Reviewed: May 5, 2005
Released: March 1, 2005
For those of you who read my positively glowing review of Fight Night 2004 from last year, thereís no hiding that I absolutely worshipped that game. It pretty much exemplified the sport at that time. By no means perfect, it did however do very little wrong. Capturing what makes boxing what it is, and leaving players with few significant complaints to speak of.
This time around Electronic Arts takes an already fabulous game and cranks it up a few more notches - turns it up to eleven. Some minor issues, which I felt were problems in the original, have been addressed - but not necessarily for the greater good. In addition, a few things that where missed last time around, have fortunately have been worked into this new mix. They can now say, ďItís in the game!Ē without coming across as hypocrites. On top of the gameplay alterations, some new surprises have been added. Great surprises to be sure, in the form of fantastic corner activity and a functional reward system.
Certainly, if you wanted to know what I thought of this game you could simply took to the side of the screen and read the scores I awarded, but for those of you who have looked away and decided to read on - you can probably already tell that Iím in love again. EA Sports Fight Night: Round 2 is simply an amazing game. Okay there, I said it, Iíve skipped right to the punch (no pun intended) and dished out my final thoughts right here in the overview. Now, if you want to know why I think itís so great, just keep reading. One things for sure, if you passed on Fight Night 2004 last year, youíre going to want to give it a try now, and if you bought last yearís version, well - itís time for a worthwhile upgrade.
If you really want to know what the gameplayís like in this latest incarnation of the Fight Night series, you might as well go back and read my glowing review for last yearís game. Rather than say it all again, Iím just going to focus on the changes and improvements.
First and foremost, the game plays very much like the original, but now includes the devastating haymaker punch. While the original game required Street Fighter-esque movements in order to be successful, this new punch definitely does. Requiring the player to move the stick to the side or slight downward, then move the stick towards the bottom of its rotation, and then swing it back up towards the top. The haymaker can be performed with either hand as a hook or an uppercut, either to the head or the body Ė basically resulting in 8 new punches.
While I was originally of the opinion that landing a haymaker would virtually flatten an opponent upon contact, this doesnít seem to be the case, as itís possible to withstand multiple hits from this punch without going down. The beauty of it is that it really messes the opponent up, allowing you to throw additional punches in combination. While rare, you can sometimes throw down an opponent with a perfectly placed haymaker in a single shot; even if their life is pretty much full. This is extremely rare, but it can happen.
The downside of the haymaker is that blocking it results in the aggressor dropping his guard, opening him up and allowing ample time for some deadly counter attacks. Itís the price you pay for showing the big brass ones and failing to connect.
Other new moves include the clinch. While not very useful and/or effective during regular fighting, it can really save your ass when youíre about to go down. The clinch can give you a good chunk of life back and help keep you on your feet until the bell rings. Still, on the downside both players gain life, only making the punisher that much healthier. Still, if it saves you from eating floor and losing more points, who cares. Better than being knocked out. The only problem is, itís not easy to get into a clinch, which I suppose is only fair since youíre losing at the time and pretty much deserve to have your head knocked off.
Another change to the game comes between rounds. In the form of a mini-game, players can now choose to reduce their own facial swelling and heal their own cuts. While itís possible to hit a button and have this occur automatically. Iíd like to think the EA had the foresight to make sure that the people who actually took this task upon themselves have the potential to fix their boxers up better than the wimps who skip past it.
The biggest change to the gameplay, besides what Iíve just talked about comes from the inclusion of multiplayer over Xbox Live. Now Iíve had a lot of fights on there and have a pretty respectable record, but find a few things about the online mode to be annoying. The main thing being the shear number of people who decline fights with me. Iím baffled to wonder why half of these people are even online if they say no to every challenge they get. Needless to say, when I do fight someone, (about 1 out of 15 challenges) itís a blast. Iíve personally found it easier to fight someone without the distraction of the voice chat feature Ė as pounding someone into paste with some anonymity is far easier than fighting, talking and losing my concentration. Still online is great, and a true test of your pugilist skills.
The last thing Iíll discuss are the training modes and the unlockables. The training has changed, while last year there were 4 different training activities, now there are only 3. I found them to be a bit easier this time around Ė and to be honest, Iím grateful, since last yearís heavy bag gave me never ending grief. Gone are the training mitts, and new are weightlifting exercises and a revised heavybag workout.
