When EA's Fight Night Round 3 was introduced for the Xbox 360 back in 2006, it not only became one of the key games that demonstrated the console's next-gen graphical power, but it also brought new life to the genre, becoming the best boxing game in town. Since then, other games, such as Don King Presents: Prize Fighter and the less-than-well-received Facebreaker have attempted to challenge the supremacy of Fight Night with limited success. With the next game in the series almost ready for release, we took one last look at the game's new Legacy mode and found that its competitors are going to have to do some serious training in order to knock this game.
Fight Night's Career mode has been retitled Legacy and given a whole new look in Round 4. Legacy gives you the option of creating a boxer or selecting one of the featured boxers in the game, including such legends as Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis, as well as relative newcomers such as Ricky Hatton. Alternatively, the Create Boxer mode allows you to select from one of 74 premade boxers or map your own face into the game using the Xbox Live Vision camera or PlayStation Eye--or via EA's Sports World service using a PC.
Legacy mode's main menu, Legacy Central, is where all the action happens. From here, you can view your boxer stats, including your rating, popularity, and fight history. Rankings make a welcome return after being ditched in Round 3 and are combined with the popularity and legacy ratings to mark your progress though the game. From Legacy Central, you can schedule fights with rival boxers using the game's fight calendar, and take part in training sessions between fights to improve your performance. You can also "simulate" fights and training sessions should you wish, and the game determines the outcome based upon your current performance versus that of your competitor. Additionally, Legacy mode has a built-in message centre, where your trainer will give you training tips, and rival boxers will challenge you to fights.
As you take on fighters throughout the game, your rank and popularity will go up. This in turn affects your legacy rating, which ranges from "Bum" to "Greatest of all time." You can see what to aim for by viewing the different goals required to advance the ratings. These include reaching a certain popularity rating, rank, or number of fights, and each additional rank provides increasingly difficult goals to attain.
Once you've scheduled some fights and hit the ring, you'll immediately be impressed by the quality of the character models, which look almost photorealistic at times. All the blood, sweat, and motions of the characters are meticulously rendered at 60 frames per second, with each landed punch feeling extremely satisfying due to the detail in the game. It's worth noting that even weedy one-two jabs have a rewarding thud to them.
The control scheme has also been reworked, with the left thumbstick handling character movement, which allows you to duck weave and dodge attacks. The right thumbstick, on the other hand, controls all punching duties. Quick flicks to the top right and left of the stick produce jabs, while quarter circles allow you to throw hooks--and a movement scarily similar to the dragon punch in Street Fighter lands uppercuts. While it takes some getting used to, the control scheme ultimately feels more natural than merely pushing buttons, and the game's tutorial mode guides you though the basics admirably.
With the new Legacy mode, an improved control scheme, and more realistic graphics, Fight Night Round 4 is shaping up to be a great addition to the series. That's without taking into account the improved fight mechanics, high-quality match commentary, and the classic slow-motion replays complete with grizzly sound effects. The game is due out on June 26, so keep your eyes peeled for the GameSpot review soon.