STAFF REVIEW of Fight Night Round 3 (Xbox 360)

Wednesday, March 1, 2006.
by Yellowlab

Fight Night Round 3 Box art There were several moments while playing Fight Night Round 3 that I found my jaw hitting the floor in amazement. One of those moments was the first time I laid eyes upon the unbelievably realistic character models that are like nothing we?ve seen before from an in game character. After I got past being in awe of the graphical shine, I was equally amazed at the realistic gameplay and unique control utilized for the fighters.

The last thing to make my jaw drop was out of sheer amazement over how much product placement EA managed to fit into one game. During the game you can strap on your Dodge shoes, pull up your Under Armor shorts, slip into your EA boxing gloves, and fight in the Burger King match ? complete with the creepy Burger King guy (from those TV commercials) as a corner man. This is the video game equivalent to one of those NASCAR cars? there is hardly a spot left in the game that doesn?t have an advertisement plastered on it. I half expected to see the ring girl turn around and have a McDonalds logo tattooed on her backside. While this last jaw dropping moment wasn?t a good thing, I?m happy to say it doesn?t distract much from the other more important aforementioned good points.

One thing the Fight Night series has always strived for ? and succeeded at ? is creating a sense of realism. This is not a button mashing arcade fighter. You won?t get far in the career mode ? or against a halfway skilled opponent ? by standing in the middle of the ring and mindlessly wailing away. Adding to the realism, the game is loaded with real boxers from Muhammad Ali to Roy Jones Jr. that all look so realistic you?d swear you were watching an actual fight. The game also has a realistic presentation. You won?t find any health bars cluttering up the screen. Instead, you have to use other clues ? such as the well crafted camera that gets unsteady along with the boxer ? to gauge when your opponent is about to go down.

FNR3 has all the play modes that you?d expect. At the center it has a career mode, in which you can build up a real life boxer (like Ali) and take him to the championship, or you can create your own boxer. The create a boxer feature is incredibly detailed and your options in crafting the face and head is nearly limitless. I found creating the boxer was nearly as fun as the action in the ring, and spent way too much time fiddling around with making representations of boxers that were not included in the game ? like Mike Tyson. Besides the career mode, you can also take your boxer online through Xbox Live, or play 2 player games on the same Xbox 360.

Over the past few years, sports games have been taking full advantage of the right analog stick ? from utilizing it for a golf swing to pulling off wicked crossovers in basketball. FNR3 carries it to a whole new level with ?total punch control?. With TPC, you can throw every punch in the game ? with a specific hand ? utilizing only the right thumbstick. It takes a few fights to really grasp it, but it is very satisfying once you get the hang of it. For those that prefer to use button presses, there is a controller option that allows you to use most of the punches with those, but if you want to master every punch, you have to use the thumbstick.

One touchy gameplay element in boxing is making the haymaker punch well balanced. In FNR3, EA did an excellent job of doing just that. It takes a little longer to pull off, and is thrown a little slower (because of the wind up). The haymaker must be used strategically as a counter punch or when a boxer leaves himself wide open. So, you will not be able to simply throw wild haymakers throughout a match without paying dearly. Landing a well placed haymaker is very satisfying and can change a match dramatically.

While I have no real complaints about FNR3 in the ring, there are a couple miscues outside the ring. One of them is the training. As you progress in career mode, you must train your boxer to hone his skills. Unfortunately, you only have a very limited number of training options (only three). The training is done through ridiculously simplistic mini-games like weightlifting (to increase your power stats), a combo dummy exercise (to increase your speed stats), and the heavy bag (for your stamina and chin related ratings). These three give you very limited options for sculpting your fighter as you desire. Other boxing games from years past, such as Rocky Legends, gave many more options, mini-games, and was implemented much better. The whole training aspect felt like an afterthought that was never fully finished, but placed in the game anyhow. Another minor misstep is the highlights between the rounds, which seemed more like really boring lowlights. Also, the ring girls between the rounds quickly become repetitive as there are only 3 that repeat over and over and over again.

If you?ve played the demo ? which was released weeks before the title hit the shelves ? you know just how gorgeous the character models are. I found myself marveling at the quality of the skin textures, and let?s just say it?s not often I stare and marvel at the skin texture of another man?s body. The slow motion knockout replays are also a thing of beauty. Watching the ripple effects on the face, or the splatter of blood and spit as the glove connects, is mesmerizing. Video game violence has never been this pretty before.

While none of the other visuals in the game will impress you quite as much as the character models of the boxers, they do look nice. The environments ? such as the crowd and venues - are well crafted. There is a variety of locations to keep things fresh ? from a desolate boxing ring in a gritty gym to a fully packed Madison Square Gardens.

In the audio department, FNR3 wins by a split decision. The sound effects ? like the booming punches ? are fantastic. The commentary is serviceable, but very repetitive. You?ll hear the same phrases repeated several times each fight.

Overall, despite a few low blows - like the massive quantities of in game ads - FNR3 is a fantastic boxing game and really shines as a next generation gaming experience.

Overall: 9.0 / 10
Gameplay: 9.0 / 10
Visuals: 10.0 / 10
Sound: 7.6 / 10


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