Review by BeefieCheesie

"Round 2: The Sweet Science Continues..."

Fight Night 2004 changed boxing games forever, perhaps, in another landslide victory to EA forever, making anyone who follows in to the Boxing game genre a hard time figuring something better. Fight Night Round 2 takes everything you loved and made it better, everything you hated and made it better, got rid of that ridiculous Big Tigger, added more songs, added more control, added a cutman mini-game and finally added something that may or may not be a "improvement" to the series with the Haymaker.

Right from the get go, Round 2 shows the amount of TLC it received since last's years title. From the almost realistic looking B-Hop moving around in the opening menu, to the eerie Create-A-Champ option, you know you've gotten all the bang for your buck, and then some.

Create-A-Champ takes the create-a-boxer feature from last year and applies the Tiger Woods factor to the amount of things you can do to your created person to make them as close to you, or some weird concoction that you've cooked up. The eerie looking boxer you make changes as you alter the different aspects of his face. Using the thumbsticks you can simply or severely alter your boxer's appearance. This is a great new feature that you can have limitless possibilities with.

After that is done, you can enter a career or head right out and have a straight up fight with 36 licensed fighters. Everyone the casual boxing should know is here. Ali, Frazier, Marciano...with a few minor absences of all-time greats or just boxers fans will love, the line-up is great and you can pretty much recreate any fight to your hearts desire.

The boxing match, the meat of the game, is the supreme focus of this title. This is clear from the start of the match. EA has upped the poly-count on the boxers, and its shows. Mainly in the bland backgrounds, and audience. On top of that, the backgrounds are a little out of focus, so you'll see a tiny unfocused, low res man raising the roof in your corner from time to time. Obviously, you won't be paying any attention to the surroundings once you get a fight started. Everything inside the ring is top notch. Especially after a few rounds and you get to enjoy the new "EA Cutman" feature.

This new feature is great, and a well needed addition to the series. Now, in between rounds, you have control of your cutman, you reduce swelling and take care of cuts that may happen on your boxer's face. Using the thumbsticks you have four stations at which to reduce swelling/cuts. Following a cursor, the player uses and diagonal movement to get the number down to zero, the closer to zero you get the station's meter the less the swelling will be and so on. If you look too cut up to start another round the fight will be ended. If you wish, you can entirely skip over the process by pressing Y, it doesn't do the extent of work you can do by yourself, but it equals all your swelling/cuts to a degree. However, having 30 seconds is a little too rushed and you'll find early that you need a little more time to get used to the movement and figuring out how to maximize your effectiveness with the Cutman feature.

The gameplay is a mixed bag this year. Mixed bag only in the different mini-games/training modes you will find. The book doesn't have any explanations for the controls of these minigames, the game certainly doesn't tell you, most of the time, you trial and error it until you get results. That is a total shame. Why can't the game tell you how it's supposed to work? On one hand it adds to the realism the series strives for, but it takes too long to figure it out, and in the end your boxer suffers for it.

The controls are as tight as ever, especially with the Total Punch Control getting a little tweak. You can now do more combos, and are a little more fluid and less likely to find yourself open to an offensive beat-down. Last year, people that used the face buttons had a slight speed advantage, and truthfully a little more precision. This year, the playing field has been leveled a bit, especially with the addition of the Haymaker. The Haymaker can be a crutch to a struggling player, a desperation attack for a boxer about to go down. Mostly it's a cheap, powerful, mostly unstoppable beast. Physics can be applied here, if you draw back your arm for a powerful punch, but instead get blasted in the face, that punch is going to lose power, right? Wrong, you'll find some players will merely wind up a haymaker, step back and let go of it, then again, again and again. About the only thing you can do is defensively parry or counter and hopefully lower the severity of the blow. In addition to this you can do many Haymakers in a row. This is especially true in the upper-ladder bouts; you'll have AI tossing out haymakers like candy at a parade. This is about the only negative thing in the game however.

The other punches in the game have been lessened to balance out the haymaker, which is a blessing and a curse. Jabs still disrupt rhythms and throw off timings. But the haymaker is still too overpowered to justify the lessening of a few of the punches.

A few minor issues aside, Fight Night: Round 2 is a great sequel. It improves on just about everything, and makes the game more enjoyable. Fans of the series can go either way, as well as fans of the TPC or just using the buttons. You'll love it or hate it, buy it or rent it. If you have concerns, rent it, it makes a great rental. If you loved the first game, there are enough things to do in the sequel that grant a purchase. Now if only the Madden series could take serious strides in improving.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 03/02/05

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