Electronic Arts have seriously outdone themselves with their latest boxing game for the Xbox, Fight Night Round 2. Using the Total Punch Control system that they have developed, the game is just incredible. You can either play Career Mode with a boxer that you create, play online against other players, or just box for fun in the one or two-player mode. While in the latter mode you can use one of many available boxing legends including Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, Joe Frazier, Evander Holyfield, and Sonny Liston. Famous boxers from all weight classes are included, giving you a huge selection of fighters to choose from. Best of all, though, is the ability to create your own boxer.
When you first start Career Mode, you are asked to create a fighter. You get to choose the appearance of their facial and body features by using the thumb sticks to adjust every aspect of their physical appearance. You can make your fighter look like anyone, and make then as fat, skinny, or muscular as you like. After choosing their physical features, you then move on to selecting their equipment. At first you only have a limited selection of beginner’s equipment but, as your fighter improves and earns victories, more items will be unlocked. You can select everything from shorts and boxing gloves, to tattoos and mouth guards. The create-a-fighter feature is absolutely terrific, easy to use, and allows the user to basically create any type of fighter they can think of.
Once your fighter has been created, you get to start fighting at the lowest level, which is basically a rundown gym. Once you’ve firmly established your talent through a number of sparring matches, you can turn professional. Once you are pro, your fighter is ranked. Every fight you win moves you closer to the coveted number-one contender spot. For winning fights, belts, and accomplishing other goals within the game, your fighter wins prize money. This can then be used to purchase new fight moves and peripheral equipment, which allows you to further customize your boxer. The better equipment will actually increase your boxer’s stats, so it is always a good idea to upgrade your stuff. You can also use winnings to hire trainers, scantily clad women to accompany you to the ring, and new music and pyrotechnics for your ring entrance. By taking advantage of all of these things, the player really gets the opportunity to make every aspect of their fighter unique.
Fight Night Round 2 has a great system for slowly but steadily improving and evolving your fighter. Before each fight you have the option to train in preparation for the bout; you get to choose between lifting weights, training on the heavy bag, or using the combo dummy. Each of these training options increases your boxer’s abilities in different areas, and increases his ring-based ability over time. This is an awesome system, as it helps your fighter improve as he continues his quest to move through the ranks. By the time he reaches the number-one contender spot, he should have a good chance of holding his own against the resident champion. In addition, as your boxer gains muscle – or fat – you can actually see that his body is changing accordingly.
The Total Punch Control system is an extremely well developed control style. The left thumb stick primarily moves your fighter around the ring, but when the left trigger is pulled he will stand his ground, the left thumb stick now making him bob and weave. This is great for dodging your opponent’s blows. The right thumb stick is where the true Total Punch Control comes in, though. To throw punches, you simply press the right thumb stick in a particular direction. Diagonal right is a right jab, while diagonal left is a left jab. Sideways movements allow you to throw hooks, and the down and diagonal executes uppercuts. This system is so cool. You can watch and study your opponent’s defenses and actually land punches wherever and whenever he leaves an opening. Coupled with the movement on the left thumb stick, you can dodge your opponent’s fists and then come back and land all sorts of counter combos. This makes the fighting so much more interactive than if you were just arbitrarily tapping buttons. You actually get to direct your punches, and this opens up the gameplay considerably. You can also use the controller’s the ?X’, ?Y’, ?B’, and ?A’ buttons for some secondary moves. These include illegal blows, clinching your opponent (hugging, for those who don’t know boxing jargon), taunting (you can actually flap your arms like a chicken), and your fighter’s signature punch (for when you want to lay a guy out in style). These all add a little extra spice to an already superb fighting system. It’s a ton of fun to pummel your opponent, or mischievously throw taunts to draw them closer, and then use your signature power punch to lay them flat to the canvas. Any way you look at it, the fighting system Fight Night Round 2 absolutely rocks. You’ll love it!
The graphics are yet another area where the game excels. The boxers are rendered so well that you could almost mistake them for real people. You can see the light reflecting off their bodies, and even the sweat running down their chests. Their facial expressions are unbelievably accurate and, again, go a long way towards making these fighters look real. Perhaps some of the strongest graphical effects occur when you successfully land a solid punch and the game’s physics take over – your opponent’s head snapping back or sideways and their features contorting the way a real person’s would. This is best demonstrated in the instant replays directly following a knock down. If hit in the mouth, you actually see the boxer’s lips fly open and over to one side; the entire face reacting to the inertia caused by the punch. If knocked down, the fighter’s jaw goes slack, his lips part and his mouth guard slips out of position. These aesthetic details are simply amazing to watch – even down to vacant eyes rolling back into the head. It’s all done so well. As the fight progresses the injuries pile up as well; your fighter’s eyes and nose start to swell, their lips, cheeks, and most of the face can become cut or bruised. If a fighter suffers a cut or serious swelling, and is repeatedly hit in the area of the injury, it will become noticeably worse. Everything about the graphics in Fight Night Round 2 is just plain wonderful. When you witness an in-game slow-motion replay of a guy’s face absorbing a heavy punch, while a spray of blood and sweat erupts from the violent contact, I guarantee you will agree.
The game’s sound is also good, though somewhat overshadowed by the graphical strengths. The announcers calling the fights sound suitably convincing in terms of authenticity, and they audibly keep track of injuries sustained and punches thrown. They succeed in adding yet another level of excitement to the already amazing fights. The sound effects themselves are great, with the meaty whack of fists slamming face; but, as mentioned above, the graphics are so beautiful that they largely draw your attention away from the aural experience. Sadly, considering its excellence, the sound almost becomes superfluous beside the dazzling visuals.
Fight Night Round 2 emerges as an undisputed heavyweight champion in every sense of the word. The sound moves through the ring with quick feet, the controls are swift sharp jabs of intuitiveness, and the graphics never fail to deliver a knockout blow. How could you go wrong with gameplay highlights including controls as accurate as a brain surgeon’s scalpel and visuals as hot as the molten core of the Earth itself? If you have even the slightest interest in boxing videogames, you should already be playing Fight Night Round 2. It’ll leave you punch drunk in love.