Fight Night Round 3 PS3 Review - 09/04/2007

Fight Night Round 3 has been out on last-gen consoles and indeed the Xbox 360 for over a year now, but the PS3 version does have some new features and modes thrown in for good measure – the question is, does its late arrival hurt its performance in the ring?

In short, no. Actually, the new In the Ring mode is a great feature that extends the diversity of the game quite substantially, and while not everyone is going to like it, there's no denying that it adds something to the package which previous versions were lacking.

If you've never played Fight Night Round 3, the key is that the right analog stick is used to literally throw punches. You move it from the bottom up, to uppercut, from left or right up to swing in the desired direction and do great lunging haymakers with near full rotations. Stun punches can also be initiated, as well as a selection of others should you choose to learn the system inside out. This innovative control system makes Fight Night instantly accessible to casual gamers, with no combos to learn, just simple movements that actually make sense.

You can use the face buttons, which allow you to grapple onto the opposing boxer if you feel you're about to get knocked down (you always see them leaning into eachother in real life if they feel they're about to get pummelled), throw a signature punch (a variety available, many specific to each boxer – such as a Muhammad Ali haymaker) and do an illegal move, such as a headbutt or knee in the goolies (also assigned to a SIXAXIS nod forwards).

Arghhh! The slow-mo noise you'll be hearing plenty of in the various replays at the end of each round – very satisfying

The straightforward approach allows people who aren't generally boxing fans to really get into the game, and with the huge list of about thirty different boxers, you're sure to have heard of a few of them – Ali, Frazier, De La Hoya and Ricky Hatton are some of the most well known over here. Disappointing is the small amount of arenas to play in, but each looks absolutely beautiful; it's all a little sharper on PS3, but not noticeable enough to recommend it over the Xbox 360 version.

However, the previously mentioned In the Ring mode features a first person viewpoint, where you literally get in the ring and fight your opponent. The natural analog punching feels even better here, with your actions replicated onscreen – blocking is substantially more difficult though. You usually do it using R1 and the right analog stick, bringing your arms up and around using a similar technique to with punching – however, it's crucial that you can see just where your arms are, and indeed where your body is positioned in relation to the other fighter, so as not to let any punches through. With the first person view, this is pretty difficult, and while it promotes a more offensive, front foot style of boxing, it becomes difficult when you're facing the AI and lack the full view.

There's no doubting that it's very immersing and atmospheric though. You really feel as if you're about to get knocked down as the screen begins to flash and burn white and red – the sound distorts and your boxer struggles to block and throw punches effectively. As with other versions, there is no heads up display by default, with you relying on naturally sensing how stable your boxer is, and this mode goes a long way towards helping that.

You can’t say you've seen rippling skin until you've played Fight Night Round 3

Thankfully, the In the Ring mode isn't forced upon you in the Career mode. It's a great new feature, but it won't appeal to everyone and can be frustrating if you're desperate to win a fight where defence and counter punching is really your only option. The Career mode unfortunately hasn't been beefed up at all since the Xbox 360 version, it's still essentially the create a boxer, beat everyone, upgrade your stats through training mini-games and increase your popularity until you get offered sponsored fights or title bouts. You also develop rivalries with other boxers along the way, but there's a definite lack of structure and goals to aim for which may leave you stopping early.

On the plus side, it's empowering to see your scrawny bag of meat evolve into a muscular titan capable of downing Ali. The stats and visual appearance of your boxer upgrade over time, and you can even choose to play as one of the featured boxers in the game and rewrite their careers using the game's structure, which is a nice option to have. There's a wide range of accessories to buy, allowing you to boost your stats with Everlast and other brands of equipment, and all the usual EA licenses are here in abundance.

A downside to the game is the healing mini-game that takes place between the rounds. Here, you can choose to heal cuts or reduce swelling, and are then required to move the right analog stick in a certain direction repeatedly, to heal your boxer. It feels a bit random at times, and it can be frustrating to see your work have very little effect on your boxer. There is an auto-heal option available, but it does such a poor job (according to the commentators at least), that manual is the only way to go really.

Sweat, saliva, blood – what more could you want from a boxing game?

Similarly clumsy are the pep-talks that your coach gives you between rounds. There's not much variation in these speeches, and while they do occasionally offer some good advice, it's often laughably repetitive, not necessarily in the choice of words, more in the general theme of each talk – i.e. 'where's your game plan?' seems to come up quite a lot.

Multiplayer is where the true joy in Fight Night lies, with In the Ring available in split-screen offline play, or you can opt to have it all in third person and share one ring side camera. The two options add life to the game that is not present in other versions, and the excellent online options also help in this department. On the Playstation Network you can play other players in lag-free, graphically superb bouts that really show the PS3's online system in all its glory. It's thrilling to play an opponent in the new first person view, while taunting and jeering them through a headset.

The graphical quality of Fight Night Round 3 on Playstation 3 is unparalleled in almost all areas. The character models and atmosphere are superb, with the rings created brilliantly – it's all 3D spectators, few repeated models in the crowd, and generally a simply brilliant sheen of polish all round. The slow deformation of the boxers' appearance is brilliantly crafted, although some dubiously globular blood spurting looks a little comical. The audio is very good too, and while the music won't appeal to everyone, it's certainly in the mould of what you expect in the boxing/sports genre. Commentary is solid, if not a little clumsy at times.

Look at those veins, the light reflecting brilliantly off them – even for a year old port, Fight Night Round 3 is perhaps the best looking next-generation (Xbox 360 or PS3) game

Every fight is truly satisfying, with thumping audio and brutal connections between boxers. While the PS3 version obviously lacks rumble, it's not particularly noticeable if you have a decent subwoofer in your surround sound setup.

Fight Night Round 3 on the Playstation 3 offers a new mode, which, while lacking in any sort of new structure or tasks, gives you a new perspective and an impressively different feel to the game. The graphics and loading times are both sharper, but the Career mode does feel a bit dated now, with its simple tasks and small depth.

If you never owned the Xbox 360 version, then this is a great game to own to show off the graphics of your console. Should you be a huge fan of the series looking to inject some life into Round 3, then the In the Ring mode may be just about enough to warrant a purchase at a cheaper price, but only if you absolutely loved the Xbox 360 one. It's a great boxing game, truly next-generation in all but the depth of the career mode.

- Michael Hazleton



EA Canada