Fight Night Round 2 Review
The second version in the Fight Night series is here, and it does what it has to do: improves on an already winning formula.
- Fighting system is intricate and responsive
- Deep create-a-character system
- Best looking player models in sports gaming
- Punches are satisfyingly brutal.
- Online play tends to be lag
- Training mode could be beefed up
- Too much offense, not enough defense early in the game
- EA Trax.
Last year's Fight Night 2004 reinvigorated boxing video games, as boxing had become a sports genre that many people had written off years ago. After a sequence of mixed results in the Knockout Kings series, EA Sports' Fight Night came along and introduced entirely new mechanics to the boxing genre, creating a fast-moving and free-flowing style that better reflected the pugilistic arts seen on TV. A year later, the second version in the Fight Night series is here, and it does what it has to do: improves on an already winning formula.
The plodding pace and an overly complex fighting system are what have hurt boxing games. When you enter the virtual ring, the last thing you want to feel is that your boxer has glue on the soles of his shoes, or that you won't be able to execute a simple three-punch combo without memorizing long strings of button sequences. Fight Night Round 2 directly addresses both of these concerns with controls that are responsive, subtle, and effective, giving you a real feeling of mastery over your boxer, even if you're picking the game up for the first time.
First of all, the boxers move across the length of the ring at a nice pace--neither lumbering across the canvas, nor moving too quickly at an unrealistic pace. You can close on an opponent quickly yet backing away from punches is just a tad too slow for comfort, which seems exactly right. On the downside, a fighter's movement doesn't seem to slow down even when fatigued, though punch speed and effectiveness do drop.
Movement, however, is only half of the formula. A great boxing game hinges on the effectiveness of both the offensive and defensive controls, and it's here where Fight Night Round 2 shines. Nearly everything is controlled with a combination of the right analog stick and the trigger buttons. Simple punches--jabs, hooks, and uppercuts--are at your fingertips with a simple flick of the right stick. The design of each control is even set to resemble the punch you throw, so that a quick stinging jab is executed with a single flick of the right stick diagonally left or right; a hook is accomplished by moving the stick to the right and then arcing up; and a devastating uppercut starts out diagonally down and moves up and around, much like the way your boxer's arm moves along the path of the punch.
If you're looking to deal some heavy blows to your foe, you'll need to wind up your punch a little and toss some haymakers into the mix. Controlling haymakers is simple and feels just as natural as regular punches. A haymaker hook, for example, starts out as a normal punch--moving the right analog stick directly left or right--but instead of letting the punch fly immediately, you'll need to wind up the power by pressing down and then up along the arc of the controller. Punches can only be fully wound up when a boxer is standing still, though power punches can still be thrown when the boxer moves. The most powerful punches are best reserved for those times when you have your opponent backed up against the ropes or, better yet, in the corner.
Body shots are executed by combining punches with the left trigger, and it's easy to quickly and effectively mix up your punch types between body blows and head shots. In fact, most combinations are easy to pull off with Fight Night Round 2's control scheme, provided you stay disciplined with your right stick movements. In the heat of the moment, it's easy to forget to let that hook you've wound up continue through its arc, as it's equally easy to simply switch to an opposite side jab. In fact, you'll often feel like your flailing punches at random. But with a little practice, you'll be stringing together one-two-three combos in no time. In fact, the controls in Round 2 are so subtle that slight movement of the right stick will let you pull off shoulder feints to fool your opponent into getting his guard up on one side while you pile on a flurry of damaging punches to the opposite side.
As flexible as the offensive mechanics are, Round 2's defensive controls are just as much so. New for Round 2 is the clinch, a last-ditch effort to regain some stamina just before you get hit with a knockout blow. It's nice to see an effective clinch control enter the mix, and it's even better that clinches can be shrugged off or avoided altogether, preventing the move from being an automatic fail-safe.
Other defensive options include blocks and parries, and these are executed with the right analog stick and right trigger. Parries are especially effective in the game because they leave your foe wide open for counterpunches, which, as you progress up the ranks, become one of the essential keys to victory. Like punches, blocks and parries can be executed both high and low. If you want to block a low hook on the right side, you'll need to make sure that your parry is set up to catch the punch when it lands. Because of this, effective parrying requires a lot of observation of your opponent's tendencies and animations, as well as a lot of practice to get the timing right. Once you do, however, you'll find parries one of the most effective weapons in your arsenal. Finally, the easiest way to make your opponent miss is by dodging, which is pulled off by using the left analog stick and the left trigger in tandem.
This control scheme, which is simple to pick up yet tough to master, makes for a huge variety of matches in Round 2. We've seen all-out slugfests where both competitors basically stand in the middle of the ring and pound each other senseless. We've been chased around the ring by head-hunting maniacs looking for first-round blood, only to outlast them later in the fight. We've introduced opponents to the canvas with the very first punch of the fight. About the only thing we didn't see in our time with Round 2 are fights that go the distance. Whether this is because of our preference for going with power fighters and looking for big-punch knockouts, or because of some other reason, is unclear. Certainly fights go longer the deeper you get into the game, but we have yet to see a fight go the distance and, because of this, we haven't won or lost by decision.