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Fight Night Round 2 packs all of the punches that a boxing fan could want...
Boxing fans donâ??t tend to have a lot to shout about when it comes to videogames, with various offerings throughout the ages often packing mixed punches. Whether itâ??s the arcade fun of titles such as Ready 2 Rumble or the somewhat less then exciting experience of more realistic brawlers, boxing fans just havenâ??t had a lot to shout about, until last yearâ??s release of Fight Night that was.
Featuring a sophisticated control setup, stunning visuals and a layer of depth to the gameplay not usually seen, itâ??s fair to day that Fight Night 2004 breathed fresh air into a genre that had largely found itself in a state of comatose.
So fast-forward a year and weâ??re treated to the traditional EA update, and like many EA Sports titles the game continues the trend of making small improvements to a proven formula.
The dual thumbstick control system once again returns, faithfully capturing the fluid and responsive nature of the sport and eradicating the plodding nature that many of its rivals have suffered from. The setup is also largely intuitive, so no problems with having to remember ludicrously extensive command lists that have become apparent in previous boxing titles.
Itâ??s quite remarkable how convincingly both its predecessor and Fight Night Round 2 captures the movement of a boxer in both offensive and defensive manoeuvres and stances; flicks of the right hand stick pull off a variety of techniques such as jabs, hooks and uppercuts, whilst thereâ??s also a wide selection of haymaker shots, that require a charge before unleashing the punch.
While the right thumbstick and triggers are used to control the vast majority of punches, the left trigger allows for a variety of body shots. Again Fight Night Round 2 excels just by how successfully you can weave various punches together, while conveying the sense that youâ??ve really got to carve up your opening before itâ??s time to deliver the killer blow. Too many boxing titles have resulted in an overly chaotic feel that leaves little sense of strategy to the player; thankfully Fight Night round 2 gets it absolutely spot on and is a must-have title for boxing fans â?“ regardless of the fact that itâ??s the only one available.
Whilst weâ??d almost expected this from the sequel, Fight Night Round 2 also enhances the defensive side of the game, resulting in a finely balanced experience that captures the nature of the sport better then anything weâ??ve had in the past. You can pull off a huge range of feints and weaves; however new to the sequel is the introduction of clinches as a last-ditch tactic to regain some stamina.
With a strong control system, Fight Night Round 2 also successfully captures the visceral nature of every blow thrown in the game. Thanks largely to the amazingly detailed visuals, even the slightest punch will see your opponents head twist in pain, faithfully capturing the force of every blow. As you knock away at your opponentâ??s health, the camera closes in and the sound quietens to focus on the instructions coming from his corner; itâ??s during these highly atmospheric moments that youâ??ll have the opportunity to deliver the KO punch. A series of slow-motion replays capture every muscle contort, drop of sweat and splatter of blood, as the full impact behind the blow is captured and played over and over again for dramatic effect. Itâ??s these moments when the game truly shines and captures the brutality of the sport in a similar nature to Robert de Niroâ??s classic The Raging Bull; boxing fans can certainly have few other demands.
So having just about perfected the nature of boxing, itâ??s a little disappointing that the game fails somewhat in the variety of modes offered to the player.
The online mode feels a little shallow and unsuited to the game, with the slight delays in timing affecting the overall feel of the game significantly.
The Single-Player Career mode thankfully packs more of a punch, allowing gamers to choose from one of the current and all-time greats, or go it alone and create your own boxer via the games rather brilliant Create-A-Boxer feature. Having customised the visual look of your boxer, youâ??ll need to attribute points to a variety of characteristics and work your way up the Amateur ladder, winning bouts to increase your profile and gaining the purse.
Youâ??ll also have the opportunity to train in between bouts, although newcomers to the series will be left slightly bewildered by the somewhat lacking Tutorial mode, which does little to educate the player beyond insisting on repeating manoeuvre after manoeuvre without describing the button commands needed to perform the technique. Much like previous boxing titles, training is split up into the Heavy Bag, Combo Dummy and Weight Lifting, with an almost mini-game style to each of these. Although the overall effect is slightly insignificant, the game does do a good job of conveying the visual changes that your boxer undergoes through training.
Winning bouts gains you prestige and money, which can then be spent on a huge variety of features, ranging from your entrance effects to the quality of your trainers. Naturally thereâ??s a huge assortment of extras to purchase, providing a certain longevity to the game, although itâ??s dubious learning curve could have you switching off long before youâ??ve won the belt.
Much like previous boxing titles, Fight Night Round 2 makes a dramatic switch as youâ??re making your way to the top. To begin with youâ??ll win fights with little strategy and hardly ever have to worry about defensive techniques, but as you get nearer to the top the difficulty in your opponents rises dramatically and throws frustration around the whole experience. Itâ??s important to develop your defensive game right at the start, despite the fact that itâ??s not really needed, as parrying and blocking are crucial against the higher opponents.
Visually the game is impressive, particularly the level of detail evident in the boxers, who are naturally the starâ??s of the show. The game captures every last little detail such as drips of sweat and blood, however itâ??s the realistic depiction of skin and the distortion its puts through that impresses the most â?“ just wait for the slow-mo KO blows! Sadly the rest of the visuals cannot match the quality set by the boxers, with the rings and surrounding audience looking crude in comparison. Thereâ??s not a lot to distinguish between the various versions, with even the Playstation2 adaptation sporting a close visual look to that of the Xbox and GameCube
Itâ??s worth noting that the GameCube version includes a complete version of the SNES classic Super Punch-Out, along with Mario as a playable character. Given the disappointment thatâ??s had with the online mode, this provides a more compelling reason particularly for the older gamers out there.
Much like other EA Sports titles however it’s not perfect. The Career mode whilst engaging doesn’t sustain your interest for long enough, and like many boxing titles will have all but the most hardened fan switching off long before the belt is won. The online mode also fails to capture the imagination, so with a little more development to the actual structure surrounding the game, the Fight Night franchise can improve.
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