As one of the first Xbox 360 games to truly demonstrate the power of the next-gen console, Fight Night Round 3 made quite an impact on its debut. Although being shown first on Sony's PlayStation 3, the system's delay meant we have only just received the game in Europe. While primarily a port of the 360 game, a few changes have been made in an attempt to make this the ultimate version of the game.
As you might expect from a next generation title, Round 3 is absolutely gorgeous. Heck, it's better than gorgeous; it's downright lifelike at times. Arena lights realistically reflect off each boxer, sweat drips from their forehead (but oddly doesn't reach their neck) and if you land a knockout punch the boxer's face will ripple and the connecting glove will actually give in to the pressure of the impact. I remember the first time this happened, my friend was Jones Jr and I was Ali. I evaded his blows, gave him a few jabs and then let loose a wild haymaker knocking the poor guy to the floor. The replay started, the punch connected, and just like true nerds, we jumped out of our seats and squealed like school girls. It's even better if you have a high-def television. Actually, scratch that, you need a high-def television to truly enjoy the game's visuals.
That being said, Fight Night suffers from some serious clipping issues - feet going through the floor, gloves disappearing after a punch is landed etc - and the boxers often have seizures as they hit the ground and end up in awkward positions on the mat. Additionally, the blood looks absolutely ridiculous. It's also worth noting that the PS3 game seems to have lost a little in the porting process. It's barely noticeably, but lighting definitely seems a little more subdued on the PS3.
However, the visuals play more of an important role than just eye-candy - they actually enhance the gameplay for once. I'll give you an example: the HUD is nowhere to be found and instead you have to rely on what you see and hear to determine what kind of punches you're going to throw. The game becomes a much more immersive and instinctual experience as you have to pay close attention to not only what the announcer is saying, but also how your opponent is reacting to each blow. If your opponent is throwing too many punches, you'll see him get tired. Likewise, if he lets too many punches get by his defences, you'll actually witness the bruising develop on his face - very cool indeed.
'As far as the actual gameplay is concerned, not much has changed from Round 2.'
As far as the actual gameplay is concerned, not much has changed from Round 2. The total control system returns and is as responsive as ever; however, now you can throw stun punches and flash KOs, as well as haymakers, which, incidentally, are much harder to execute now. And unlike Round 2, the jabs do a decent amount of damage, making every punch equally as dangerous.
Round 3 features all the bells and whistles from before, but with a few subtle changes. Career mode for example, is structured relatively the same as Round 2, except now your rank is determined by popularity. As you win more bouts, your popularity meter increases and once it reaches its limit you're given a title shot. A better example would be the new rivalries. You begin your career with a rival, who you'll have to fight a number of times during the course of your career. It's really an unnecessary feature as there isn't much of a difference between your rival and a regular opponent, sans a few illegal punches here and there, the oddball weigh-in cutscenes, and some new lines of dialogue from the announcer.
As you make your way to the top, you'll sign contracts, earn some dough, purchase new equipment from a poorly designed menu system and train in the same mini-games from before. The fights start off pretty easy, easy as in Gabby Jay easy (let's hope virtual boxing fans pick up on that reference), and progressively become more and more difficult as you move up the ranks. The fights are never too much of a challenge though, which if you're a casual gamer might be a good thing, but I find being able to give the legendary Muhammad Ali a wholloping in the first round with a severely underdeveloped boxer, a little strange. Fighter difficulty can be increased, but even then they tend to fight in the same way as before.
Other modes include the classic quick match, where you can choose from boxers in any weight class and duke it out in a number of venues. The roster set is still lacking some of the sport's best boxers, like Rocky Marciano, Ken Norton, and the jolly giant himself, George Foreman, whose grill has inspired me to actually make something other than a ready-meal each night. The PS3 version also includes a mode that is played exclusively from a first-person perspective, which adds to the overall immersion but isn't reason enough to choose this over the Xbox 360 game.
ESPN Classic mode lets you relive some of Boxing's greatest fights, such as my all time favourite: Ali versus Smoking Joe Frazier. After choosing a classic match you're given a brief history of the boxer and rivalry before you're thrust into the ring. While most of the matches are in full colour, some of the real classics are played in black and white. And while that sounds authentic, all of the classic matches appear in venues that are clearly pulled right out of the 2000s. I'm pretty sure laser lights weren't developed in the 60s, but then again I'm no history major. It would've been neat if the venues were historically accurate and the spectators wore appropriate clothing for the time period, but I guess you can't have your cake and eat it too.
Fight Night Round 3 features online play, with the usual set of options such as player stats, leader boards etc. There's minimal lag, mostly appearing at the beginning of each match, but the fights play out smoothly and the frame rate most definitely holds its own. Unfortunately, just like every online game, you'll find yourself about to win a match, only to have the opponent disconnect him/herself. This, of course, isn't a fault of the game itself, but on many occasions I wasn't awarded a win when the other player left the match, and that definitely isn't an incentive to keep playing. The game also doesn't cater for the differences in play styles between punch control users and button bashers, often leading to some unfair fights.
EA remains on top with another solid entry into the Fight Night series. Even though there isn't a whole lot here that we haven't seen before, if you dig the sport, this purchase should be an obvious one. If you already own the 360 version there's no need to pick this up, but exclusive PS3 players should seriously consider adding it to their collection.
VideoGamer.com Score8 Score out of 10
- Great visuals
- Intuitive controls
- Solid online play
- No real improvement over the 360 game