Fight Night Rnd. 3 Review - 

Fight Night Round 3 is the latest title to come out of the powerhouse that is EA. Their sports titles are arguably some of the best around, with heaps of money bundled into each one to attain the official licenses. Is Round 3 a shallow experience with pretty graphics, or something more?


Firstly, I personally am not a boxing fan, but our recent review of Title Bout on the PC gave me a bit more of an interest in the sport, so when the chance came to review another boxing game, I was interested in expanding my knowledge of the genre.

Put simply, Fight Night Round 3 is a third person boxing game, where you are in complete control of your character. The camera is in fact at the side of the ring, but follows your boxer around, while never excluding your opponent. The main thing to mention is the graphics, which are stunning. The boxers' faces, bodies, clothing, everything look superb, and sweat runs down their chests, blood and cuts appear under eyes and down cheeks, and it enhances the gameplay experience innumerably.

The career mode, which makes up the main lifespan for the single player game, prompts you to create a character in what is becoming the legendary, player creator tool. You can change everything about the face structure, using a very simple and intuitive system with the two control sticks being positioned in dual circles to affect the character in certain ways. It's hard to explain, but works fantastically. You can also change certain things about the character's specific animations and style. Options in front of you range from featherweight to heavyweight build, standard or crossed blocking styles, and a good list of punching techniques. You can also choose a nickname for your boxer, from a pleasantly long list of names such as 'The Cobra' and 'The Comeback King'. The commentators then thread these names into their commentary pretty flawlessly, and it makes a very nice change from either having no names for the players, or lots, but implemented very sketchily into the dialogue.

One gripe with player customisation is that the build is very often the same. When you have finished creating your boxer, they won't look too different from how they started in terms of head shape etc. and to really create a different build, you have to play through the game and train your boxer into better shape.

Once you have the pleasantry of character customisation out of the way, you can begin to delve into the career mode proper. This consists of contracts, training, rivals, and a shop. To begin, you will need to choose a trainer. There are a few in the list, all pretty stereotypical characters, which makes them instantly more recognisable and you do get to like them. The voice acting on them is superb too, which helps, although they do begin to repeat lines after not too long.

The training is made up of a variety of mini games, improving various areas of your boxer's physique and technical ability. The weightlifting session for example, involves you moving each control stick upwards in turn, aiming to get the weights inside a red bar indicated on the weight machine. It works quite well, and the option is always there for the computer to complete the training (albeit at a possibly lower standard) for you. You can also go up against a punchbag, or spar with a partner, purely for practise.

After doing one training session, you are asked to participate in your first fight. If you've had a go with some of the moves, is should be a breeze. The punching, combos and defence is very intuitive, although the first time you play it will undoubtedly feel a little sluggish. This is through no fault of the game though, as you begin with a weak boxer, and the game is realistic, you can't be expecting to string six or seven punches in a row together.

To punch, you can either use A, the right bumper, or the right thumbstick. A and right bumper throw haymakers, that cause substantial damage to your opponent and can easily lead to a knockout. The right thumbstick is used for the combos, and depending on where you aim it, the punch will be suitably directed at your opponent. It's a bit like the Tiger Woods golf swing, except with an arm instead of a club…although it's a much faster, straight movement as opposed to a curve.

In defensive terms, you can use left trigger to duck and dodge. Holding it down and moving the left thumbstick allows your character to move and avoid your opponent's punches. It also allows you to go in low for rib shots or surprise punches to the face. If you hold the right trigger, and move the control stick, you can bring your arms up and attempt to parry or block shots. This also works really well, and promotes fast reflexes and game experience to be able to read your opponent's moves.

You can also use illegal moves, such as a headbutt or an elbow, mapped to the B button. These will reduce the scores that the judges give you, but if you can get away with it, it can easily damage your opposition and lead to a heavy knockout. Then you have the left bumper, which alternates your boxer's stance. If you have a cut on the right side of your face, you can opt to turn your player around the other way, prompting punches on the left, hoping to avoid any severe damage.

The X button taunts the opposition, and ranges from signature ones from real boxers, to some that the developers have put in. These include patting your chest, raising your arms to the crowd, or winding up your punching arm, making for some great moments online and in multiplayer.

There is also the Y button, to allow you to lean onto your opponent and grab hold of them, resting on them, recharging health, and avoiding an otherwise imminent knockout. You lose points from the judges for this, if done too often, but it can easily mean the difference between a win and a loss in a fight.

After a successful fight, you will revisit the training mode, and have the chance to sign a new contract. Each contract has details of the fight's date, number of rounds, opponent, and any prizes you'll get for winning it, as well as other extra information. You can also visit the shop, which lets you buy kit upgrades, increasing strength, stamina, power, and so on. Over time you can purchase new punch styles, taunts, and some purely aesthetical additions, such as tattoos.

Throughout the single player campaign, you will develop rivalries with other boxers, who will follow and attempt to mirror you through the course of your career. This is a nice touch, but you do feel that they could have done a little more on this part of the game.

As for the multiplayer, it's a polished and fun filled experience. Due to the control system, you will have pretty balanced fights with almost anyone, providing they've had a bit of practice beforehand. Only the choice of boxer and tactics in game, such as the turning on your weaker side for example, will tip the balance to be too one sided, which is a really good thing to see.

At the end of each round, as well as a high definition, scantily clad bikini babe coming on screen, waving a bit of cardboard with the next round number on, you will get a talking to from your trainer. The game ensures that your trainers aren't the same where possible, and the great voice acting that we mentioned from before makes a welcome return.

You get the chance to either automatically heal your boxer's cuts and bruises, or do it manually. The automatic option saves effort, but you'll get berated by the commentators for it, and it really isn't very effective at reducing wounds. The return of minigames comes into play for the manual option however, and you either select to heal cuts, or reduce swelling. The camera will zoom in on your boxer, and it’s up to you to move the implement available to you back and forth over the wound as quickly as possible. It's good fun, and you get the frantic movement of buttons similar to the games in Mario Party, leading to some high adrenaline and exciting countdown moments.

The audio in the game is fantastic, and the commentators, as we've said, sound great, although a little laboured at times. The sound of fist connecting with face is so satisfying, and the crowd will be constantly cheering you on throughout. While the music is not really to our personal taste, it's not bad, and of course, it's all officially licensed - real fans of boxing are likely to appreciate them more than we are.

When you've thrown a spectacular punch, the game slows down, and gives you a real buzz with the screen blurring, and movements slowing. It allows you to plan your next move, and your opponent to do their best to avoid a knockout. Should you succeed in getting them to the floor, another close up will ensue, showing everything from the player's emotion, to blood streaming from their mouths. The animations of them falling looks a little out of the ordinary, but then again, it's never a completely smooth fall in real life.

Graphics are fantastic as said earlier, with only the longer hairstyles causing problems, with some strands disappearing into the back of the head, and it all looking a little too static. Still, the rest is great, and it has to be one of the best looking 360 games so far, if not the best.

The Xbox Live modes works really well too, with largely smooth, great looking fights taking place, which is good to see after EA's disappointing track record (until a few months ago).

Fight Night Round 3 won't be every one's cup of tea, and the thought of boxing one on one over and over again is a pretty linear idea, but, it is pulled of so well, and with so much flair, that it is very hard not to like this game, and it will be a favourite on multiplayer for years to come.
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