the Xbox 360 debut, EA's had quite a bit of time to work things and design a game that is far more refined than its predecessor in every which way.
So here I am sitting here with my TV on in the background and the PS3's fired up with a copy of Fight Night Round 4 in it. And what I'm doing with the game? Why I went and downloaded a pair of boxers from EA's online network and I'm now pitting them against each other. Who are these said boxers? None other than Ivan Drago and Rocky Balboa. Yes, I'm recreating Rocky IV here instead of using greats like Ali and Frazier, but I bet that when EA was creating the game's Create Boxer mode, they knew exactly what people would be doing with it.
Since I don't have a PlayStation Eye to snap pictures with, I still knew that some of the first user-created boxers to appear online would be the most obvious: Rocky, Ivan Drago, Floyd Mayweather Jr., Evander Holyfield, Apollo Creed, and even Chuck Norris. What's even more awesome is that the game features boxer Tommy Morrison, who played Tommy Gunn in Rocky V. So if you've got the urge to beat the piss out of Tommy Gunn properly, and not in a street fight, using Rocky, this is your game. And before I continue, I just came across a user-created Barack Obama as I type this – it's hilarious, really. As you can see, with the camera the possibilities are quite endless, and of course when you're done taking pictures of celebrity's faces, you can always take a picture of your face and slap it on to create yourself.
When you've pieced together a boxer you're happy with, or even if you've downloaded a user-created boxer, you can take him through the game's Legacy Mode, which is, of course, just another fancy name for a career mode. Now, unlike many other career modes that force you to only use a created character, Fight Night allows you to pick. So you can either climb the ranks using a created boxer or a professional boxer. Heck, you even have the option of fighting against your own creations by importing them into the Legacy mode – very cool.
Legacy Mode is pretty straightforward, you have your fights and you have your training sessions in between fights. The more time you have until a fight, sometimes the more training sessions you can have. After every fight you can schedule a new one, but you will be given a rest period of about a month so the fight has to take place after a certain amount of time. Performing well in training sessions will increase your fighter's stats, but if you feel perhaps the controls are a little too problematic and don't allow you to perform accurately, then you can always simulate the training session and leave it up to the A.I. to determine how well you do. You will also, but not often, get stat points after fights. What you do get occasionally after fights are unlockables.
Now, this leads me to one problem I have with the game: the Total Control mechanic. Mapped to the right analog stick are all of your attacks, which you can pull off with simple maneuvers. The problem is often times the game registers the wrong move, and it takes absolutely flawless execution and movement of the analog stick in order to get the move the game asks of you during training sessions. General jabs and such aren't a problem, but uppercuts are, as it requires a forward-then-up motion that the game just registers as a forward motion, which is a mid-jab to the torso. During gameplay, this isn't always a big deal since you can map an uppercut as your special move (X button), so if you must use it, you can do it that way. But otherwise, expect to feel some frustration when you're attempting to train.
Regardless, Fight Night 4 is extremely fun, and despite the control quirks, the Total Control system still works fairly well and intuitively. What's even more surprising is that watching replays of knockdowns never gets old, as the game does such a fantastic job of accentuating the moment of impact both visually and aurally that gives you a good sensation. Moreover, for those who are progression fanatics and get addicted to games with ladders in their career modes, Fight Night 4 is ideal. I spent a good two hours playing the game some more in between the fourth and fifth paragraphs; I was taking Apollo Creed further up the ranks. Don't raise your eyebrow at me, I'm not crazy. I'm simply giving Creed what he deserves, and I made sure to import Ivan Drago into my career just so that we can have a bout and I can seek vengeance. In total Fight Night 4 carries a roster of 40, but with the user-created content, that doesn't mean the roster ends there – I'm holding out for some Rocky Marciano and Joe Louis creations, at the moment. And don't forget about the online gameplay, where championships can be held and lost, as well.
Visually, Fight Night 4 is even better than the trailer EA Sports showed off all those years ago. For starters, the fighter models are absolutely amazing, boasting an extraordinary amount of detail from incredible texture work, all the way down to the sweat that drips down. One of the best visual aspects of the game is its nearly perfect use of lighting; Fight Night 4 captures the look of a boxing match to the point that it'll wow you every time you play the game. The background is made up of spectators which vary in quality, the closer ones looking better, of course. But unlike many other games, no matter how far up the spectators are, they still look relatively nice – and the depth of field also prevents you from noticing any glaring issues. Then there's the framerate, which is locked to 30 at all times, and I've never once seen it dip to anything lower. To add to that, the overall picture quality of this 720p image is one of the cleanest and smoothest you'll ever see. EA did a brilliant job with the visuals, you really have to see this game in person.
Unfortunately, the one and only fault of the game is the audio. The commentary, done by Joe Tessitore and Kenny Atlas is highly repetitive. For example, with every single match where Lennox Lewis was a contender, I heard the exact same bits of commentary about Lewis and how Americans don't like him. Furthermore, there are too many variations of the same dialogue, specifically during boxer intros when the pair always talks about "the look in his eyes". Some of the things the duo also says is either ridiculous or late, and often times, you have no idea who the hell they're talking about. Lastly, not being able to pick an MP3 from your system's HDD to use as an entrance theme song for your created player really sucks.
When it comes down to it all, Fight Night Round 4 is without question the best boxing game you'll ever play. Everything from the mechanics, to the value, the fun, and to the stunning visuals will not disappoint fans of both this game franchise, as well as fans of the sport. There is a ton of things to do and that helps keep this game's replay value high, making it well worth the price-tag of $60. Go out there and buy this.