Joystiq hands-on: Fight Night Round 4


It's a rare thing these days for us to get sucked in by just watching people play a game, but we did just that for 12 rounds of Fight Night Round 4 yesterday as two EA employees whaled on each other (don't worry, it's in the game). We were so enthralled by the visuals and motion that we nearly missed them offering us the chance to play ... nearly.

The next bout was between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier -- of course, we went with Ali. He's the greatest, you know. Read on to find out how the match went and how Fight Night Round 4 beats its pugilistic predecessor.
%Gallery-47652%

The most impressive things about Fight Night Round 4 are the collision detection and the physics.

The most impressive things about Fight Night Round 4 are the collision detection and the physics. This isn't the first time you're hearing us say this, but it really is that good. What's particularly fun is using the new instant replay system to watch them in action. In FNR3, you'd often see your gloves partially clip through an opponent, or you'd run into the invisible, limiting "physics wall" in the game that aimed to prevent clipping. Now, the game seems to have a better grasp of where your punches are going, with the physics reacting much more believably.

We saw Frazier's head literally push our glove out of the way several times, and in one instance our grazing arm mashed Frazier's nose out of the way instead of just passing through it. It might sound minor, but once you see it in action, you'll be wondering why every game doesn't handle collisions this well. You'll also see rippling gloves and rippling muscles this time around, both of which are new addition to the physics system. Mmm, ripples.



Gone is the corner mechanic that had you playing minigames to keep your fighter healed.

EA has eliminated the parry system, now forcing you to duck, weave and block, instead of resorting to a parry-punch sequence over and over. It's another intuitive change that makes this feel more like a real bout. Also gone is the corner mechanic that had you playing minigames to keep your fighter healed up between rounds. In FNR4, you'll accrue points during the rounds and spend them on items like bags of ice while you're in the corner. You'll have three options available to you: "Auto" lets the computer decide where to spend your points (be that in Stamina, Health or Body); "Play" lets you buy items yourself to decide; or you can "Skip" to bank those points and use them later.

The controls have also been revamped: you'll no longer need to pull the left trigger to perform body blows, as that's been mapped to the lower half of the right stick. As a whole, the controls feel a lot more intuitive, and without any tutorials, we were able to go from "Er... what's this do?" to "Hey, nice punch!" in just about 10 minutes. It'll still take awhile to master, and a skilled opponent can quickly punish you if you don't master blocking, but it feels a lot more solid than FNR3 did. Be warned: It's not as easy to get a knockout in this version, balancing minigame will allow you or your opponent a chance to stay upright.



We were able to go from "Er ... what's this do?" to "Hey, nice punch!" in just about 10 minutes.

Outside of the ring there will be several training modes, as well as the ability to map any photo you have uploaded onto a boxer's face. While most people might create clones of themselves in the game, we asked if we could take an image of say, Paris Hilton, and make our boxer look like her. The answer we got: "Well, we won't condone things like that officially... but yeah you can totally do that." Since there aren't any female boxer models in the game, Paris will probably turn out like a bit of a mutant, anyway.

As far as existing boxers go, FNR4 seems to be offer the largest roster in the genre, features over 50 current and historic boxers -- sans any ear-biting maneuvers. You can recreate famous bouts or try your hand at odd matchups, which we imagine will prompt many gamers to settle grudges both real and imagined. Finally, while EA wouldn't explicitly talk about it, there does seem to be some way to save clips from your replays to share with each other online. We'll look for more info on that soon.

Fight Night Round 4 feels exactly like what the last game should have been, which, frankly, just boiled down to nifty slow-mo shots of flying blood and saliva. The game will be out next month for Xbox 360 and the PS3, and while we played the 360 version, we received the standard party line, telling us that both versions would look and feel identical.

Oh, and that match we were in against one of the developers? We totally won. You've got to take your victories when you can ... even when your opponent is just being nice to you.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.