Knockout Kings is dead. Long live Fight Night! EA's latest addition to their frankly terrifyingly comprehensive roster of sports games replaces their venerable boxing series and actually looks like a concerted attempt to evolve the noble art of videogame pugilism. It's certainly got some fresh ideas up its baggy silken sleeve.
And these ideas mainly boil down to the snappily-titled Total Punch Control(tm) system. Punches are no longer bound to button presses; instead, while the left analogue stick moves your boxer around, the right stick controls his fists. Sweep it down, across and up and you'll deliver an uppercut and that's just for starters - the system offers a bewildering amount of moves, all activated simply by thumb movements. It's incredibly fluid, but there's more; hit o and you'll 'plant' yourself, with the left analogue stick now allowing you to dodge and weave, which in turn enables you to get counter punches in with the right stick. EA state that their aim with Fight Night is to eliminate button-bashing and usher in a new area of strategy and tactics. And on the evidence we've seen, they might just do it.
Naturally, there's more to the game than just the fighting system - there's an attention to detail on display that's simply belief-beggaring. The sprawling career mode allows you create your own boxer - with your own face, thanks to the nicked-from-Tiger-Woods face mapping system. Even humble knockdowns benefit from some forward-looking design. Rather than hammering a button, you've got to overlay multiple images of the referee (seeing double, see?). Nice, don't you think?
Fight Night 2004 is ducking and swinging around shelves in April.