Fight Night 2004 Hands-On Impressions

We take our first test-drive of EA's newly remade boxing game.

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We've recently added a developer interview and some new gameplay movies of Fight Night 2004 to the game's media page, and today we got our first chance to take the game for a spin on our own.

As previously reported, EA hasn't only changed the name of its boxing franchise from Knockout Kings to Fight Night, but it has also completely overhauled how the game looks and plays.

First up is the new control scheme that EA is calling "total punch control," which maps the actions of your fighter's fists to the right analog stick. So, for instance, if you want to throw a straight left jab, you press the right analog stick forward, just to the left of center. If you want to throw a straight right, you push the right analog stick forward just to the right of center. For hooks you mimic the motion of your fighter's arms with the right analog stick--this is equivalent to a quarter-circle rotation left or right. You can also throw uppercuts by moving the right analog stick in a half circle motion starting from down to up in either direction for either a left- or right-handed punch. Depressing the right shoulder button modifies the action on the right analog stick to block incoming punches. While this setup may sound complicated on paper, the movements you have to execute with the right analog stick do make you feel as though you are more connected to the onscreen actions of your fighter.

The left analog stick serves to move your fighter around the ring, although when the left shoulder button is depressed, it modifies the stick to mimic the movement of your upper torso so that you can bob and weave. The action is really fast, and with the control scheme set up this way, the game gives the impression that you have more direct control over what your fighter does.

Fight Night's game modes include a career mode, which lets you create a fighter that you build up over time to hopefully one day get a shot at the title. Along the way, you can purchase new ring wear, like trunks and gloves, and you can even customize your ring entrance with pyrotechnics. You can also train your fighter by hitting a heavy bag, combo dummy, and targeting mitts, which helps to improve your fighter's abilities. Also included in the PlayStation 2 version of the game is an online mode, which we haven't had a chance to fire up just yet (but you can be sure we'll come back with the details as soon as we do).

Visually the game is quite impressive and features a totally realistic look. The animation and textures used for the fighters make them look very convincing in the ring. The animations and control seem to blend together quite well, and for once in a boxing game, the punches seem to be as lightning fast as they are in real life.

While our initial hands-on time with Fight Night 2004 was promising, we'll have to wait before commenting further. Expect to see a full preview of the game as well as more media and information on the PlayStation 2 version's online capabilities soon.

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