Review by CrispyPopTart
"The apple falls very far from the tree"
Gamers, boxing fans, sports buffs, lend me your ears. Fight Night Round 4, the latest installment in EA's long franchise of boxing games has finally come to back to grace us with its presence. Unfortunately, fans from the previous games in the series may be disappointed by the amount of changes and what some would say, downgrades. The game is rated T for Teens and contains mild blood, suggestive themes, and lyrics.
The most glaring change in FNR4's gameplay is the disappearance of face buttons, one of the easier button configurations that allowed a more fun way to play for newcomers and a more efficient way to destroy the opposition for series veterans. As a personal opinion from me, the "Total Punch Control" is sometimes slightly delayed by a few fractions of a second. The responsiveness feels slightly awkward at best and downright mushy at worst, and against the harder AI the TPC is infuriating at times.
The second most idiotic thing to remove from the tried and true FNR3 gameplay was the parrying system. I always enjoyed parrying my friend's wild and predictable haymakers only to land Joe Frazier's signature hook into their livers, but those kinds of moments are gone in FNR4. Some people called it a cheap gameplay mechanic, but I felt that it encouraged active bobbing and weaving, as well as forcing your opponent to keep their defenses up lest they get take a hard straight to the face after a jab.
Outboxing, one of my favorite styles of overcoming power punchers like Sugar Ray Robinson and Evander Holyfield, is now 3 times as hard, thanks to the new system of "realistic" infighting. Instead of having an "invisible wall" between you and the enemy in FNR3, there is now the opposite: you and him are now almost inseparable, no matter how hard you try to move apart. As soon as you make space between yourself and the AI, it closes the gap and forces more infighting, which is definitely not realistic in the slightest. No more are the days where you could stick and move, and then wait for the right parry to land a punishing haymaker to the gut.
Training in Legacy mode is torture to say the least. The minigames in FNR3 were tolerable and didn't offer the player any frustration. The ones in FNR4 simply suck. they are in no way intuitive and are the only blot on Legacy mode's otherwise smooth feel to it. None of what is required in the training sessions is ever put to the test in an actual fight.
The graphics in FNR4 are still top-notch, over almost all the other prizefighting games on consoles now. Despite this, there is still an extremely unrealistic aftertaste left on the otherwise delicious feast for the eyes: the fighters' skin looks like it's made of ultra-shiny plastic and the shorts are made of a hybrid of Fruit Roll-up and industrial vinyl.
Other than the said unrealism, the graphics are GORGEOUS. Each punch makes the skin ripple and sweat flies off the impact. There is realistic swelling and bruising, as well as muscles flexing each and every way. Faces look more realistic as well, even for your corner and the referee.
Some of the too familiar glitches from FNR3 such as legs going through the mat after a knockdown and twitching arms are corrected as well. The crowd doesn't look like paper cutouts of the same person inconspicuously scattered throughout the crowd, though you'll forget about them whilst paying attention to your shiny boxer.
Each punch that lands flush can be heard like a gunshot. The crowds give some encouraging remarks at the right times you land a good counter and the announcers aren't robotically scripted like they were in FNR3. The soundtrack is what you'd expect from any FN game: unheard of hip-hop and rap songs that get old and repetitive extremely quick. I found myself turning off the entire soundtrack after I beat the tutorial.
Online play/Story: 7/10
One of good changes made to FNR4 was the disposal of the ladder-like system of Career mode and introduction of Legacy mode. There is a realistic calendar where you plot your goals and fights, as well as judge your progress so far. The 4 difficulty settings are the standard easy/normal/hard/expert levels that you can change at any time. The AI is noticeably tougher than FNR3's lackluster dummies that guard 98% of the time. They now throw combinations and wait for the opportunity to counter.
The online play is also the cookie cutter standard of most multiplayer games: quickmatch/custom match/host match. There is also a tournament-style match that pits you against other humans for some trophies and belts.
Rent if interested, but don't buy if you are a big FNR3 fan. The biggest downside to an otherwise decent game is that FNR4 forces you to UNLEARN everything that you have gotten used to in the previous installments. If you are new to the franchise then get down to drilling the the TPC into your memory so at least you can play like the developers WANTED you to play. This game isn't worth the time and frustration that it introduces to the otherwise best franchise of pugilism games out there.
Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 07/01/09
Game Release: Fight Night Round 4 (US, 06/23/09)
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