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It’s not every day that a sports title makes me sit up and take notice, but when I first encountered 2006’s Fight Night Round 3, I was blown away by just how fun it actually was. That was then, and three years later, the title has changed hands within EA’s circle of development studios and emerged refreshed, streamlined, and as entertaining as ever before.

To provide some insight into EA’s apparent mess of development studios: EA Canada is the group in charge of Black Box – the team behind the Need for Speed series (not including the upcoming Shift, however). What you might deduce, then, is that Fight Night Round 4 follows very closely in its predecessor’s footsteps, fine tunes a few niggles here and there and, for the most part, doesn’t get too out of hand at Christmas parties.

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The main feature of Round 4 is the new career mode, called Legacy mode. You’ll be able to either select a pre-built boxer (from the 48 of the official roster) or create your own from scratch. You can even import your own face into the game with a webcam, but the facility doesn’t work terribly well, only managing to get the rough shape right. From there you can choose your fighter’s styles, stances, and special moves from a huge selection, and take that a step further by kitting them out with custom gloves, shoes, robes, and even entrance music. There is no shortage of options here, but the menu system is horribly sluggish, so set aside some time if you plan on creating a fully custom character.

fnr4_02In the Legacy mode, you’ll move up the ranks of boxing’s greatest (you can even import your own custom characters who will be AI controlled), schedule fights, train, and unlock a bit of new gear every now and then. There’s no cash reward system, however; winning serves only to move you up the ranks, and there’s a disappointing lack of unlockables. The training has been expanded to include six events, each targeting a few specific statistics. If you find yourself struggling with the training events (some of them are brutally tough), you can skip through and receive half of the stat rewards for each session. When you’re not fighting or training, there are plenty of statistics and charts to keep you occupied. For the most part, however, your progress through the Legacy mode will be pretty linear: schedule a fight or accept a challenge, train for the fight, win/lose the fight. Wash, rinse, and repeat until you’re the champ. If you’re feeling particularly lazy, you can even simulate the fights, which means the entire game can actually be played automatically. Yay?

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