At a recent EA event I had a chance to play Fight Night Round 4 against the game's producer, Brian Hayes.
I may have never become too involved in the original, but enjoyed enough time with it that I was able to quickly see the changes in Round 4 first-hand. And there were a lot of changes.
To quote: It's safe to say that Fight Night Round 4 is likely one of the best looking sports game ever made. A bold statement, yes, but that doesn't mean it isn't true. Boxers are modeled wonderfully, and the game's enhanced engine really takes advantage of all of the power this generation has to offer.
As I sat talking to the developer the boxers stood beside each other, bobbing and weaving. As they moved, sweat dripped off their chins from time to time. It wasn't a steady drip as if from a leaky faucet, but an occasional surge of water, like the kind that would flow from the pores of a man about to exchange punches with another while standing shirtless below bright lights. For a moment I was taken aback, amazed at the attention to detail in the seemingly unimportant sweat of the boxers. The attention to detail didn't stop there.
After a bit of time I took the controller and started playing, figuring my way around the controls. With a few small tweaks, it controls nearly exactly like it predecessor did, with the left analog stick moving the boxer, while the right handles all of the punches. Before long I was knocked down.
Actually, I only lasted about twenty seconds. This might have annoyed me if I wasn't playing an unreleased game against the person who was making it, so I didn't feel too bad about not being able to hold my own. It also gave me a chance to check out the new mechanics for standing up after being shown the mat. Instead of trying to somewhat arbritrarily push the analog sticks to two points on the screen, I actually needed to try and balance myself and stand, moving my viewpoint to the middle of the screen by holding both analog sticks in one direction.
The view will shift slowly, and once centered the boxer can stand by holding both of the sticks up. It might sound easy, but it's actually fairly difficult, as there's momentum to take account for. All in all, it didn't feel like a change for the sake of making a change, and felt more fitting amongst the other changes.
While it controls essentially the same, it still plays different, if that makes any sense. Fight Night Round 3 might have looked like a next-gen boxer, but it really didn't play any different than other games that had come out generations earlier.
This time around, everything is done with realistic physics, meaning a glancing blow really is a glancing blow, giving it a much more simulative feel. If two arms swing at the same time they might hit each other, instead of clipping through for their hit, and the game's physics-driven boxing is something that needs to be experienced to be believed.
At one point, a swing towards the opponent's jaw seemed to clip through, and I asked the developer to bring the game into an instant replay to view whether or not I was mistaken. I was able to see that I was, indeed, wrong, and the swing simply clipped his chin, causing him to shake his head, and send some spit and sweat flying, but not making enough contact to be noticeable. There are no hit-boxes, no walls between the players, it's two boxers exchanging blows, as realistically as it has ever been portrayed in gaming.
Also upgraded are the knock-downs, which are much improved over Round 3's. The canned animations of the previous title are replaced with body physics, assuring that each fall is completely dynamic. Blood will realistically fly from the fighter's mouth, their face will contort depending on the hit location, and it looks much better than before. That's not a knock on Fight Night Round 3's, they were none to shabby themselves, but it's worth mentioning that Round 4's do look much, much better.
Whether or not it all holds together in the full package is yet to be known, but with only a little over a month before release you won't have to wait long to get your hands on the full version. The game is due out June 14th, so stay tuned for more information.
More PlayStation 3 News...