Poor old button-bashing. Since the beginning of time you dominated the beat 'em up control systems, knocking out every challenger with a swift fingertip-blistering combo. You weren't just a contender. You were the king.
But then a contender appeared: Fight Night 2004's analogue stick system. Nobody thought it could take you. "It won't feel right," they said, "it won't communicate the solid sensation of actually hitting something like the champ can."
They were wrong. Fight Night 2004's analogue stick controls sauntered into the ring amidst a bluster of spitting fireworks, pumping music and gyrating entourage, and put you on your arse.
Float like a butterfly...
It was exactly a year ago that the button-bashing boxing game was knocked out for good, and it was Electronic Arts that landed the killer blow. Fight Night 2004 took a leaf out of Tiger Woods' tartan-trousered book by using physical movements of the analogue stick to throw punches, block and dodge. It worked like rock-solid uppercut to a glass jaw.
Now that preview code for Fight Night Round 2 has swanned into the CVG ring we're absolutely positive that EA's Total Punch Control is the undisputed heavyweight champion of boxing game control methods.
Let's get this clear right from the start: in true EA fashion, Fight Night Round 2 isn't hugely different from last year's version. At first glance it looks almost identical, and listing the new features isn't a particularly taxing job. But for once we're not going to criticise an EA Sports game for steadfastly refusing to innovate, because many of Fight Night 2's little improvements are actually incredibly astute refinements of a control system that had already knocked out Rocky-style button bashing.
If you don't know how Total Punch Control works it's simple - but it sounds complicated when you try to explain it in words, so we won't even bother. Basically, all your punching, blocking, bobbing and weaving is done with twists, pushes, flicks and prods of the analogue sticks in conjunction with presses of the shoulder buttons. Initially it feels alien and almost impotent compared to the solidity of button-bashing, but give it about ten minutes and suddenly it becomes one of the most natural, instinctive and flexible control methods you've ever experienced.
It worked brilliantly in Fight Night 2004, and it's been sharpened to such an extent in Fight Night Round 2 that it's almost perfect. Where button presses in Rocky and Rocky Legends set off a chain reaction of animation, every degree of movement on Fight Night's analogue sticks elicits the same degree of movement in you boxer's arms. You're not pressing a button to tell the computer to punch or block or dodge - you are punching, blocking or dodging.
Sting like a bee
But what's new? Glad you asked. Fight Night 2's undisputed heavyweight addition is the Haymaker punch. By pre-loading your punches (by pulling back on the analogue stick to increase the rotation as you follow through) you can unleash devastating wallops on your opponent. Timed right, they can drain serious chunks off your opponent's health bar and even cause him to stagger, giving you a golden opportunity to follow up with a deluge of combo cracks.
The brutality of these meaty blows is truly fierce. The camera lollops off to one side like it's just been hit by a bus, accompanied by the most sickeningly crispy 'crunch' sound effect ever recorded. Sweat from the victim's forehead and, if the strike has burst flesh, blood explodes from the wound. Add that to the stunning facial damage effects that model swelling, cuts, and the distorting effects of a swift fist to the face, and you've got an experience that'll make you wince more than any other game in history. It's a brilliant payoff for the extra effort you put in to throwing the punch and the first time you send someone to the floor with a Haymaker you'll feel like the ultimate bruiser.