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‘Fight Night Round 4’ and the freeze factor

In its marketing for “Fight Night Round 4,” EA Sports built its campaign around the inclusion of former heavyweight champions Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson as playable characters in the game.

For the first time, gamers would be able to settle the question of who was better. It was a smart selling point to the casual boxing fan, but EA didn’t need to sell the “Fight Night” franchise to many gamers.

The most underrated of EA Sports’ library because it doesn’t get an annual release, “Fight Night” has improved with each release and has now peaked in terms of gameplay. But my game freezes — a number of friends have experienced the same problem — stopping this title short of being one of the better releases this year.

From the time I’ve spent with the game, I believe EA created one of the best fighting games ever with its gameplay.

All of the punches are handled by the right joystick, with flicks in different direction resulting in different types of punches. EA said it will release downloadable content that will allow the gamer to map the punches to the buttons on the controller if you don’t like the feel of the joystick.

The game does a good job of putting a premium on blocking and dodging, whereas many boxing games are all about punching. Other integrated aspects of strategy give this game a more realistic feel. My only complaint with the gameplay is that counterpunches receive too much importance. In many matches, counterpunches are the only way to deal significant damage to an opponent.

With 48 licensed fighters, “Fight Night Round 4” provides a large cross-section of great boxers, from the heavyweight division down to flyweight. You can also download user-created boxers through my favorite feature: boxer share.

You can add dozens of new boxers to the already impressive in-game roster of fighters, choosing real-life models like Jack Dempsey or from the hundreds of other creations (including Rocky Balboa and every villain from the “Rocky” franchise).

However, problems with the game freezing — EA acknowledged this issue on the game’s online forums but called it a “rare freeze issue” — have continually frustrated me. The game freezes every time I load up the game’s legacy mode with a created boxer — I’m using a created version of turn-of-the-century heavyweight champ Jack Johnson — making the game’s signature mode unplayable. EA Sports said it’s working on the problem and will (hopefully) issue a patch soon to correct it. But while the issue exists, it must be noted this is a potential problem you will face if you buy the game.

If and when EA releases a patch to fix the freeze issue, “Fight Night Round 4” could be considered one of the best sports games of the year. But until then, you’re taking a chance on encountering problems with it.

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