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Game Review: ‘Fight Night: Round 4’
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Fight Night: Round 4, for Xbox 360Fight Night: Round 4
ESRB Rating: T for Teen
Platform: Xbox 360
Developer: EA Canada
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release Date: June 25, 2009

Wow. That’s really all you need to know.

Since the sport of mixed martial arts has exploded onto the scene and pretty much completely over-shadowed it, it’s tough to find things to be excited about when it comes to boxing today. Every once in a while a fight comes along with fan favorites like Manny Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather, and Ricky Hatton — but aside from that, boxing has become a mostly unappealing spectacle. Fortunately, the cats over at Electronic Arts know how things are done when it comes to their sports games, and that’s no different when it comes to Fight Night: Round 4, which is now the best boxing video game ever made.

The Fight Night franchise has always offered up great boxing games — the best since Mike Tyson’s Punch Out!, to be precise — that fans have loved, even with some kinks here and there. One of the best thing about video games, though, is that many of them get better with new installments. This is because developers can take the good and the bad feedback from their previous games and build from that until they reach perfection. And so far, Fight Night: Round 4 is about as perfect as boxing games get…for now. The scary thing is knowing that they will probably keep finding ways to get better.

For me personally, I’m not big on the whole Xbox Live dance where I can play some 8-year old kid in Switzerland who beats me mercilessly and then squeaky-giggles into his wireless headset before heading off to a juice and cookie party. No, no — for me, it’s all about the career mode when it comes to sports games. I create myself as a supremely athletic competitor who could never actually exist in reality, and I live vicariously through this athlete with a career that hopefully ends in lots and lots of titles and belts. Don’t pretend like you don’t do the same thing. Oh, and if you do love the Xbox Live scene, you of course can jump on there and throw hands with people around the world; again, it’s just not for this dude.

Career mode on Fight Night: Round 4 is called Legacy Mode and, as with other titles, it prompts you to either create your own fighter or to pick one of the existing fighters to use. After you have your guy set and dressed and ready to kick some ass, you get it started; started at the very bottom of the food chain, that is. You begin in an amateur tournament where you fight your way into the world standings. Once you prove yourself there and get ranked, you being at the bottom where you go to the calendar, compare yourself with the fighters around your skill level, and choose one you want to fight. You then choose a day for the bout to take place, train as often as you’re able to (once, sometimes twice) in the time frame, and get to your match. You do this over and over again, beating your way up the rankings and on your way to a championship shot — though this is not an easy task to accomplish.

When it comes to training, this seems to be most players’ least favorite part of the game. There’s a handful of training challenges for you to take part in, each of which helps a certain area of your game. Some of them are entertaining enough, but most of them are incredibly difficult to do well with, and you’ll usually find yourself grabbing the bare minimum in skill increases. Because of this, it’s best if you do as I did: try them all out personally, and see which ones you’re really good at and which ones make you want to cry. After that, just auto-train on the ones you hate, which gives you half of the possible points you could get for that particular training session.

If you’ve played other Fight Night games, you’ll be familiar with the basic movements of the game. You’ll be familiar with the analog stick movements, as well as using them to block, duck, and weave like a mad man. In this new game, the damage is highly based upon counter punching, so get really good at the aforementioned block/duck/weave skills so you can productively counter punch. One thing to keep in mind (as I learned it the hard way) is: you can’t just count on blocking and countering to win these fights…at least not later in the game. If you get into a match and you get your opponent stunned and wobbly multiple times or maybe even knock them down a couple times, but eventually go to a decision, you will probably lose if you only counter punch. I did this and even though I slapped this guy around, because he jabbed me 1,246 times, he obviously scored more for the decision. Just making sure you knock a guy out and avoid a decision is the easiest solution to this, but getting a KO on the harder opponents is really damn hard. You’ve been warned! This game forces you to learn and master all of the skills a boxer has: blocking, moving, and punching — both hard and soft shots — at the perfect moments.

Another amazing part of Fight Night: Round 4 is the physics. When you punch or block, you’ll see whether you hit or miss. If you throw a punch, but your opponent moves enough, you’ll barely graze his arms or head, and you’ll see his body parts move ever so slightly to this graze. It does absolutely zero damage to him, but to see those kind of detailed reactions to impacts is really astonishing. On the more violent end of things, when you put someone’s lights out, he wobbles and falls in the direction that you punch him. Previous games just had it a certain way which could look a little off, but here is one of the examples of things they fixed; and whether it’s a hard, straight fall, or a stagger backwards into the ropes before falling forward onto their face, they definitely nailed the reactions. I do wish the KO impact was a little more dramatic, if I had to be nit-picky about anything. When you get a knockdown, sometimes you won’t even know they’re out until they actually fall. If I had a hard vibrate in my controller and a big flash of light maybe it would be more effective. They do make this up to you right away with some great instant replay footage which you can even edit and save to your own personal highlight reel of ultimate knockouts!

Let us not forget, there’s always the solo fight option, too. If you like the games, but not so much where you want to do 100 fights in a row, you can always just pick your favorite fighter and go at it with a friend or the computer. This game is the first in the franchise to include a one Mike Tyson, as well, so everyone can do that dream fight they promoted the game with: Ali vs. Tyson. That fight was absolutely the first thing I did with myself as Tyson and my cousin as Ali. I didn’t do so well, we’ll just leave it at that.

Obviously, if you’re not big into sports games and competitive one-on-one deals like this, Fight Night: Round 4 probably isn’t for you. But for everyone else, this is a must-have. I’ll take this kind of realistic combat over fantasy fighters like Street Fighter and Tekken any day of the week.

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