As far as unlockables Ė well you still unlock different stuff depending on the events or weight classes you beat, but now, when you spend money on new gloves, trunks and ring escorts, you actually gain bonuses for them. For example, buying new gloves adds a statistical modifier like more punching power, and shoes mean more speed. At last paying for all that extra crap actually gets you something in return other than visual changes. Itís defiantly cool since it removes the somewhat pointless nature of spending your cash, well for that matter Ė even earning cash.
While the graphics last year were fantastic, and pretty much perfect, EA somehow managed to improve upon them. Characters this year are even more realistic, containing many more polygons and more human characteristics. Puffing, wheezing, sweating, and such are simply awesome. Not to mention the unusual beauty of the cuts and bruises the boxers endure. While you repair battle damage between rounds take special notice to the huge level of facial detail on you fighter. The characters grit their teeth in pain as you reduce the swelling. Everything from moles and facial stubble, down to the sweaty glow can be seen and adds a level of realism seldom seen in other games.
Like before, there are many locations to fight in, and while some places lack the grandeur and size of last yearís production, they still look fabulous. This time EA employs a blurring effect that makes far of places appear slightly out of focus, thus keeping the playerís attention on the fighters instead of the scenery.
One of the bigger changes come from the knockouts. While the ragdoll physics of last year resulted in some hilarious and sometimes ridiculous falls, especially when you got tangled up in the ropes, this seems to have been altered slightly in this new incarnation. Fighters seem to have more weight to them, and the ropes are more resistant to that weight. While this stops the glitchy look when the fighter falls against them, this has also lowered the unpredictability and comedic nature of the falls. Itís sort of a double-edged sword, as the knockouts seem to have lost some of their appeal as a result. While I can certainly understand why it was done, I think EA needs to find that middle ground for next year.
The replays are also great. A tad better than last year, we can now see visually impressive details that make some hits look absolutely brutal. Blood and sweat flies from the fighters in a truly awe-aspiring manner Ė and on occasion you may even catch a mouthpiece flying through the air. Couple stuff like that with the boxerís jaw and lips skewing to the side and their eyes rolling back, and Fight Nightís visual representation of power comes across like nobodyís business. Truly great stuff. Now all thatís needed to capture the essence of the sport is to have blood, sweat and water from the corner men to slowly build up on the mat as the fight moves on. Maybe next time.
Like before, the sound isnít really the most important aspect of this game. Punches still produce a heavy thud, or a tapping sound, and falling to the canvas still sounds as though youíre dropping like a ton of bricks.
The music hasnít really chanced a whole lot either, as rap and hip-hop tracks still, and unsurprisingly dominate the score. Still no custom soundtrack option for ring entries, which once again is a real bummer.
One of the more significant chances comes from the ring announcer. Gone is the gangster homey of last year, in favor of some more traditional voice work. However, the redundancy of the comments still permeate and the announcers still tend to say a lot of stuff that doesnít quite fit in with the actions. For example, you could be only a couple punches into the game and the commentators will say something stupid likeÖ ďIíd sure like to see some more punching accuracy fromÖĒ so and so. Hey man, the fight just started here, give me a break!
More value than last year? Certainly. While the career mode still plays out in much the same fashion, the added value of this offering defiantly comes with the inclusion of Xbox Live play. Lets face it; we canít all have our friends over at the house to beat on all the time. So the opportunity to duke it out with some living, breathing opponents online certainly adds a great deal to this title. While I eventually got bored of the previous Fight Night, I can see myself hanging onto this one for a while purely for the online component. Besides, Iím doing pretty good on there right now and have aspirations of proving Iím the greatest boxer in the world, as Iím sure many other players do.
Last year I could be quoted as saying ďFight Night 2004 will probably stand out in my mind forever as one of the best.Ē. With this yearís Fight Night: Round 2, I can honestly say this again. While there are a few things I miss like the comedic, springy rope knockdowns, I have to say that this yearís version of the game is easily better. Itís more polished, more refined, has Xbox Live play and adds a few elements, in particular, the clinch that were missing last time out.
While the career mode is once again a blast to play, I still found it to be a little on the easy side. With steady use of the jab and a lot of leaning back to avoid haymakers, you can pretty much beat any computer opponent with little or no trouble at all. Still, when you think of boxing you think of two men in a ring, not one man and a computer-controlled adversary. With a friend or online, this game is bound to keep me coming back again and again, or at least until we step out of our corners for Round 3.