Meanwhile, the left analog stick handles moving your fighter around the ring, but it can be modified to control upper body movement by pressing the left shoulder button (or trigger). This setup allows you to naturally move around the ring. Moreover, you can bob and weave, and you can throw punches nearly as freely and as fast as real fighters do. Linking combos together is as simple as understanding what works in real boxing and executing these punches in quick succession. While a bit tricky to get used to at the start, once you get a feel for it, you'll wonder why it took so long for someone to make a boxing game that plays this way. Controller-wise, there's no real difference between the PlayStation 2 and Xbox versions of the game, so it all comes down to your own personal preference.
The movement speed of the fighters and the power of their punches have been accurately represented, which delivers great matches--especially since the system implemented for damage and stamina is very realistic. The more punches you throw, the more fatigued your fighter will become, which results in less-powerful punches. This naturally translates into more-realistic fights, since you'll only really want to throw punches when you have an opening. The game does include flash knockdowns (though they happen rarely), which send you to the canvas with one clean punch--no matter how much health your fighter has. These flash knockdowns don't typically upset the balance of the fight too much, but they do make you a bit more cautious and respectful of your opponent's power.
The graphical differences between the PS2 and Xbox versions of the game are quite minimal.
The artificial intelligence of the computer-controlled opponents in the game's normal difficulty setting is just right for newcomers, since it gives you enough of a challenge early on without being too punishing. As you progress through the game's career mode, your opponents naturally become more difficult to fight. Not only do they become faster, punch harder, and block more of your shots, but they actually use ring strategies, like cutting off the ring and moving away when hurt. The depth of the AI in Fight Night 2004 becomes more apparent once you fight your way past the first 40 generic pugilists in career mode to reach the top 10, licensed fighters in the division. You'll see that the fighters actually scrap similarly to the way they do in real life. Chris Byrd moves around the ring more than he throws punches, Felix Trinidad lobs jabs and left hooks from long range, and Muhammad Ali fights, well, like Muhammad Ali. But there is a limit to how good the AI will get, and after becoming completely comfortable with the controls, you'll realize that you just have more options available--like being able to bob out of the way of a punch and being able to come right back in with a straight punch--than the AI will ever use against you.
Fight Night 2004's graphics are pretty outstanding. The models for the fighters are by far the most realistic-looking models used in a boxing game to date. The high-resolution textures and face scans used give the models a lot of detail that you couldn't get otherwise. The work is a bit uneven in spots, though. While Roy Jones Jr. looks spot-on, Evander Holyfield doesn't look quite as photorealistic, for example. The size of the fighters' physical proportions, when compared to one another, is also very accurate. Just pick one of the little guys, like Erik Morales, and stick him in the ring with Lennox Lewis, and you'll see the dramatic differences in size, power, and speed. The animations for the fighters, as they move around the ring and throw punches, are extremely realistic. The knockdowns use a rag-doll physics system that gives the appearance of a fighter who totally loses control of his muscles, which is quite entertaining the first few times you see it. Even after you're well into you're career, you'll have to watch the replays of the good knockdowns (especially if you catch your opponent with a couple of extra punches before he goes down), since they are pretty dramatic-looking.
Whether you're taking damage or dishing it out, the faces of the fighters show the results with bruises, swelling, and cuts. In fact, if a fighter catches a good hard shot to the head while sporting an open cut, you'll see a stream of blood shoot through the air, which is a pretty cool little touch. The collision detection is almost perfect when it comes to the punches, which look as though they are actually connecting with your opponent, even when viewing an up close slow motion replay. You'll see the fighter's face contort, but more importantly, you'll feel the satisfaction and know the difference when you see your opponent's head snap back after you deliver a really good shot. The difference between the graphics of the PlayStation 2 and Xbox versions of Fight Night 2004 is minimal. The lighting and player models look a bit softer on the Xbox, but overall, both versions look almost indistinguishable.
BET's Big Tigger supplies the commentary for Fight Night 2004
As far as the audio is concerned, the soundtrack included with Fight Night 2004 features a mix of rap and hip-hop artists, including the likes of Puff Daddy, Federation, and David Banner, to name a few. You can create a custom soundtrack and freely pick the songs you want on or off depending on your tastes, but you'll have to unlock them to use during ring entrances. The announcing and ring introductions are handled by BET personality Big Tigger. The announcing is pretty entertaining and is funny at times, but after a few fights, you'll have heard most of what Big Tigger has to say. Some will undoubtedly find Big Tigger's hip-hop-styled delivery to be a bit annoying, but you do have the option to turn the announcing off. The sound effects are also dead-on and sound as authentic as if you were sitting ringside. The sounds of the punches vary depending on the speed and amount of contact they make. This gives you another positive response when landing punches.
In the end, Fight Night 2004 isn't without its flaws, but that doesn't stop it from being the most complete boxing game ever created. Everything the game offers--in terms of gameplay and presentation--all comes together to deliver one cohesive boxing experience that finally cracks the code and stands as a boxing simulation with the level of control and the fast-moving gameplay that makes it as fun to play as any arcade-styled boxing game before it. This is one title that just about every boxing fan should own, and it's one that even fighting game fans might enjoy, since it's deeply rooted in skill-based gameplay that tests your defensive and offensive abilities equally.