A completely valid tactic is to play for points, slugging through round after round and playing it safe. It won't make for a classic (indeed, the best fights get added to a kind of virtual scrapbook), but a win's a win. In fact, during the game's Legacy Mode (the meat and bones of Fight Night Round 4) you'll often have to grind out results. The danger of a flash knockout or a sudden swing in momentum means that you'll naturally veer on the side of caution if you think you're on top, rather than taking some risks and opening yourself up to a counter. With your fighter's stamina to take into account, too, it pays to be smart.
Those disappointed by the career mode in Round 3 will be pleased to find that Legacy Mode in Round 4 is considerably more impressive. As well as trying to increase your rank you need to rise up the ladder of greatness, from Bum and Prospect to Ring Legend and Greatest of all Time. Each of these Legacy Ratings requires certain objectives to be completed, such as winning a Friday Night fight or getting below a certain rank. During your career, in which you schedule your own fights and take part in six varied training mini-games to increase your stats, you're essentially just fighting again and again, but the way it's structured is far better than the almost non-existent career mode in Round 3.
Despite the huge improvement in this area the career mode isn't nearly as engaging as that found in Don King's Prizefighter, but there's a decent sense of progression and towards the end of your career you'll likely genuinely regret a few mishaps during your early fights, which will probably be the difference between ending your fighting career as a plain old champion and not all-time great. The email system seems largely pointless, giving you vaguely important info between each fight, and the sense that you're actually becoming this superstar boxer could certainly have been greater - there are awards and better fighting venues, but Prize Fighter comes out way ahead in this area, even if it's more or less all it did right. The fighter roster is quite excellent, though, giving you a mix of current favourites and all-time greats, across all the weight classes, and the Create a Fighter tool is top of the class too - the face mapping is a must do activity, if only to see yourself as a ripped 6'8" goliath.
As well as the time consuming Legacy Mode there's the expected multiplayer functionality, including online play. This too has seen big improvements over Round 3, so now you've got an online world championship, boxer sharing, video uploading and rating and the ESPN online news ticker (even if it's sometimes a bit too American focused and a little out of date). Fighting with a friend (or enemy) is the best way to experience the game as you're more likely to be punished for sloppy fighting and the pay-off for landing a devastating punch is far greater. Thankfully the online performance was solid during our handful of fights, with little noticeable lag.
We've got this far without mentioning the presentation, but it's a highlight of the game. Fight Night Round 4 looks staggeringly good at times, with the illusion only being broken when the game registers a knockout blow for a punch that appeared to do little more than graze a cheek. The fighters look incredible, the physics-based animations are superb and the slow motion replays can be drooled over again and again. Fight Night Round 3 looked great for the time, but this takes it to another level. It all runs at a silky smooth frame rate too, which gives the fights a sense of speed that Round 3 simply didn't have. It's a shame that the commentary becomes repetitive after only a few hours, but I guess we can't have it all.
If you're into boxing you're going to love Fight Night Round 4. The physics-based fighting is simply brilliant, the career mode will last you an age and the online functionality is solid. If you're not into boxing Round 4 is simple to learn, so you could still become the next Mike Tyson or Muhammad Ali with a little practice. It's not perfect, mainly down to a slightly soulless career mode, but it's still a significant step up over Round 3 and more or less an essential purchase.
VideoGamer.com Score9 Score out of 10
- Boxing is fast and smooth
- Looks brilliant
- Physics engine is superb
- Legacy Mode feels a little soulless