From its roots as Knockout Kings, the Fight Night series and Electronic Arts have struggled to master the boxing experience. Each title has lacked the balance and simulation experience that boxing fanatics have been clamoring for. Those days are over, for Electronic Arts has delivered a boxing masterpiece in Fight Night Round 3.
The graphics in Fight Night Round 3 are unbelievable. Like many others, I have been mesmerized by this title since I downloaded the demo off the marketplace when it debuted. Every time I load up a fight, I just am in awe of all the details that went into this game. The cloth mechanics, the physics in the ropes of the ring when you step or when your body hits the canvas, it?s just simply amazing.
There?s really not enough that you can say about the graphics in Fight Night. Through each fight your boxer will be wearing his cuts and gashes like pride wounds if you fail to keep your gloves up. Regardless of how much you build up your boxer?s cut attributes he?ll still bleed out of the nose if you can?t dodge or parry your foes combos and jabs. The real detail comes into view when you or the opposing fighter gets knocked out. When you see that final blow that lands a boxer in slow motion replay, and you see his cheeks ripple back to his ears, which are flapping back and forth, try not to let your jaw hit the ground.
Though there are only six venues in Fight Night Round 3, they are all detailed extremely well. The backdrops for your fights sometimes seem a little outrageous, but when you realize the dedication and detail that has been put into every venue, you won?t care. The only miss with the venues seems to be the lobotomized crowd. While they react well to big punches and the wobbling knees of a glass jawed fighter, they?re reaction is timed a little too well. Sometimes you?ll see several fans in a row reacting in the same animation, which will break any immersion that the game has created to that point. The lack of some ability to randomize the animations in the crowd will bother gamers after they get 20 bouts deep into this game.
The animations are excellent in Round 3. They work so well with the gameplay that Electronics Arts has ditched the HUD as a default, but you can always turn it back on if you like. Simply by looking at the way your boxer stands and steps you can tell if he?s ready to hit the canvas or if he?s still got plenty of rounds in his body. Moreover, when you see your fighter get blown away with a hook, there?s a little part of you that wants to whisper ?sorry about that one.? The animations create a visceral feel for the brutal and unforgiving sport that boxing really is.
The soundtrack for Fight Night Round 3 is truly remarkable. While it doesn?t boast any hip-hop all-stars, every track fits the theme of boxing. I half wished that I would hear ?Breathe? by Fabulous, this song, with a little editing, would?ve been perfect for this pugilistic title. Still, gamers will be impressed with the tracks that have been made for this game.
The commentary in Round 3 is vivid. ESPN?s Joe Tessitore does the commentary, and while he does a great job at animating his voice over work, there wasn?t a large body of work that was written up. Often comments and insights are used repetitively, even during the same bout. This repetitiveness will wear on the player after several bouts through the career mode. Furthermore, Tessitore hasn?t recorded a vast amount of names so EA has decided to use your nickname as your moniker while you?re in the ring. While it?s nice that you get to hear you nickname, it?ll be the only way you?ll know that Tessitore is talking about you and not your opponent. To me this seems like a real oversight by the developers, but we can always hope for more in Round 4.
Button mashers beware; this game is not for you. Round 3 has been overhauled from its latter form as a haymaker throwing heaven in Round 2. This time, throwing a haymaker takes time and energy from your fighter, not to mention that it also leaves him open to a counter punch. In Round 3 you?re going to have to play some defense and use the jab if you truly want to be successful. Players who rely too heavily on the game?s Impact Punches will be in for a little naptime if they?re not careful. If the opposition parries your haymaker and then lands one in return, not only will you be dizzy, the counter-puncher gains stamina by landing his haymaker and being the smarter fighter. Quite literally the whole fight can change off of one punch.
EA has also adjusted the stamina for Round 3. No longer will players be able to throw 100 punches per round and still be ready to rumble at the beginning of the fifth round. Players will have to use their judgment in when they want to be aggressing, and when they need to be aggressive. Early fights through a player?s career will determine how well they master the technique of landing punches and combos. The more you miss, the more fatigue your fighter will endure, so it?s in the best interest of gamers to learn when to punch and when to counter punch. These new gameplay mechanics bring balance to a fighting series that has been notoriously known for imbalance in the past. In addition, the new cutman mini game in between rounds works to a player?s advantage if they master the technique of healing their fighters.
Unfortunately there are no sliders for Fight Night Round 3. After several bouts players will likely be able to beat the computer on the hardest game mode with little difficulty. Fights tend to end before the six or seventh round and rarely come to a decision in the latter half of a player?s career. Sliders would?ve been a way to counteract these problems and the lack of sliders or more difficult modes hurts the shelf life of this game.
The real fun begins when you take Round 3 online. Players can use their career boxers online against another player?s created boxer or a boxing legend. Fight Night Round 3 over Xbox Live is where gamers will get the bang for their buck out of this title. Fights via Xbox Live will get your blood pumping as this time it really counts. Xbox Live supports leaderboards and rankings for players who love to boast and talk trash. Playing against a real opponent is so rewarding when you get that knockout that you?ll keep coming back for more.
Sadly, that?s where the replay value ends, as there is not much use in replaying the career mode in Fight Night Round 3. The career mode is so structured and linear in design that players will likely pass through this game mode only once.
The main fault in Fight Night Round 3 is the lack of a wealth of editing options. Players will only be able to create 10 boxers per profile. While one could make several profiles to increase the amount of created boxers, this number is really low. Furthermore the advertisements are just in the wrong place in Round 3. It?s not that there are too many, remember we?re talking about a sport where fighter?s tattoo their backs with advertisements, but they just appear in facets of the game where I?d like a little more reality. For example, if you win the Burger King award, you can have ?The King? as your trainer. Does anybody really want that?
This game could literally be re-released in mere months with sliders, higher difficulty modes and more options, ala Ninja Gaiden Black, and sell like hotcakes. Unfortunately it is more likely that EA will wait until next year to implement more options and game modes. Regardless, this title is still a damn good boxing game and a must have for sport fans disappointed with the 360?s current line-up. Fight Night Round 3 is truly the game boxing fans have been waiting for.