The best games have a distinct feel. They’re able to pull you into the game via a controller and buttons. Describing how a game “feels” to someone who doesn’t play games, or even dabbles in them casually, is difficult. It has everything to do with responsiveness, accuracy, and collision detection, only one of which Fight Night Round 4 can get right.
EA has chosen to eliminate button controls from their premiere boxing franchise, a glaring miscalculation that eliminates that elusive “feel” Fight Night is known for.
There’s no question Round 4 excels in collision. A new physics based system is staggering in its ability to completely capture the ugly beauty of a punch. Clipping is now a relic of a bygone era, with each punch cleanly landing where and how it should. Puglists are no longer knocked down by the wind of a punch; everything lands properly.
Sadly, the analog controls ruin the fun, even with the tweaking done to this new system. Simply put, the slight delay in moving the stick eliminates the tight feel and responsiveness buttons provide. It also doesn’t help that pushing away from the opposing fighter throws a punch towards them, an illogical farce of a control scheme.
There is also an issue of accuracy. Unlike the days that were ruled by d-pads, analog sticks have an infinite amount of detectable motion. Yes, jabs and straight body shots come off without question, but delivering an uppercut requires a half circle motion more in tune with Street Fighter. Not hitting the opening diagonal motion is enough to throw an unintended punch.
Accuracy has more prevalence here beyond simply tiring out your boxer. In-between rounds, you’re awarded points, based on accuracy amongst other things. These are used to rejuvenate your boxer, and that supposed uppercut that came out as a body jab suddenly doesn’t seem like an acceptable mistake.
The control scheme isn’t just a matter of getting used to it either. Even the best players are going to miss. With button controls, it becomes the players fault when they miss. With the right analog stick, it becomes a game of chance.
Those who complain of button mashing online sound ridiculous. Swinging the stick around randomly is just as easy and even as fast as pressing buttons. Either way, animations need to cycle, so including buttons for those who prefer them leads to no downsides. A recent interview with Round 4 producer Brian Hayes reveals the true motive, which is releasing the controls as DLC.
Other changes to the franchise are minimal. Most of the work was obviously spent with the new collision and physics system, leaving the career mode a relatively standard climb up the popularity/stats ladder. The HUD is oddly turned on by default, despite the visual boost. Wasn’t it a few years ago when the game looked good enough that a HUD did not need to be turned on? Is EA saying that is no longer the case, or is it the marketing that has come back and bit them?
The parry system is far more satisfying and realistic. The roster finally includes Mike Tyson, undoubtedly a draw to his millions of fans. It is rather sad to see the lack of “new feature” mentions in the manual though, a usual mark of EA Sports.
That, or maybe the team is stuck making more DLC control schemes and didn’t have time before the release to make things right. Round 4 is mildly acceptable and nothing more.