It always amazes me how easily men of the highest talents and eminence can be forgotten in this careless world," H.L. Mencken wrote in 1907, remembering the deceased lightweight champion of the world, Joe Gans, and his manager, Abraham Lincoln Herford. Like other sports titles, this series debut memorializes its greats the way no "marble effigy"—the monument Mencken regrets was never built for Gans in Baltimore—ever could. Bullies and their punching bags alike know the name Muhammad Ali (one of 32 boxers re-created here), or have seen Will Smith rumble in the jungle. But only this game allows you to experience both sides of his swing. And I trust that no boxing fan will mind Fight Night's advertised "realistic damage effects," which cause their favorite fighters to bleed, bruise, and swell as if they're secular versions of weeping Virgin Mary statues.

But this is about honor, not heresy. Herford's favorite exploitation—the brutal, multiple-man battle royal—is nowhere to be found. More surprisingly, mashing buttons is out: The right analog stick controls whether you block, jab, or uppercut, and how hard you punch; you dance with the left, and turn using the triggers. Miss the 10-count by failing to align the multiple refs you see after falling, or take three dives, and you're K.O.'d. (Rag doll physics ensure you'll go down according to how you were hit.) Taking on generic career-mode opponents can't match fighting friends. And chances are, they'll be no match for Leonard, Lewis, or Ali.


Boxer #2 gets fisted.
image: Electronic Arts
Boxer #2 gets fisted.

Details

FIGHT NIGHT 2004
For: PS2 (review copy), Xbox
Developer: EA Canada
Publisher: EA
Rating: 8 (out of 10)

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