Last year EA single handedly created the best boxing game ever made. It was so far above any other boxing game ever made that it managed to bring in gamers who had no interest in boxing at all. The control system, style and general gameplay really added up to one of last years best games and it was always going to be hard for someone to top it. Well, EA have tried and astonishingly they have succeeded with aplomb. Not only is Fight Night Round 2 the best boxing game ever made, it is one of the finest sports games ever made and demonstrates exactly what EA is at the top of the game in the sports genre.
There are a number of game modes to choose from this year with a few new additions. There is the exhibition mode and the career mode to choose from as well as modes to practice your boxing moves with. From that it doesn't seem like much has been added but EA has added everything but the kitchen sink this year and it is this that makes it so impressive.
The career mode is an extension of what they had last year. Instead of being forced to make your own new boxer, you can now talk one of the professionals featured in the game and move through the ranks to number one with them again which is a nice touch and definitely a welcome option for those who just don't like putting together their own boxer. Another surprise is that initially you're not professional and have to prove yourself in some amateur bouts before being offered the option to turn professional where the game becomes harder and tougher, but also a lot more enjoyable. The fact EA has included a tutorial for total punch control this time is of benefit to new players and the sparring is actually quite fun.
As you progress through the ranks you are given money and this is another new aspect to the title. You don't automatically gain people to join you on your walk to the ring and you now have to pay them money. The more you pay the greater impact they have. For instance if you have the best fireworks you can get up from about three knockdowns that would normally knock you out, so there is some strategy involved. Boxing fans may look down at this feature but it is possible to ignore it and fight based on your characters physique. One of the most interesting features is that beating a boxer does not guarantee you their rank. Moving up three or four and fighting the person in that slot will improve your slot if you win, but you don't gain their position automatically which is an interesting decision; something we think should not have been touched since last year.
The fighting has not changed that much and that is a bit of a flaw with the game but the boxing was so superb it is hard to see how EA could have improved it. The fights themselves have changed somewhat however with the introduction of a new feature between rounds. The characters gain damage which is highly visible this time around with busted lips, cuts and swollen eyes to contend with and the referee can stop the fight if one of them is too bashed up. Between rounds you have a limited amount of time to clean yourself up with swabs or other implements to keep yourself in the fight. Also before the fight you can still train either manually or automatically but the intensity affects your fighter. You can cause injuries which make you lose power and muscle, and the impact of the training is viewable instantly with the side by side comparison renders.
In terms of venues, compared to last years game EA has really worked hard to keep the 'streets through to the big time' feel. You can be fighting in a local gym or in a penthouse with twilight views and helicopters hovering around. The venues are really only included for aesthetic reasons but they do add to the atmosphere of the game especially in the career mode as they can enhance and give an indication as to how famous your character is.
The visuals of the game really make the game even on the PS2 with impact modeling on the boxers and smooth animations between boxing moves. There are also now haymaker moves and illegal headbutts to play around with but really in the animation stakes not much has changed. One change is the boxer will momentarily tire after a huge swing leaving him exposed for a big hit so strategy must be used. Commentary is where a major improvement has been made with EA now featuring proper commentary that you'd expect and the music is very much from the boxing side of sport, but where is Eye of the Tiger? It's still not featured.
Fight Night Round 2 will surprise a lot of people because of how much EA has managed to add in a year's development. While the core game has not changed that much, the bells and whistles EA has added has really added to the game and made it an even better replication of boxing.