Review: Fight Night Round 4 (Part III – Legacy Mode)

August 6, 2009 in Boxing, Game Reviews by pacejmiller

Previous: Part I – Game Features; Part II – Gameplay

Legacy Mode

One of the most-hyped features of FNR4 is its revamped ‘Legacy Mode’, advertised as a huge upgrade on the Career Mode in FNR3.  While this may be the case, Legacy Mode is ultimately a huge disappointment loaded with gimmicks but lacks realism, playability and freedom.  It really makes me wonder whether after 3 years this was the best they could have come up with, especially considering there are already superior career modes out there in other boxing games.


FRN4’s Legacy Mode begins with an exciting video intro with a voiceover by your old man trainer.  You can choose to be a newly created boxer (using the Create Boxer feature) or one of the licensed boxers in the game.  Either way, you commence your career with a very poor set of ratings (including power, hand speed, head movement, block strength, heart, chin, etc) and you go straight into an amateur tournament to get a few fights under your belt.

After the tournament, you automatically turn pro, and that’s where the game really starts.  Legacy Mode only has two essential features: training mini-games and fighting.  You schedule a fight with an opponent in your weight class on the calendar, and before each fight you’ll have training sessions, the number of which will depend on the amount of time until the fight.  For instance, 1 month might get you 1 session and 3 months might get you 2.

You then train for the fight through the 6 mini-games available, each one targeting a set of ratings.  The increase in ratings depends on the level of success you achieve in the mini-game chosen.  If you get a ‘Champion’ ranking then you could get a 5 or 6 point increase in some of the ratings, but if you get a ‘Bum’ rating, then you might only get 1 point increases.   However, regardless of how well you do, some ratings will always go down, so unless you do well in training, you may find your ratings stuck in the mud.  The games range from simple sparring to putting together assigned punch combinations to pushing to heavy bag as far as you can.

legacy mode 2

The training games can get a bit tedious in FNR4

Then comes the actual bout.  Each boxing match you fight will affect your ranking in your division, your pound-for-pound (P4P) ranking, popularity (percentage out of 100) and your ‘Legacy Status’.  You start off as a ‘Bum’ then work your way up the ladder to ‘Prospect’, ‘Contender’, ‘Champion’ etc, then eventually the ‘Greatest of All Time’.  As you improve, you may notice your boxer working out in a more up-market gym.

Legacy Mode also has an email system whereby you can receive messages from your trainer.  Usually they discuss your progress, whether you’ve been nominated for an end-of-year award (eg Fighter of the Year, Knockout of the Year, Prospect of the Year etc), and if you’ve become champion, the option to go up to another weight class.

So essentially, the game revolves around doing well in the training mini-games to boost your ratings and then winning your fights to improve your rankings.  Occasionally you will check your email.  That’s about it.

Over-reliance on mini-games

The biggest problem with FNR4’s Legacy Mode is its over-reliance on mini-games.  Your boxer’s ratings all depend on your performance in the mini-games, and they are not easy.

The main reason is due to the precision of the right analogue stick.  Sometimes one tiny wrong flick will mean a less than perfect training session and less than optimal results.  You can choose to auto-train the session, but you’ll only achieve 50% of the maximum improvement obtainable.  However, even then, it might be preferable to auto-train because you only need to make a few mistakes to end up being worse off.

As a result, it became necessary to turn off the auto-save function so I could repeat the training sessions multiple times in order to get better ratings for my boxer (otherwise I would just get murdered in the ring).  Even then, it has culminated in a lot of frustration, and I still haven’t gotten the hang of a couple of the training sessions.  This can be a turnoff for the first-time player who may find his boxer’s stats stuck on mediocre.

The concept of the mini-game as training is not bad, but FNR4 relies too much on it.  It makes the game more difficult but not necessarily more enjoyable.  They could have easily incorporated other elements of a fighter’s regimen into the game.  Furthermore, from the perspective of realism, the ratings improved by the mini-games don’t necessarily correspond with the type of training involved.

Interestingly, the August DLC will allow users to allocate face buttons for punches instead of relying on the right analog stick.  This might actually make the mini-games too easy.

One dimensional gameplay

Consequently, Legacy Mode’s gameplay can get awfully one dimensional.  You train and fight, train and fight, check the occasional email and awards list, until you retire.  The divisional and P4P rankings and popularity percentage are arbitrary – you win and they go up, you lose and they go down – you don ‘t understand how it is calculated or the science behind it.  Is it based on the person you fight or the quality of the fight or both?

