When it comes to beat 'em ups I'm not an expert. I can throw a dragon punch and make Blanka electrocute people, but that's more or less it. Boxing games are different though. For whatever reason a boxing match feels more tactical - it's a sport not a video game. Of course, hardcore Street Fighter fans will argue that their game is far more tactical, but in Fight Night Round 4 one wrong move can see your fully fit brawler hitting the canvas as if he's just been sniped from the top tier. There's no Sonic Boom to the face, just a solid upper cut to the chin.
Fight Night Round 3 set a new visual benchmark on its release three years ago, but it was the total punch control, with your boxer's hooks, jabs, uppercuts and more all performed with a flick of the right analogue stick that made it stand out. It was far from perfect though, and many people switched to the more traditional button control scheme. EA has refined this system to make it far smoother in Round 4 and as a result there's no option to use buttons - it's total stick control or nothing.
Jabs are performed by flicking the right stick diagonally forward left or right, hooks are straight movements to the right or left then up, and uppercuts are diagonal down and then round to up. On top of this there's a full set of body punches, performed by holding down the Left Trigger/L2 and flicking the stick straight in one of six directions. Haymakers are now performed in combination with Right Bumper/R2, you can throw a signature punch with A/X, an illegal blow with B/Circle and clinch/push away with Y/Triangle.
It's all incredibly intuitive and rarely will you try to throw one punch and perform another. Perhaps more crucial to the gameplay is the defensive side of the controls. Your boxer's movement is mapped to the left stick, and it's essential to get into the optimal position for your fighter's style: up close if you want to get in your opponent's face, or from distance if you've got a long reach and want to control the fight with your jabs. Dodging is performed by holding Left Trigger/L1 and moving the left stick in the desired direction, blocking is Right Trigger/R1 and the right stick, and you can weave by moving the left stick down or up and then round and towards your opponent.
This is it as far as the basics are concerned, but simply throwing some punches and randomly moving your head about won't get you very far. The key to a successful fight is timing. Time a dodge so that your opponent swings and misses and you'll gain a split-second opening that will allow you to counter punch, potentially stunning him. The same is true for a well-timed block, again giving you a small window to counter punch in. A successful counter punch will cause a momentary yellow glow and if you're lucky will throw your opponent back in a dazed state.
When stunned your opponent won't regenerate health so they're highly susceptible to being knocked down. In this state your opponent's movement is also slower, their punches are less accurate and their blocks aren't as water tight. This makes a quick flurry of attacks essential, or in the reverse a quick retreat with your gloves raised the only viable strategy. A fight may be moving along completely in your favour, but the counter mechanic means that it only takes a small misjudgement to find yourself on the back foot and against the ropes.