Fight Night Round 4 - first look

Fight Night Round 3 was a great game, but its Rock’em Sock’em Robot-style of gameplay wasn’t exactly a realistic representation of boxing. Because the game's original developer, EA Chicago, no longer exists, the franchise has been placed in the hands of EA Canada. The new team’s goal is simple: make Fight Night Round 4 just as fun as its predecessor, while delivering a faster, more in-depth, more realistic experience.

The first thing you notice when you see Muhammad Ali take on the pre-convict iteration of Mike Tyson is Fight Night Round 4's brisk pace. The shorter Tyson stings like a bee, lunging toward Ali and attacking in the blink of an eye with vicious uppercuts. Muhammad Ali, on the other hand, floats around the ring with the speed and grace of a butterfly, using his reach advantage to keep “Iron” Mike at bay.

It quickly becomes apparent from watching these two all-time greats in action that you’ll need to do more than just parry and counter-punch to be successful. Keeping your guard up and blocking punches is an effective strategy in small doses, but you’ll have to time your blocks well since the amount of damage you take increases the longer you hold down the block button.

As the real Mike Tyson discovered when he played the game for the first time, a moving target is the hardest to hit. You’re best served to avoid punches by constantly shifting left and right. Dodging a punch doesn’t give you as lengthy an opportunity to counter punch as parrying did in Round 3, but you’ll still have the chance to sneak in one or two quick blows before your foe can recover. While you won’t be able to dodge every punch thrown in your direction, staying on the move will lessen the amount of damage because of an all-new physics and hit detection engine. No longer is the power of a punch determined by how far back you moved the analog stick. Now it’s all based on where the punch landed, how much damage you’ve previously inflicted to that area, and whether or not the punch landed cleanly. The precious bit of time you have between rounds is no longer spent playing and watching face-rubbing minigames. You’re now awarded points for achieving various milestones in the previous round. For example, you’ll get 10 points for surviving and, should you land 40% of your punches, receive an additional four points as well. How you spend these points is up to you. If you’re getting pummeled you may choose to regain some health; if you’re tired the points are probably best spent on stamina; if you need to put your opponent on the mat you’ll want to increase the damage your punches cause.

EA isn’t ready to reveal all of Fight Night Round 4’s secrets, but a few probing questions did yield some more information. The career mode (known as Legacy mode) will be deeper and focus on your quest to cement your legacy in the history of boxing. You’ll be able to schedule your own fights and once again train your boxer. How much you can train is not only based on how the amount of time you have between bouts, but also how much time it takes you to recover from your previous fight. Training will still be accomplished via minigames, but in yet another nod to realism, will involve some sort of skill that you would use in the ring. In other words, training will not only improve your boxer’s attributes, but will also improve your ability in the ring as well.

Although many unanswered questions remain, Fight Night Round 4 appears right on-track to be in fighting shape for its tentative release date of June 2009.

Mar 13, 2009