Review by radioraheem

"Better than punching out the school bully"

Boxing games have always been of the hit-or-miss variety; either solidly good, or outright bad. From the very beginning of boxing games we were basically given a graphical version of Rock 'Em Sock 'Em robots; little movement, no defense, and all out punching. Satisfying if you were quick, but in the end, frustrating in its simplicity. There was no depth here, no subtlety. Where was the science in the sweet science? Enter the next generation of gaming. Victorious Boxers and Knockout Kings began to use a system of leaning, bobbing, and weaving. Finally, something with depth. Defense was just as important as offense. Luckily for us, EA has built upon these solid ideas with the remarkably fun and addicting Fight Night Round 2.

Presentation (8.5/10): This game, simply put, is gorgeous in all the right places. The emphasis is puuuurfectly placed; why bother upgrading crowd and arena graphics when the actual bulk of the game is in the ring? Why indeed. EA has shifted their focus into the action within the ring, and it's simply marvelous. Blood, sweat, and tears have never flowed so beautifully, so realistically. The shine of the bright lights on muscular limbs is nearly photorealistic, and the impact of solid punches are well captured with bursts of blood and sweat. Big punches contort the faces of the poor sap too slow to dodge, and the slow motion replay really lets you enjoy their pain. Knockouts are also well done, as no two look alike with the rag doll physics system. Furthermore, you can now punch a guy on the way down, and it plays out wonderfully in replay. Rarely do you notice a clipping issue or framerate slowdown. Visually, this game is top notch.

The sound, on the other hand, is a rather mixed bag. The in game fight sounds are well captured, and punches sound adequately impact crunching (especially in replay). Some of the one liners are interesting, but your corner coach can be terribly repetitive. The commentator is now more 'official' sounding, so the ghetto commentary of last year's edition is long gone, thank goodness. The music, interesting for the first couple hours, becomes downright grating if you don't dig radio edited rap. And let's face it...not many of us do. So while the sound is well done, the game's music is rather lacking in variety (about 8-10 songs total) and general appeal.

Gameplay (10/10): The meat and bones of any fighting game worth a lick, FN02 excels in the pugilistic arts. Punching someone has never felt so natural, so fluid, and so satisfying all at once. With the Total Punch Control (TPC) system, you can unleash a flurry of punches without worrying if you hit the button one too many times. You can now charge up the power of your punching, and charged up haymakers become a major threat in the game. It's a bit awkward at first, but soon enough you'll be sticking and moving with the best of them.

Ah, but what about defense, you say? FN2 sets itself apart by putting an equal weight on defense, counter punching, and parrying. We've all had to deal with button mashing friends that don't know a thing about fighting/boxing games, and we've all lost because of their rapid fire thumbs. FN2 corrects this by simplifying the block (hold R1 and up/down on right analog), or if you're feeling sharp, you can parry by pushing the direction that the punch is coming from. In doing so, your opponent will be off balance for a second, and you can unload a combo on his befuddled face. The stronger his punch, the more time you have. Parrying might seem overpowered when you get the hang of it, but wait until you fight a guy that knows how to feint. It's balancing issues like these that just make FN2 so fun to pick up, yet deep enough to present a challenge to the hardcore fanatics. The aspect of 'clinching' has also been added, which basically means grabbing your opponent to get back health.

Another added bonus is the cutman control. Now, in between rounds, you actually control the cutman to reduce swelling, stop bleeding, and prioritize damage zones. Why is this important, you ask? Well, refs now will stop a fight if one eye swells up, or a cut is so severe as to jeopardize a fighter's well being (no worries, this rarely happens, and never dampens the slugfest). So now, if you cut your opponent's right eye, you can come back by working that eye. However, your opponent can do the same, so it's all fair game. It's basically another mini game addition where you select an area, then move your right analog stick to match the motions. The better you are, the faster you heal.

Value (9/10): This game, despite its annoyingly redundant soundtrack, is great fun that will last you a LONG time. The career mode is long and always enjoyable. You can unlock and buy items and signature punches that enhance your fighter. You have the option of creating a fighter, and the system is quite deep in the physical appearance of your boxer. You can literally make anyone you want in this game with the face sculpting system. Some other options would've been nice, like letting you make your fighter calm and cool instead of a showboater, but hopefully that'll be included next year. Online mode is decent, but bear in mind that this franchise isn't exactly Madden. EA knows it's priorities, and FN2 online isn't one of them. There is a lot of lag if headsets are used, but if you play a good connection without them, you can have a good fight. A lot of online players cheese the haymaker system, which can be annoying, but if you're lag free, you can parry them and counter punch them to an early retirement.

Personal Tilt (10/10): Few fighting games can hold my attention for an extended period of time. Usually, I make myself, have a career, then put it down, never to pick up the game again. FN2 really has kept me excited over the time I've had it. I'm 20 years into my career, and I'm already planning my next one. The create a boxer mode is brilliant; getting a group of friends together and making your counterparts is wildly entertaining, and this is all before you actually fight. This is a great game for one person or a group of people, but I must say it's a game of decent depth, so it's probably not for people that prefer party pack non fighting games. All in all, any casual boxing fan will enjoy this, and every fighting game fan out there should most definitely give this one a rental, if not a purchase.

Overall (9.5/10): I've already gone over how much I love this game, so in the overall I usually list the opposing positives/negatives of the game. With that said, there aren't many in FN2. I found the training modes were rather sparse and one dimensional. Training basically entailed three mini games: a combo dummy, a heavy bag, and weight lifting. They were well thought out, but at the end of the day, only three choices seems flat and unfulfilling. The selection of fighters is another negative, as it seems to be a rather flimsy roster. Luckily, Create a Boxer mode is deep enough to let you add any forgotten faces. Career mode pits you against a huge roster of boxers, but they're pretty much all fictional. Rarely will you fight a historical boxer in your career. A bit more realistic, but you have to wonder if this is what it feels like to be the best and have no great rivals in your era. Online can be a hassle, but if you got a group of friends you'd like to beat up, it really isn't an issue.

So that's it. Not too many negatives, and most are balanced by the many more positives. You have to wonder, though, if EA already has a list of great options they held off on with FN2 to use in FN3. That's the thing about these sports franchises; they can't give us everything in one version, or we never buy the sequel. With that said, FN2 is definitely a great place to start if you have even the slightest interest in boxing. I personally don't know much about boxing, but punching some guys' lights out has always appealed to me since the days of Mike Tyson's Punch Out. If you're the same, this game is for you.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 03/30/05

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