|System: PS3, X360||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: EA Canada||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Electronic Arts||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Jun. 23, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Adam Brown
Actual footage from game. These were the inspiring words displayed before the first trailer for Fight Night Round 3 (FNR3) on the Xbox 360. It may seem a little ridiculous now, but at the time (a little over three years ago) they were completely necessary because no one had ever seen a game that looked that gorgeous before, especially during gameplay.
With FNR3 essentially setting the bar for HD graphics in the early years of the now current generation of consoles, understandably much was expected from its follow up, Fight Night Round 4 (FNR4). However, these expectations dont rest solely on this titles graphics but also concern the realism of its gameplay and the career mode, which were the two main issues that players had with FNR3. Fortunately, all three of these areas are extremely well done this time around, making FNR4 very close to being a perfect boxing game as well as nearly meriting a perfect score.
Since the graphics were the biggest draw of the previous title, Ill start there. With FNR3 looking so realistic to begin with, it would be impossible for FNR4s visuals to create the same sort of jaw-dropping quantum leap we all experienced last time. Thats not to say that it doesnt look better, because it clearly does. This time around the boxers look more realistic, their bodies move and deform accurately, sweat and blood naturally accumulate on the pugilists during bouts and spray when punched, the boxers trunks seem to dance naturally along with their wearer, and the various arenas and rings look as one would expect. There are even some very nice touches such as boxers noticeably changing their expressions when they realize in the split-second before their face hits the mat that they should have kept their guard up and throngs of photographers jockeying for better positions ringside to take pictures of some of the bigger bouts.
Not only does the game look fantastic, but it is also running at double the speed of its predecessor, staying locked at sixty frames per second without fail. While this certainly keeps all of the boxers animations silky smooth throughout, it also provides the opportunity for a much quicker pace for the sweet science. This speed combined with the all new physics-driven combat ensures that FNR4s boxing is way more realistic than anything FNR3 had to offer.
In the previous title in the series, every boxer had an invisible box around them that couldnt be encroached upon by their opponent. This essentially nullified any differences between a lanky distance boxer such as Muhammad Ali and inside power fighters such as Joe Frazier. In FNR4, a boxers fighting style, as well as their reach, actually have a huge impact on a fights outcome. Muhammad Ali is now more effective when dancing around the ring while jabbing away at his foe, while newcomer Mike Tyson will attempt to get up close and personal in order to quickly pummel his opponents with powerful inside blows.
Punches are still thrown using different motions on the right analog stick, which is actually the only option this time around, with a signature punch being mapped to a face button and a haymaker modifier located on a shoulder button. However, due to the much faster tempo of the game youre able to string these punches together just as quickly as you can perform the motions for them, making for some pretty effective and devastating combos. The damage a punch does is also now determined by several factors such as your statistics, current stamina, how your opponent is blocking or moving, and the timing of your punch. Instead of just registering as a hit, a miss, or a blocked attempt punches can now result in glancing blows which will have your glove sliding away from your intended target, resulting in less damage. This realism even helps make your well timed and placed blows feel that much more gratifying, with your opponent staggering back as the controller vibrates from the concussive force.
Of course, the sweet science is as much about defense as it is offense and this side of the combat also works rather well. Whereas before players only needed to be concerned with protecting four different quadrants (upper left and right and lower left and right) and swatting away their oppositions punches to land exaggerated haymakers, FNR4 delivers a system that more closely resembles actual boxing. Players can now only block high and low, with more of a focus on timing than location. This can also be combined with leaning and weaving to create a constantly moving boxer who is much harder to hit.