Fight Night 2004 Review (Xbox)
“Fight Night 2004” is another attempt by EA to create a decent boxing game. Its previous attempts, the “Knockout Kings” series, resulted in either sluggish, plodding gameplay or an unrealistic button-mashing mess. So EA took two years off and debuts “Fight Night 2004” with new features, fighters and gameplay. Let’s see how it turned out.
“Fight Night 2004” features eight different arenas, ranging from a dingy gym in Brooklyn to the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Every arena is well done and has a different atmosphere, which adds a lot to the game. The fighters in “Fight Night 2004” are absolute carbon copies of the real life boxers. It is clear that EA spent a lot of time working on the look of each boxers and it shows. The movement of each boxer is also extremely fluid and it’s the best that I’ve ever seen in a boxing game. As is the case with most of their games, EA has done a great job with the graphics.
Big Tigger of “Rap City: Da Bassment” and rap music fame is the ring announcer and only commentator in “Fight Night 2004”, and EA couldn’t have made a worse choice. I actually enjoy Tigger as a host on television, but he is absolutely horrible in this game. His commentary involves nothing more then stating when a combination has landed and giving his opinion of who won each round. Minutes can go by without Big Tigger saying a word and that’s actually good because he isn’t saying anything important when he speaks. I am confused about why EA would choose to use real life commentators in every other game, but chooses a rapper for play-by-play in “Fight Night 2004”. Suggestion for EA: Recruit Jim Lampley, Max Kellerman, Brian Kenny or anyone else to do play by play next year and send Big Tigger back to “Rap City”.
I’m a huge fan of hip-hop, but it is used all wrong in this game. Case in point: entrance music. Every boxer in the game enters the ring to six hip-hop songs by artists such as P. Diddy and M.O.P. In my years of watching boxing, I have never seen Julio Cesar Chavez or Erik Morales enter the ring to rap music. Typically, Hispanic boxers enter the ring to salsa, meringue or other forms of Hispanic music. In versions of “Knockout Kings”, boxers were matched with the music they normally enter the ring to. While it’s a small thing, having Chavez come to the ring with 1-20 playing takes away from the realism of the game. EA should provide more forms of music and give the option to change the soundtracks of each boxer. Also, custom soundtracks would be a nice addition to any future versions of the game.
I have not had the benefit of playing “Victorious Boxers”, so the only boxing games I can compare Fight Night to are the many versions of “Knockout Kings” and “HBO Boxing”. Both of those games did many things right and had great potential but fell a bit short of being a complete game. With that said, “Fight Night 2004” blows both of those games out the water. In the career mode, you are given the option of creating your own boxer, or using one of the thirty-two real life boxers in the game. The boxer is totally customizable, and you are given the option to change his shorts, gloves, shoes, entrance music and much more. As your fighter wins more bouts, the money he earns for each fight can be used to purchase new gear at the Fight Night Store. EA has greatly improved on its Create-a-Fighter since “Knockout Kings”, and it adds another incentive to continue in your career. As you continue your career and move up the ranks, all the belts you’ve won and any other accomplishments can be viewed in the trophy room. Training is another great part of Career mode. The game features sparring, heavy bag training and other forms of training that most boxers take part in when preparing for a fight. The better you perform, the more points your fighter receives to increase his attributes.
I’m disappointed at the omission of certain options, which would have been welcome additions to “Fight Night”. The ability to hire different trainers and cut men would have been nice, and the ability to move up and down in weight class during a career would’ve added additional longevity to that mode.
The changes to the in-ring part of the game can be described with three words: Total Punch Control. Total Punch Control entails using the right thumbstick as the boxer’s arms. If you want to throw a right uppercut, move the stick just like you would your arm, around and to the right. Move the stick up and to the left to throw a left jab. The system is easy to learn and gives the game a new perspective. The option to use the face buttons to throw punches is still in the game for people who aren’t used to using Total Punch Control.
“Fight Night 2004’s” AI is much improved compared to “Knockout Kings”. The real-life boxers have fighting tendencies just like their real-life counterparts. Joe Frazier is aggressive, and throws hooks and uppercuts the majority of the fight, while Chris Byrd takes a primarily defensive approach, with jabs and lots of movement. The AI knows when to attack and when to stick and move, and it makes for a fun and unpredictable game. I have one serious complaint, however – all of the generated boxers in the Career mode have the same fighting tendencies. This makes the majority of fights in career mode very similar. This doesn’t change until your boxer begins fighting real boxers.
People who know my reviews (all four of you) know that I like sports games to be as realistic as possible, and the exclusion of clinching is a big deal to me. Any fan of boxing knows that clinching is an important part of the sport, and is actually another form of defense. Now I’ve heard many people say that clinching would slow down the game, make the game boring and that online “cheesers” would just clinch the entire fight. My response to that would be that clinching could be made an option that could be turned off and on, and that would take care of any negative effects clinching may have on the game. For players that feel clinching slowed down the game, they would have the option to turn it off and vice versa. While I’m at it the lack of ref stoppages is another startling omission. Many fights end as a result of ref stoppages instead of knockouts or decisions. The referee sees that a fighter has taken too much damage and steps in. However in “Fight Night 2004”, a fighter can take an incredible amount of damage and the fight will continue until he is knocked out. The cuts and bleeding are also a bit overdone. I have yet to see a fight go more then 5 rounds without someone bleeding excessively, which is a bit unrealistic.
Even with my complaints, “Fight Night 2004” is the best boxing game I have ever played. “Fight Night’s” career mode and Total Punch Control are two features that improve on EA’s previous boxing games and help take the game over the top. This is a great effort by EA as it steps back into the boxing ring.