Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Electronic Arts
Release Date: April 5, 2004
It’s finally here, the day all boxing fans have been waiting for for so many years now, a good boxing game. Fight Night 2004 from EA pumps so much life into a stagnant genre that after just one round of fighting you are hooked. Dropping the old Knockout Kings franchise in favor of the bigger, badder, and much better Fight Night series is one of the best moves EA has ever made. With so much to love about the game and only a few complaints, even people with no interest what so ever in boxing can really get into the sport. So let’s delve in and find out just what makes this game so great.
There are two gameplay modes in Fight Night to suit you thirst for battle, Exhibition and Career. In exhibition mode you can choose from one of the many licensed boxers featured in the game or you can import a boxer you have created to fight it out against the computer of one of your friends. You can customized the number or rounds and some of the rules such as the 3 knockdown rule and saved by the bell or simply leave the default rules in place. Career mode is where you will spend the bulk of your time. Here you will take your boxer from an unknown schmuck, fighting in rundown, shabby rings to the biggest bad ass of them all fighting around the world in the biggest events and earning the big bucks. You can choose to use one of the licensed boxers or create your own, the latter being the much more enticing option.
The character creation in Fight Night is fantastic. You can customize every aspect of your characters physical appearance as well as his fighting style and his clothing. You will also have to decide how you spend the 50 attribute points you start out with. There are eight characteristic of you fighter you can choose to spend these points on; power, speed, agility, stamina, chin, body, heart, and cuts. Power and Speed determine how hard you punches are and how fast you throw them respectively. Agility determines how fast you can move around the ring to evade your opponent. Stamina determines how much energy you spend throwing punches and how fast you recover energy after you stop your barrage of attacks. Chin and Body determine how much damage you take from receiving blows in the area described. Heart determines how much health you recover after being knocked down and how much recover between rounds. Finally, Cuts determines how much you face and body will bruise and bleed as well as how fast. Once your character is created, you can change his gear and many other aspects of his game as you progress. When you earn money from fighting you can buy hundreds of combinations of attire as well as tattoos, entrance effects and music, and women to dance for your entrance. This whole experience really brings you into the world of boxing. Many of these items don’t come cheap though. You will have to win many, many fights to get your character just the way you want him. So now you have your fighter just the way you want him, it’s time to step into the ring.
In Fight Night you start out ranked number 50 with a very low cash supply and meager stats. It is up to you to prove your worth an ultimately take the belt from the champ. You first task is to choose you fight. You will be able to see a list of the opponents willing to fight you, as well as their rank, location of the fight, and the payout. You can scroll through the fighters and get a comparison of their stats to your own as well as the outcome of their last five fights. Once you have chosen a fight you can go on to training. This is where you will build up your stats and learn the skills to success. There are four types of training available including heavy bag, sparring, combo dummy, and training mitts. In the heavy bag training you score points by keeping the bag swinging side to side, the higher you hit the bag the more points you score. This teaches you timing and patience. Sparring teaches you about blocking and leaning out the way of punches. You score far more points by blocking and dodging punches that simply punching away. The combo dummy teaches you, obviously, about combos. Targets will appear on various areas of the dummy and you have to hit them in the correct sequence. Finally the training mitts train you on the various types of punches as well as when to use them. Each of these events sets a target score which increases every couple of seasons. The training in Fight Night is one of my major gripes with the game. The modes themselves are fantastic and teach you a lot, but there should be a standalone training move outside of career to practice. Once you get a score in career mode that is it, no second chance to earn more points. I would have really like to see at least a standalone sparring mode to really fine tune you game.
So now you are ready to fight. The game has a very intuitive control scheme that is intuitive and realistic. The left thumbstick is used to move you character the right thumbstick is used to throw punches. Pressing up left or right will throw a jab in direction of the stick. If you press to the side and then swing the stick forward it will perform a hook. Finally if you press down-right or down-left and swing the stick forward you will perform and uppercut. This system works very well. You can tie the punches to the face buttons, but the stick really gives the sense that you are throwing the blows yourself. If you hold the left trigger and move the left thumbstick you will perform an evade maneuver. Holding the right trigger and moving the right thumbstick allows you to block. Pressing up or down on the stick will simply block high or low, but if press in a diagonal directed you can parry the attack and open up your opponent to devastation. X or Y will taunt your opponent with a move predetermined by you in the character customization section. A will perform a power punch, which you can also customize, and B will head butt your opponent. This last move angers the crowd and the score keepers so use it sparingly if at all. This control scheme is very effective and quite easy to get use to.
Now you know all there is to the gameplay aspects of Fight Night, now what about the graphics. Well, how shall I put this? The graphics are a mixed bag. These might be considered great on PS2, but for an Xbox game they are simply average. The fighter all look great, if not a little rough around the edges, but the rest of the game is pretty bland. There are very few character models aside from the fighters which really hurts the immersion. I think there are only about 4 different trainers in the game so after your third or fourth fight you will notice that the trainers for the guys you have already pummeled are back again to coach your new opponents. The girls in your entourage are even more repetitious. There are only five girls in the game, each having only 3 outfits at most and all of them have the same three dance moves. The worst part of the graphics though is the crowd. This is simply unforgivable. The crowd animations are all identical, only spaced apart by about a second. This means when you see the fighters coming out everyone in the crown is doing the exact same thing at almost the exact same time, not to mention how bad the character models are. Granted, in some of the later levels there can be over one hundred people in the crowd, but Top Spin was able to pull off a much better crowd effect with about the same number of models. These flaws don’t detract much from the overall experience, but in game with such great gameplay these issues should have been addressed. With the bad aside there are a few shinning areas in the graphics department, namely the fighter animations. These do such a convincing job you might forget you are playing a game. Watching a knockout is an experience not to be missed. In fact, it could be one of the funniest things I have ever seen in a game. Their face compacts underneath your blow and you see their eyes roll back and their expression goes blank. Then their knees buckles and they flounder to the mat. I have seen over 300 knockdowns and they never get old.
The audio in Fight Night is another area that has some shinning moments, but in the end needs great improvement. The music in the game is composed solely of rap, which in itself isn’t a bad thing, but when you only put eight songs in a game you get *&%#ing sick of it. How hard can it be for EA, the biggest game company in the world, to get more licensed tracks? Put some unknown artists on there, I’m sure they’ll let you use their stuff for free. And what about the custom soundtrack feature? Did they forget all about it? Since you can customize your entrance music why did they leave this feature out when it so desperately needs to be there? It’s probably best if you turn the music effects down and put your own tunes on. Aside from the music there are some great sound effects and ambient sounds in the game. The punches all land with realistic thuds and the boxers react with convincing grunts of pain. There is a cool sound effect that comes into play when one of the boxers is about to get knocked out. The crowd noise goes quiet and sound effects are slowed down. This adds a lot to the immersion and if you are not watching your health this can be this can be a life saver. Crowd noise plays a big part in Fight Night just like it does in a real fight. You will hear random shouts encouraging you or the other fighter and you can hear the crowd chant when one fighter starts to take over. One of the funnier crowd effects is the cheers for the round card girls. Hearing “damn you fine girl” and “let me get those digits” is a nice touch.
All in all Fight Night is an excellent game with a few glaring flaws that keep it from reaching perfection. If they can tweak the secondary graphics and add more music and custom soundtracks they will have the ultimate boxing game. As it stands I would recommend this game to anyone who even remotely likes boxing and even if you don’t this is worth at least a rental. And remember, if you’re not a fan of rap to have the ear plugs ready.
Score : 8.9/10
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