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Fight Night Round 2 Review

Developer: EA Chicago Publisher: EA Sports
Release Date: March 1, 2005 Available On: GCN, PS2, and Xbox

Last year, Fight Night came out greased up, gloves on, ready to start swinging. There have been no boxing games anywhere near its level of excellence before it and, in my opinion, was easily the best boxing game since Super Punch Out. As the months rolled on after release I realized how truly great Fight Night 2004 was and how very high my hopes were for its successor. Luckily for me, and the rest of the gaming world, Fight Night Round 2 improves upon its predecessor in almost every way imaginable. It is nowhere close to perfect, but is easily the water mark in the genre.

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Fight Night 2004 did so many things right it was hard to think what Electronic Arts could come up with for improvement. Though I say that every year with every sports game I play it’s normally pretty easy to pick out the upgrade. FIFA 2005 had separate physics for the ball, MVP 2005 had the Hitter’s Eye and NCAA Football brought in home field advantage this year. This is the great thing about Round 2; it is impossible to point out one great improvement because the whole package came out so polished.

The control system remains nearly unchanged from last year. Players still have the options of using the face buttons or the right analog stick but it quickly becomes evident that using the stick has its distinct advantages. Pulling off haymakers or quick, fluid combos are impossible to do when the face buttons are used. Blocking and weavings also become much more difficult when using the face buttons as it becomes necessary to use the stick to do these required moves.

One small problem with the setup is that playing against human opponents becomes very difficult; it is more of a natural move with your right thumb to roll the stick clockwise so ninety percent of the punches are from the left which makes them infinitely easier to block. Just force myself to punch from my right side, you say? It’s nearly impossible to do for more than a round and not end up with severe hand cramps. The problem isn’t as bad on the PlayStation 2 but both the Xbox and GameCube suffer from the same thing. My bad genetics notwithstanding, this control setup is awesome and I can’t see anything replacing it for years to come.

While the career mode is more fleshed out from 2004 it’s still not fantastic. An amateur class, which works as an interactive tutorial, is included this time. Obviously, fighters start off in the amateur ranks and choose to go pro when they feel they’re ready. As soon as the fighter goes pro, he begins his fight to the top of the world rankings, fighting such greats as Bernard Hopkins, Muhammad Ali and Evander Holyfield. The career mode proves to not be too difficult and would come off as a slight letdown if the ability to purchase items weren’t included.

The fight shop is the main reason for playing through the career mode. The usual additions of new trunks, accessories, shoes and boots, tattoos can be purchased with money earned throughout a fighter’s career. Don’t get up and leave just yet, folks. Purchasing these items not only makes your fighter look pretty-boy pretty like myself, but improves stats. It makes such sense that it’s a surprise it wasn’t included last year. Customizable ring entrances and coaches can also be purchased before each match to give the fighter an extra little boost, as well.

Each console’s version has its own perks. PlayStation 2 has the best control, Xbox has the best looking graphics and the addition of Xbox Live support and the GameCube has the full retail version of Super Punch Out!

I used to show off Fight Night 2004 to my friends to show them how realistic the boxers looked, how well animated they were and how the knockouts were fantastic looking. Round 2 puts all of these to shame. Doing a side by side comparison of 2004 and Round 2 is like comparing an early generation PlayStation 2 game to Halo 2; there just is no comparison. The representations of the real life boxers are spot on and look absolutely gorgeous. Perhaps the easiest way to see the improvements in the graphical engine is with the new EA Sports Cutman feature. Each section of the boxer’s face swells and cuts independently. You can also see trickling beads of sweat, open pores, facial emotion and drops of blood. It’s astonishing to look at, let alone be able to control.

The sound has also been raised to the same level of excellence as the visuals. The ‘hip’ announcer from last year is gone, thankfully and replaced with more professional sounding personality. They occasionally repeat, but it is a vast improvement over what had come before. The ambient noise is great as well; the crowd is constantly hootin’ and hollerin’ and with a decent surround sound setup, this adds a lot to the game. The biggest improvement in the sound, in my opinion, is the sound of a haymaker landing on your opposition’s jaw. It’s a distinct thud that is quite indescribable, but adds so much more than to the experience that I had to mention it.

Fight Night Round 2 is the high mark in 2005 as far as sports goes, beating out even MVP Baseball and Konami’s Winning Eleven. With the graphical upgrades, the improvements to the controls and the addition of online play (GameCube version not included), Round 2 is the reigning champion of sports games so far in 2005.

Graphics: 9.5
Sound: 9
Gameplay: 8.5
Creativity: 8
Replay Value/Game Length: 9
Final: 9
Written by Chris Review Guide