Fight and train, fight and train

Fight and train, fight and train

Moreover, the people you can fight are limited.  You only get to choose a number of people around your ranking, and in some instances you are prohibited from challenging a person ranked above you.  You get the occasional challenge from an opponent, but unless your stats are sufficiently upgraded, accepting the challenge can be suicide.  Consequently, I found myself picking on an opponent I know I can beat and fought him 5 or 6 times in a row in order to pad my ratings.  It’s not exactly realistic or fun.

The emails and awards are also very repetitive and get boring quickly.  After a while you’ll find yourself allowing the emails to stack up and deleting them in bulk when the number gets annoyingly high, and skipping the awards list each year.

Gimmicks rather than realism

FNR4’s Legacy Mode is touted as the most realistic and comprehensive career mode of all time, but it focuses more on gimmicks than realism.

Take for example the new addition of the P4P rankings, emails, awards and Legacy Status – none of them really mean much in terms of gameplay.  They are good concepts to have, but in the game they are no more than numbers.  You become the no. 1 P4P fighter in the world – but so what?  There’s no concept of money in the game, so you it’s not like you can demand more money or fight opponents that would otherwise decline your challenge.  As mentioned before, the emails are repetitive and lose their impact after a little whole.

Further, the awards are kind of pointless.  You win an award, you see your name and photo on a list, but that’s all.  There’s no press conference, no video highlights, no magazine or newspaper clipping, no trophy cabinet – and most importantly, nothing to show for it in terms of new items or improved ratings or flexibility in who you can fight.  The awards are also handed out quite randomly too.  You might see a Prospect of the Year with a losing record or a Fighter of the Year with an average record.  The thing is, apart from yourself, you don’t really know anything about the other fighters or other divisions, so they are virtually pointless.

Instead of focusing on gimmicks, Legacy Mode ought to have focused more on realism.  Perhaps the biggest problem is that ‘money’ has been taken out of Legacy Mode.  Like it or not, the majority of boxers out there fight for money and the big payday.  Without money, a large chunk of excitement has been taken out of the game.  It would have been good to work to have been able to work your way up to bigger paydays, have contract negotiations, been able to spend on equipment, promoters, trainers, cut men, things like that.  And what about weight control, one of the most important aspects of any fighter’s fight camp?

legacy 1

Youcan customize the rankings before the start of Legacy Mode

A second issue I had was with the rankings and opponents.  There are 3 belts in each division, but only one set of rankings.  Realistically, there should be three sets of rankings, one for each belt.  And realistically, there should be more than just 3 belts.  Your opponents, on the other hand, don’t give you much to get excited about.  They may have high ratings, but not many have decent records.  Most have at least 4 or 5 losses at the very least and a bunch of draws without many knockouts.  In fact, I don’t think I have ever seen a fighter with an undefeated record.  As a result, don’t expect to be a part of any superfights between undefeated boxers.

A third complaint is in the boxer’s looks.  From start to finish, your boxer looks the way you created him (or the way he was created).  He doesn’t age, and his body shape, muscle tone etc, do not change.  From amateur to world champion, your boxer will look exactly the same.  It’s disappointing because if they wanted the game to be realistic they should have focused on these aspects, and the truth is, other boxing games have focused on all of these things.

No freedom

Legacy Mode offers little in terms of realistic freedom for players.  Other boxing simulations have incorporated important aspects of a boxer’s life such as diet (eg Boxer’s Road, a PS1 game (!) allowed users to choose exactly what their boxer ate for each meal and when they ate it).  There’s no choice of promoter or trainer, no choice of cut man.  No choice of training equipment or sparring partners.  Boxers aren’t allowed to relocate to other gyms or other countries (or start from a country other than America).

There’s just too much that is arbitrary about the game.  You automatically change to a more up-market gym; you only get an opportunity to change weight divisions after you become champion and you can only move up a maximum of two weight classes at most.  There’s just not enough flexibility and too many limitations for Legacy Mode to feel like a realistic boxing simulation.

Final Word on Legacy Mode

FNR4’s biggest selling point is supposed to be its Legacy Mode.  On its face, it looks like it has a lot to offer, but when you really think about it and break down the elements, Legacy Mode fails to live up to expectations.  From the repetitive gameplay to the lack of realism and freedom, Legacy Mode doesn’t compare favourably to what is already out there on the market.  It may be a few more years before FNR5 is released, but when it does, let’s hope they can do a much better job.


Graphics: 10/10

Sound: 9/10

Gameplay: 8/10

Online: 8/10

Legacy Mode: 5/10

Overall: 7/10

Next: Fight Night Round 5 Wishlist!