NEWS - Monday, February 20, 2006

Fight Night Round 3 Hits Shelves

Today (Monday, February 20th) Fight Night Round 3 Xbox 360/Xbox/PS2/PSP EA Chicago/EA Sports The previous two Fight Night games got entirely respectable scores – generally around the mid-eighties. The third one’s going the same route. It’s been polished and rebalanced a little in response to complaints about last year’s game. As usual, as many new problems are introduced as old ones solved. The deal here, though, is that EA has put most of its attention on the Xbox 360 iteration of Round 3, in an attempt to put some significant distance between it and the current-gen editions. From what I can tell, it’s still the same game you can get on PS2 or Xbox; it just looks a little prettier. I mean, there are a lot more polygons in the character models. The lighting is more realistic. There are more special effects, like the background being blurred out There seems to be some subjective blurring when you get socked in the face (which is a neat idea). The fighters bleed and sweat, and have very expressive faces that get mushed around when you punch them. You can even see the peach fuzz on the small of some of the boxers’ backs. To illustrate just how significant all of these little visual cues are, EA has by default removed the on-screen interface: no life bars or other doohickies to distract you. This is the power of the future: games with emotion! And you know, they’re kind of on the right trail. Today the demonstration is a little more convincing than it was in 1999. It gets rid of some abstractions that were just there to stand in for things that couldn’t be represented so easily. Since the game tries to be a sort of a simulation, it can do this without people screaming heresy. (Just imagine if Capcom were to make a version of Street Fighter without the life bars. The Internet would explode.) Though I wonder whether these same cues could just as easily have been used in the past, in a more stylized (compared to brute force polygon chug urgh) manner. Point is that in terms of what this game is going for – an overt kind of realism, with some allowances – the extra muscle actually does help somewhat. The power allows room for subtlety, where otherwise the developers would just be growling and grinding, trying to make the game look like something other than a cartoon. As a result, we get emotion that wouldn’t be there otherwise. All right, fair enough. I have a feeling this game will sell more 360s than anything released to date. In its way, Fight Night Round 3 is the first game to provide a lucid argument for the system to exist. When you design by brute force, what you need is raw power. It should be fun to compare this to what Nintendo’s cooking up, for developers with a more roundabout way of looking at the world.


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