This review has to start with the fact that I?m not a big follower of boxing games. My most recent memory of a boxing videogame is Punch Out! for the NES. After that classic, boxing hasn?t had a good treatment in the industry. No great ones come to mind. Fight Night Round 2 comes in a perfect time frame: great boxing movies have been released recently (Million Dollar Baby and Ali, to name two) and there?s nonexistent competition in the genre. However, that doesn?t make Fight Night Round 2 any less deserving of praise.
Seeing realistic, topless sweaty men is not my idea of eye candy. But if you wanted realistic-looking boxers then you have them here in all their ugly glory. There are some pretty Round girls to distract your vision. Aside from that, the boxers? models are very well made. The muscles are toned according to the boxer?s weight and fitness. Some look more buff because they work out more, obviously. You can get your boxer to look like a killing machine. The movement of the boxer is also incredibly realistic, and responsive to the actions you convey through the controller. Avoiding punches with your upper body looks amazing.
But it?s not only about the boxers. A big part of the boxing spectacle are the luxurious (or awful) venues. You get from the old, worn out gym to the fancy Vegas rings. It all adds to the feeling of being in the big leagues. You start out your fights in cheap boxing matches, working your way to the top. Part of the appeal of the venues are the ability to make more spectacular entrances. Fight Night Round 2 will even let you arrange your own to boost confidence levels.
Those out there who have never been to a live fight (myself included, only wrestling) may not know how the sights and sounds of an event like a boxing match can be appreciated. The next best thing would be a boxing movie. What do boxing movies have in common when it comes to the fight itself? You get to see the raw effect of punches to the face and body of the contenders, the sound of the glove hitting the chin or stomach. Especially the sounds are ones that you don?t hear everyday in your normal life, and that?s part of the appeal of a fight. You get to see and hear to people trying to hurt each other as much as they can, in a sportsmanlike way of course. Fight Night Round 2 offers amazing sound effects, even more so in the replays. Replays are always fun to let them flow. You can see how your moves look from different angles and how the punch sounded with the crowd muted. That brings to a realistic sounding punch. But don?t worry about the cheers of the crowds because you have them here. Nevertheless, it?s a different experience when you shut down the sounds that don?t belong to the field, court or ring in this case. Sports games now have that great attention to detail, adding realism to the sounds of battle.
This is where Fight Night Round 2 earns the championship belt. A fighting system that?s both innovative and intuitive. It makes one wonder why it hadn?t been on other boxing games before. Take into consideration that the intuitiveness comes after playing the game a few times. The Control Stick is used to move your fighter in the ring. You will use the C-Stick a lot, it gives the direction and type of punch you will give. Imagine your boxer from a top view. If you move the stick forward (either left or right) you will jab, if you move the stick to the side (again left or right depending on the side you wish to hit) and then forward you will perform a hook and if you move the stick down and the upward to the side (like forming a G or an inverted G depending on the side) an uppercut will be performed. That?s the first and easy part because up until now your boxer is only hitting to the face, if you want to hit the body the same applies but while pressing down the L button. The L button will also serve as a pivot to move your upper body to avoid punches. The R button will serve as the block trigger, using the C-Stick in the same fashion but instead of punching you will block punches. The Y and X buttons are for entertainment purposes only, Y for taunts and X for illegal punches. It?s not sportsmanlike but in reality it?s part of many boxers? strategy. You will have a kick when playing the game, after a while you as a gamer will feel like the one throwing the punches. And actually feeling the combos, that?s due to the intuitive control scheme. The A button is cast aside for special punches that you acquire throughout the game. That?s where the other part of the strategy kicks in, or punches in?
When playing Career Mode you will create a boxer from scratch and start taking him to the top, with all the bells and whistles that these modes have in today?s sports games scene. You earn money with each fight you win, and you can buy special punches, boots, gloves, the works. Or you can go into a fight with either a better cut specialist or manager, or fireworks, ladies and music for your entrance. Each of these will boost your ratings on a particular aspect of the boxer before going to the fight. You can pump up your fighter before the fight with the Pre-Fight Training, with either the Heavy Bag, the Punching Dummy or Weights and again different aspects are heightened with each exercise. Only that the pre-fight training ratings that are affected stay that way, you modify your fighter with each training.
A cuts specialist was mentioned in the last paragraph. Not many people when thinking of a boxing game immediately think of the cut man. But the folks at EA Sports did and brought into the gameplay. After each round of a pro match, you can heal your boxer with swelling of cuts using the C-Stick. There are four areas you can choose to heal, and the level of damage is represented with numbers and as you move the C-Stick in the direction that you can see in a curved meter on each of the four sides, you can diminish that number.
Taking a no name to the top of the boxing world is fun, but another incredibly entertaining aspect of the game is fighting with legendary boxers like Muhammad Ali or Joe Frazier; and re-enact famous fights.
THE RETRO BUG
Boxing games will never be the same after the incredible and addictive Fight Night Round 2 that not only sheds new light to the genre but to another boxing classic of the NES days: Super Punch Out! Fans of the sport will be delighted with this EA Sports effort, and non-fans will be amazed of being hooked on a boxing game.