The training minigames are fun, but most are overly difficult and don't offer significant rewards.
The result of the training problems is that at some stage you're likely to move up the rankings to a point at which all of your potential opponents (or at least those who can further your career) are vastly superior to you on paper. It's still possible to win, and it's not terribly difficult to do so, but you're unlikely to knock these guys out, so every fight becomes a 30-minute exercise in making sure that you land more point-scoring punches than your opponent--even if they're too weak to hurt him. It's unfortunate that the training in Legacy mode isn't more effective, because while it's still compelling to create a fighter and guide him up through the ranks, maintaining a good win/loss record almost necessitates fights against guys you know you can beat while you wait for your attributes to catch up to your ranking. Pointless, poorly written, and repetitive e-mails sent to your fighter also detract from the Legacy mode somewhat, though they're so pointless that ignoring them has no impact whatsoever.
When fighting against AI opponents in Round 4, regardless of whether you're in Legacy mode or just pitting favorite pros against each other in a single fight, it's hard not to feel like you have an unfair advantage. AI fighters will, for the most part, throw something resembling a realistic number of punches in a round, but you can easily throw three or four times as many without risking tiring yourself out too much. Online fights, on the other hand, pit you against opponents who can fight just as unrealistically as you, and because the fights very rarely suffer from noticeable lag, it's here that Fight Night Round 4 really shines--at least when you play with friends.
In addition to one-off fights, which can include licensed fighters as well as custom creations, Round 4 features an Online World Championship mode that ranks you against every other player in the world on weight-specific leaderboards. The downside to ranked online fights is that too many players are simply creating fighters with long reaches and then throwing as many punches as they possibly can in every round. It doesn't guarantee them a win because, if you're patient, it's certainly possible to avoid their blows and counter-attack while they tire themselves out. It's no fun to come up against opponents like these though, and quitting out of a fight prematurely is only an option if you don't mind having a loss and a DNF (did not finish) percentage on your profile.
When you're in the ring, hopefully with an opponent who's not going to exit prematurely, Fight Night Round 4 is a real treat for the senses. The fighters, the audiences, and the arenas that they're packed into all look great, and the slow-motion replays of knockout punches are brutal, but the real star of the show is the audio. Punches sound satisfying, crowds get excited and shout fighter-specific chants, your corner men can be heard yelling useful instructions, and the color commentary is great. The guys on the mics not only call the fight accurately, but also offer anecdotes and analogies aplenty (enough that they don't repeat themselves too often) and drop a good amount of fighter-specific knowledge--mentioning things like Ricky Hatton's affiliation with Manchester City Football Club as well as a couple of his recent real-life fights. In Legacy mode, they also reference your custom fighter's career record, though they don't go into any detail about previous fights or anything like that.
Pacquiao's legs disappear from under him after a big shot from Hatton.
Fight Night Round 4's greatest strength is that while it's accessible and relatively easy for newcomers, it can also be challenging and rewarding for pugilism perfectionists. It's unfortunate that online matches are being dominated by players who are mindlessly spamming punches rather than fighting realistically, because on those occasions that you do meet someone who's playing with some finesse it really is a lot of fun. Stepping into Fight Night Round 4's ring is definitely recommended if you have any interest in the sport whatsoever, just be aware that not everyone you come up against will be fighting in the spirit of the Queensbury rules.
Editor's Note: Our original review incorrectly stated that players aren't penalized for disconnecting from online fights prematurely. In fact, players who disconnect automatically lose the fight, even if this isn't always immediately apparent on the leaderboards. GameSpot regrets the error.