Boxing is one sport where you can pretty much guarantee injuries in any given bout. Computerised boxing, however, really shouldn’t cause any bodily harm. Yet after one session on Fight Night Round 4, we were left with some serious cauliflower thumbs. Well, two fairly chunky blisters on our right thumb, at any rate. How so?
In Fight Night Round 4 you fight using a scheme called Total Punch Control (TPC). The boxer is moved with the left analogue stick and the right stick directs punches, or blocks when modified with a trigger (and other specials such as powerful “haymaker” shots). Moving the right stick up and left, for example, lets out a quick jab. Swivelling it around in a semi-circle will whip up an uppercut.
This generates a feeling that you’re actually boxing and directing punches, a flavour of realism which is reinforced by the game’s stamina meter. The latter drops quickly if you try to throw too many combinations, leaving you tired and open to a potentially punishing counter from your opponent. To succeed, it’s necessary to develop a measured pace to your fighting, picking your moments to unleash flurries of punches.
The downside to the TPC system is that it demands some acclimatisation: at times you end up throwing the wrong type of punch due to errant movements of the stick. A further niggle in the boxing engine is that it’s sometimes difficult to read punches. An opponent’s low wind-up can quickly morph into a head shot (and vice-versa), which makes successful blocking that little bit trickier.
And of course, there’s the blister issue. During close fights featuring some frenzied exchanges of combinations, we found ourselves pressing quite hard on the right stick, hence the nasty little skin bubbles forming. The important thing to do is relax a bit more moving the stick, although that’s easier said than done when you’re on the ropes and about to get knocked out in the dying seconds of round ten.
However, despite the learning curve and potential digit damage inherent in TPC, it’s worth persevering with it. TPC definitely imparts a feeling of more fluid fighting, and a sense that you are truly boxing as opposed to just pressing buttons for jabs and hooks.
Incidentally, there’s no alternate button control system, much to the chagrin of the button lovers in the Fight Night community. Presumably EA has taken this course of action to keep online bouts as even as possible, with everyone using the exact same controls. It’s a brave decision, as it will certainly put some people off the game.
Aside from online play, there are one-off bouts which can be set up between an array of famous fighters, past and present, from Muhammad Ali to Ricky Hatton. The main event, however, is creating your own boxer and tackling the career mode, where you fight your way up the rankings, training up various stats as the game progresses.
Every pugilist has real differences in terms of strengths and weaknesses, favoured punches, styles and so forth. Height, weight and reach really matter when it comes to creating a fighter who works effectively on the inside or outside. Fight Night Round 4 places considerable emphasis on playing to your strengths and exploiting an opponent’s weaknesses.
The career mode has some smart trimmings thrown in on the side, such as detailed stats and awards, not to mention some excellent presentation (for example, you choose your own ring entry music and style). About the only elements we weren’t keen on were the training mini-games, some of which are rather odd and overly tough exercises. We found ourselves reaching for the auto-train button after a while. Other than that, the detailed campaign mode is simply Xboxing heaven (did you see what we did there?).