Fight Night 2004 Review
Fight Night 2004 is the debut edition in EA Sports new boxing franchise. First editions often come with their share of problems, but that is not the case here. Fight Night 2004 enters the ring swinging, and is an excellent fighter that achieves a nice balance between arcade play and simulation.
The most hyped feature of the game is its Total Control punch system, so that’s probably the best place to start. With Total Control, you use the right stick to select and dole out your punches. Quick moves of the stick to the upper left or right will unleash quick jabs with the corresponding hand. For hooks and uppercuts you’ll need to also rotate the stick much like you would rotate your arm when throwing one of these punches. For example, pulling the stick down and then rotating it up and out to the right in a half circle will cause your fighter to throw a right uppercut. You can also hold the L1 button to direct your punches towards your opponent’s body instead of his head.
The system works really well and does a good job of simulating that fact that throwing the stronger punches takes more time and effort. In button mashing games reeling off three uppercuts is as easy as throwing three quick jabs. Not so in Fight Night 2004 where you’ll have to be careful about choosing when to throw a slower and more powerful punch.
|Taking one on the chin.|
In addition to the punching, you can also block by holding down R1 and moving the stick in the direction in which you want to block. Also, holding the L1 button while moving the left stick will cause your boxer to lean in the direction of the stick. When these controls are used in conjunction with the punches, you have a counter system that works remarkably well and rewards the smart fighter. If you time your block or dodge right and then immediately counter with a punch of your own, you can connect with your opponent while he is overextended and open which makes your punch far more effective.
The punching and defensive controls together give you a large degree of control over your fighter, which in turn makes you use your head while playing the game. It’s more than a simple matter of fast reflexes like so many fighting games – in Fight Night 2004 you must look for your openings while preventing your opponent from exploiting any of yours. This brings more strategy, more tension, and consequently more fun into the game than can be delivered by a lot of other fighters. It also extends the life of the game since it will engage your mind far more than a repetitive button masher ever could.
In Fight Night 2004 you can play matches against a number of famous boxers, past and present, several weight classes. However, the game’s centerpiece is the career mode in which you create a boxer and then must fight your way up the ladder to get a shot at the championship. The game gives you an excellent degree of control in customizing your boxer – everything from nose size and eye position to skin tone and hair color and style. You won’t have as much leeway with your ring wear though as the game leaves many of the shorts, gloves, and other accessories locked until you earn enough in the ring to purchase them (speaking of unlockables – you can even spend dough on new ring girls, signature punches, and to unlock new boxing venues). Once you’ve created your boxer’s look, the customization continues in terms of your attributes. You’ll have a few points to spend on the many different attributes used to rate your abilities and can use this to mold your boxer to your style of fighting.