So you wanna be a boxer in the golden ring? Can you punch like a south-bound freight train? Tell me just one thing; do you have a PS3 and are prepared to give EA some of your money? Then you’re in luck as the bell is ringing for Fight Night Round 4.

Entering the game, the most striking feature of Fight Night Round 4 is how realistic it all looks. Straight from the intro, FNR4 pulls no punches in the graphical muscle department, sweat dripping from toned and ripped bodies, blood splattering from cracked lips and eyes swelling up from a good hook. In the looks department, Fight Night Round 4 is lashing out in the heavyweights.

Players just looking for some quick action can jump right in to the “Fight Now” selection, choose two boxers, a venue, and have at it. There are many different classes of fighters to select, from Heavyweight to Flyweight, sadly it’s only possible to match up brawlers up to two classes apart. It’s a shame as it would be nice to see what would happen if Tyson fought Donaire; a situation that would probably result in a ripped off head!

Whilst many of the names won’t be familiar to gamers who aren’t madly into their boxing, there are still many familiar faces in the line-up. Along with Tyson, whose inclusion caused some controversy due to his chequered past, comes Muhammad Ali and George Foreman. Fantastically, it’s possible to pit these bruisers up against each other and have the PS3 control the action, simply by not choosing a corner and keeping the popcorn on standby. The commentators have some good banter through the matches, but it doesn’t take a long term player to quickly start recognising the different phrases. It can be turned off, but it isn’t irritating or intrusive on the play.

In the player’s corner are the options, extras and tutorials. Those new to Fight Night would be well advised to play through these as it teaches how to perform all the basic moves and punches that are going to be required. Veterans can skip this as the unique and well balanced control system is lifted out of the previous game, using the analogue sticks to pummel, dodge, block and counter.

Whilst it is possible in some situations to just go in fist blazing, it’s not going to get the player very far through the game just using this technique. Stamina soon saps away mashing the punches, making blows weaker. Likewise, simply blocking all the way through the round isn’t an option, as the opponent will break down the defence slowly with each strike.

A bob and a weave will help, missing those punches and allowing counters to hit home with a pleasing and punishing thud, though using the original PS3 controller lacks the force-feedback, so there’s something missing in the translation. The control system works well, but it takes some practice to seamlessly switch between hooks and uppercuts. The moves are very similar to pull off, and it’s easy to get it wrong. For those impatient types who really don’t like the analogue input, a patch is in the offing that allows punches to be mapped to the face buttons. In a way this is disappointing, as in multi-player (in Fight Night Round 3 at least) there is a significant advantage in not using the thumb sticks to play.

The career mode heralds the bulk of the game and this can be found via the Legacy mode. The path begins either by creating a brand new boxer, or selecting one from the existing roster. From here it’s straight in to the ring, to face the brutality of hooks and jabs. It does appear to be a bit of a pail comparison to the previous game, as there seems to be far less enjoyable “RPG” type elements to it, and this is somewhat disappointing; it all gets a bit too complex and muddled.

The boxing itself is very satisfying, and feels somewhat quicker than the matches in FNR3; when an opponent tags the player with a powerful strike, he literally gets a ringing in the ears as the PS3 pumps out some terrifying tinnitus. At this point, when the inevitable killer punch lands, the action goes to slow-mo replay, with a close-up camera showing the knock-out blow. If the tired and broken boxer can’t recover it’s game over, and the statistics for the match are all that’s left to leaf through. It’s possible to go through a replay, but oddly, given the action can be paused, and the camera moved about freely, there’s no ability to take and upload a photo, only video can be sent to EA Sports World.

Fight Night Round 4 is a fantastic boxing simulation, though questionably not much of an upgrade over Fight Night Round 3, and in some ways less of game, namely with the career mode side of things. With little rivalry in the market, it trounces the competition with a clear knock-out. Boxing aficionados and fighting fans alike will enjoy this game; but you might as well quit, if you haven’t got it.

Marty Greenwell

Marty has been gaming since the heady years of the ZX-81 and still owns most of the gaming systems purchased since those days, including the Atari 2600, ZX Spectrum, SNES, Jaguar, Dreamcast and GameCube. Being a collection junkie (or more accurately, hoarder), he buys more games than he can possibly play, far too many of which are still sealed in their packaging. Marty favours RPGs and Driving games when it comes to genres, and is possibly a little bit too addicted to Disgaea. When not gaming he’s out frightening OAPs on his motorcycle, clad in black leather.

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