Fight Night 2004
Game Info
PS2, Xbox
Electronic Arts
EA Sports
Official Website
ESRB Rating
Blood, Mild Lyrics, Violence
The Good

• Excellent presentation
• Total Punch Control is a great gameplay element
• Fighters and rings look fairly real
• Matches require skill over button mashing

The Bad

• May turn away more casual gamers
• Graphics could use a little extra polish


EA Sports has a wonderful portfolio of licensed sports games going for them - no one can deny this. But, one of the main complaints aimed at EA, though, is that they rarely try to make substantial improvements in their series, choosing to only make minor tweaks on franchises that are already solid efforts. So when EA Sports does finally decided to take a grand step forward, it comes as a surprise to many. To usher in the major improvement, EA decided to rename their Knockout Kings series to Fight Night, which may usher in a new era for not just the series but the genre as a whole.

Once you start the game, you'll be given a few modes to play. For people wanting a quick fix, there's Play Now, which gives you one match to fight in. You also have Versus and Online, which is always good if you have friends over or other friends online. Then there's My Corner, which allows you to create your own boxer, look at your records or listen to the game's music. Options is pretty self explanatory. Where the meat and bones of the game is in the Career Mode, which lets you use a created player or a real-life boxer to work your way through the ranks. As you fight through Career Mode, you'll need to schedule matches against other fighters. Before these fights, you can partake of Training minigames that are fun on their own right and earn you points to use towards certain skill attributes. If you don't want to do the training, you can always Auto-Train and take the measly points they give you. Whether or not you train, you can go straight into the fight. Winning lets you move up in rank and earns you points to spend on unlockables. And, believe me, there are a ton of unlockables, including outfits, intro music and even different ring babes. These unlockables augment an extremely rich and detailed create-a-boxer mode.

First and foremost, the major feature of this title is the Total Fight Control, which allows you to throw punches in accordance to how you move the Right Analog stick. With the ability to lean away and block punches, this will allow the player an unreal amount of control over their fighter. Gamers new to the genre may find themselves overwhelmed by how deep the game actually is. It isn't all about throwing the most punches as this tends to wear the stamina of your fighter down. Instead, players need to learn when to block, when to sidestep and when to just lean away, which allows for excellent counterpunches and even open shots to the body and head. And, you'll soon find that it may look impressive to jab a guy's head five times in a row, but the more effective shorts tend to be blows to the body. With some use of technique and strategy, even the hardest of fighters can be beaten.

With the immense number of options available in the game, players can customize how their matches play out. You can choose not to do the minigame that helps your boxer focus when they take a fall and players who have a hard time grasping the Total Punch Control can switch to a more button oriented interface and even a hybrid of both. This doesn't mean that you can go in button-mashing, as doing such will cause you to lose matches after too long. The AI fighters know technique and will land some hard hits to you if you're sloppy.

EA Sports has always put a lot of work into the presentation of their titles and Fight Night 2004 is no slouch in this department. As soon as you load up this title, you're draw into the game with some excellent menus that even incorporate your made-up boxer if you choose to take that path during career mode. The music is composed of hip-hop, including acts like Puff Daddy feat. Notorious Big & Busta Rhymes, I-20, David Banner, Jr Ewing, Lil Scrappy, Mop, and Stat Quo. While I'm not a fan of the musical genre, the songs included in the soundtrack work excellently with the game's presentation. Sound effects are pretty dead on and the voicework by the fight commentators is pretty well done. While they don't yammer on all the time during the fight, they do make some pretty funny comments.

Visually, Fight Night 2004 gives the players a healthy eyeful. The character models for the boxers are well detailed and show a lot of fine animation and the famous boxers look like their real-life counterparts. In fact the models are so well detailed, you'd be hard pressed not to recognize the pugilists in the ring. Much like the boxers, the rings and venues all look pretty sharp and realistic. Lighting and the background crowd do a great job in convincing you you're in a real fighting venue. While the main boxer models look excellent, you may find the secondary NPC models (like the trainers) look a little less realistic by comparison and the crowd is obviously composed of "cardboard cutouts". Neither of these are really an issue as you'll be spending your whole time looking at your fighters. Also, the game does appear to suffer some of the unpolished "jagginess" that's present in most PS2 games.

If you're looking for a comprehensive boxing title, then this is it. The depth of the gameplay and options, including online gameplay, will keep any boxing fan happy for a long time. Heck, even non-boxing fans should get some lengthy enjoyment out of this title and in my own opinion, that says a lot about the job EA Sports has done.

- - Kinderfeld

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