Fight Night Round 4
It'll be alright on the night? We go a few rounds with EA Canada's relentlessly pretty virtual punchbag.
As a belligerent though admittedly unskilled advocate of Japanese fighting games, with their high performance hairdos and screen-swallowing crescendos, it took me a while to adjust to the methodical flow, number-crunchy post-match breakdowns and countless glistening man boobs of Fight Night Round 4. "Ugh, everyone's so butch," I quavered, prodding Mike Tyson's jowl with fastidious analytical fingers as it billowed under the impact of Muhammed Ali's right hook. "I can see the spit on his gum-shield and everything." Later, backed into a corner with my health in tatters, I realised I was unconsciously spamming the inputs for Ken's Flying Dragon uppercut. It's no walk in the park at times, this reviewing malarkey.
Fortunately, Fight Night Round 4 was well worth the initial struggle to acclimatise. EA Canada's handsome, well-coordinated slugger puts all the weight of the franchise's five years at market behind each and every one of its punches, honing old combos and quickening its footwork rather than taking big swings outside its comfort zone. That enough introductory boxing metaphors for you? Right, let's get this champ in the ring.
The game's 48 celebrity fighters include returning favourites like Ali, Lennox Lewis and Roy Jones Jr together with fresh entrants like kindly Mr Tyson and Ricky "Thin White Hope of British Boxing" Hatton, but while it's always a thrill engineering those spontaneous fantasy face-offs (enlivened by cleverly scripted if often air-headed match commentary for each fighter), ultimately you're going to spend most of your time in Legacy mode. Here you take a boxer - be it a real-life glove maestro with his stats levelled or a wannabe you've pasted together in the editor - and spend a solid 15 to 20 hours sculpting him into a grizzled title-holder. Players can plaster their own mugshots onto one of the game's muscle-bound templates using EA's Photo GameFace feature, not always to flattering effect.
Allow me to introduce you to Percy "Hound Dog" Higginbottom, Kikizo's home-made Asiatic bulldozer, holder of two Heavyweight titles and a 15 fight winning streak. He's got a big-boned physique, but don't let that fool you - this lad's as agile as he is tall, with left and right hand speed ratings in the high eighties and an aggressive forward-leaning stance. Percy's never going to out-reach the likes of Lewis, but get him inside the other guy's guard and that savage left uppercut should do the rest.
Being a brassy young stud, Hound Dog isn't shy about making a big entrance, jogging up to the ring wreathed in dry ice and the happening tones of Brit club outfit The Young Punx. He sports green sequined trunks in celebration of his father's Irish blood, styles a crisp faux-hawk cut because he's down with the kids, and hails from Baltimore, New Jersey because I was looking for an excuse to reference The Wire.