EA has come a long way since the Knockout Kings franchise. Fight Night is Knockout Kings reinvented and reinvigorated. Fight Night Round 2 is the sequel to the improved boxing franchise from EA. With dozens of real boxers, incredible punch control, and improved corner dynamics, Fight Night Round 2 provides a ringside seat to catch some boxing action.
Presentation/Graphics : 95
At first glance, Fight Night Round 2 is a graphical feast. The boxers in the game look absolutely incredible. Starting with the standard set of boxers, the rendering is well done. Boxers look like their actual real-life models. Facial features, muscle tone, and more is modeled with exquisite detail. When you create your own boxer, you are flabbergasted. Imagine full control over creating a head. You can adjust the look of the bone structure, ear shape, lips, eyes, and more. The ability to stretch and shrink facial features means you can literally recreate your own likeness in the game. When you hit the ring, these features are carried over in exact detail.
Once the fighting starts, the animations are fluid. The diverse mixture jabs, hooks, uppercuts, body punches, head butts, bobs, weaves, parries, and more create a realistic looking game. As boxers take on damage, facial damage is clearly visible and adds to the realism. Between rounds the facial damage is accentuated. Swelling and cuts form and worsen as the bout goes on. Further, sweat flies off bodies with hard punches. Where the game dips graphically a bit is with collision detection. You see this more during the replays where at time punches appear to go through your opponent. Fortunately it is not significant enough to affect the gameplay.
Presentation/Audio : 80
The music mix that greets you from the very start of the game through the boxer introductions and game menus sets the mood for the game. Unfortunately I canít say the same for the in-game commentary. Often the commentary is either behind the action or completely wrong. Whatís worse is that itís repetitive. If you turn down the commentators, the sounds of the pugilists and crowd overwhelm your ears. The grunts and groans of the boxers are done well as is the sound of glove hitting body. The crowd noise is even better. You get the typical roar of the crowd, but as the fight changes the crowd actively gets behind a boxer. Playing as Sugar Ray Leonard, the crowd may start to chant ďSugar Ray, Sugar RayĒ as he starts to dominate the action.
Interface/Options : 75
Gone are former Knockout Kings game modes like tournaments. In come a similar set of game modes to last yearís Fight Night. A quick fight mode gives you full control of the boxers that will square off. The career mode is front and center in this game. Here you can take a boxer you create or a real boxer from the past or present and move him up the ranks. The Hard Hits mode harkens back to a more violent time. Rounds are untimed and only end on a knockdown. Finally, a series of mini-games enable you to build up the boxersí characteristics. If you tire of offline play, you can also take Fight Night Round 2 online.
Gameplay settings are fairly minimal. You can choose from one of three difficulty levels and set some rules (3 knockdown, saved by the bell, round length). There are limited audio and video settings that can be altered. The most versatile option is the controller mapping. The best way to play the game is with the analog sticks, but for button mashers, a controller mapping for that exists.
Gameplay : 85
EA deserves credit for trying to make the former Knockout Kings franchise into a more realistic boxing game with the name change to Fight Night. Round 2 is by far the most realistic offering yet. This is in large part due to the variety of moves that can be performed. The punch variety includes head and body punches, hooks, jabs, uppercuts, and more. Unfortunately EA also included the haymaker. While this punch leaves a boxer vulnerable, it also imparts too much damage. Hopefully the haymaker will either be refined or removed in future editions. Regardless, the default controls for punching use the right analog stick. Using the Total Punch Control adds a whole new dimension to the game. This by far beats button mashing. While button mashers can reconfigure the game to make them happy, it also minimizes the realistic pace of the game.
Punching is only half the game. The other half is defense. Here the game excels. Bobbing and weaving is implemented well. An effectively timed weave opens your opponent up to counterpunches which score well in front of the judges. Blocking keeps your boxer from taking on too much damage. Using the excellently thought out controller scheme, you can block blows to the body or head. Finally, a parry lets you deflect a punch and set up a counterpunch. If you find yourself in trouble an illegal blow or even clinching can be initiated.
While Fight Night does these things well, what it doesnít do is completely recreate the sport of boxing. Offline the fights are rather scripted. While the game has one-punch knockouts, the occur infrequently or never at all. Instead, the game still relies on the health meter. If a fighter is on the brink of getting knocked down, a clinch will stop the action and the boxer will too quickly increase in health. Similarly, a fighter that is knocked down regains health unrealistically. I expect boxers to behave more defensively after a knockdown in an attempt to barely hang on until the bell. You just donít get that with Fight Night Round 2. If youíre knocked down, the game requires you to use the left and right analog sticks to center an image. With each knockdown this gets harder. For AI opponents, itís pretty much scripted. Almost every time the fight ends on the fourth knockdown.
Between rounds you have a chance to treat swelling and cuts on your boxers. Using the right analog stick, you make wiping motions in an attempt to drop damage in one of four facial locations. You can move from location to location before the 30 second clock expires. Itís a unique and involving aspect of the game. To prevent cuts or make your boxing traits stronger, mini-games are available between fights. The number of mini-games has decreased to only three, but they are fun. The combo dummy is essentially Simon Says; the heavy bag simply requires a flurry of body or head shots; and the weight lifting event requires good manual dexterity.
Taking this game online is not recommended. Iím sure EA had good intentions, but unfortunately gamers abuse some aspects of the game. More than likely fights devolve into fights with nothing but haymakers or fights where someone has to rely on the buttons rather than Total Punch Control. Button mashing is an effective way at keeping an opponent from getting a punch in. Itís also unrealistic and no fun. Blame this on the quality of gamers hanging out waiting for prey with the game.
Replay Value : 75
Keeping Fight Night Round 2 offline is your best bet. The online component just isnít ready for prime time boxing. This is in large part to the way gamers can exploit some holes in the game. If EA can plug those up, it will be more enjoyable with Xbox Live. Offline, there are some good things with the game. Sadly, the boxing is relatively easy. Once you learn to avoid punches from AI competitors, itís just a matter of jabs and hooks to slowly beat down your competition. Still, working your way up the ranks in the career mode is a fun diversion.
Overall : 80
A step up from last yearís Fight Night, Round 2 tweaks the gameplay aspects for the better. The addition of the cutman between rounds to work your boxerís swelling and cuts adds to the realism. A few issues remain making this from becoming a true boxing simulation Ė haymakers are too effective and common, AI knockdowns seem scripted, and opponent AI needs some enhancing. The audio and video have been improved and serve to enhance the fighting environment. Overall, a nice title that needs a bit more training to contend for the title.