Step into the ring and deliver the knockout blow in Electronic Arts' newest boxing video game, Fight Night Round 4, due this summer for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Much like its predecessor, this brutal fighting game features lifelike boxers that sweat and take damage over time, but additional features should make it a superior addition to the franchise, providing EA can pull everything together.
As much as we love Fight Night Round 3, its sluggish boxing prevented us from floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee. This year's game, however, sports a new graphics engine promises speedier fights that allow us to throw a flurry of punches and string moves together to unleash devastating combos. EA also improved the physics for smooth actions and made adjustments to the punch mechanics. Whereas the previous game registers a lethal hit from any distance, this year's Fight Night forces you to extend your fighter's arms for maximum damage. Short and wimpy jabs simply won't get the job done.
Each of the game's 40 plus boxers (a roster that includes Lennox Lewis, Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson and Sugar Ray Leonard) features multiple hit points on their bodies that let you work over a specific part of their heads, for example. You can block incoming blows, but a newly introduced blocking meter degrades over time and eventually makes you susceptible to punishment.
In addition to improved boxing, the game also has assorted bells and whistles that'll enhance the experience. An unannounced two-man commentary team will call the fights, you'll visit newly designed venues and a referee who pops up during pre-fight instructions, post-match results, fight stoppage and other special moments; he disappears during the fight. You'll also enjoy new corner games that let you allocate points that'll improve stamina, facial damage and other important things.
Finally, Round 4 comes with a Legacy career mode that includes new training games, titles to win and the option of extending your career Evander Holyfield style or retiring on top of the world.
As good as the game looks, it's still too early to say whether EA will deliver the knockout blow. In the coming months, we hope to learn more about the roster, fighting mechanics, online play and the career mode. For now, we can't wait to bludgeon our opponents as Iron Mike in Fight Night Round 4. Ear biting, optional.