Fight Night Round 3ESRB:
Platform: Xbox 360
Developer – EA Chicago Publisher - Electronic Arts Features: Genre: Sports Console: Xbox 360 Multiplayer: 1-2 Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround HDTV Support: HDTV 1080i Fight Night Round 3 for the Xbox 360 is truly the new undisputed king of boxing video games. EA Sports next instalment of the Fight Night Series is truly a knockout from every sense of the word. Once you step in the ring you will be blown away by the how good the game looks and how real everything appears to be. This is arguably the best looking sports game for the 360 to date. Ever since I started the play the Fight Night on the Xbox 360 approximately three weeks prior to its release it became one of my most anticipated games to date. If you are already a veteran to EA’s Fight Night series you will notice the new devastating impact punch features, a customizable boxing style feature and a reworked career mode. While many would suggest that most of the ‘new’ features and updates are to be expected, the changes still warrant giving the next-gen game a shot. Graphics Fight Night Round 3’s graphics are truly fantastic. There is no question that it optimizes the power of the 360. EA Chicago did an outstanding job with the graphics for this next-generation instalment of the series. As I played the following visuals really stood out for me: 1) The detailed fighters; 2) Boxing venues look great; 3) The fighter models are smooth and realistic; 4) The cuts and swelling on the boxers face are gruesomely awesome; 5) The 3-D crowd inside the venues; and 6) The overall High Definition display is stellar. It’s quite clear from the get go that Fight Night Round 3 truly takes advantage of the 360's HD power and makes a significant leap from previous chapters of the game. As I mentioned earlier, the detailed fighters really jump out, and coupled with the overall individual style of each boxer, EA brings some serious realism to the game. It's hard to know where to even start when describing how real the fighters look. The sweat and facial expressions on the fighters are incredibly realistic. You really gain an appreciation for the detail when you land a combination of punches and end it with a haymaker resulting in a knock down. It's at this point that the camera zooms in, you hear your fighter let out an "arrrrrggh", your heart pumps and you get a first hand close up view of a knockdown blow which completely distorts your opponents face. His head flies back and a big gob of blood spit goes flying from his mouth. I found these cut scenes to be arguably the best graphical feature of the game and this type of scene will become a ‘demo’ when you want to show what the Xbox 360 can really do. Another area I was impressed with was the venues and crowds. Madison Square Garden is an exact duplicate of its real life counterpart, as is the Staples Center. On the downside I was disappointed with the total number of venues available. The small venues are cool and I was looking forward to the bigger venues as I got my character’s career up to the higher ranks. Once I was eventually able to fight inside a large arena in career mode I wanted more of them. You would think EA would have had any Las Vegas venues given some of the biggest fights of all time have occurred in the city that never sleeps. Regardless of the number of venues though they all look great and you can even notice how the lighting effects even the smallest of venues (e.g. the back alley gym has dust floating in the air). As for the crowds, I have no complaints and they only add to the game. The crowds are in 3D and become an active part in the fight in terms of momentum. One of the features which really impressed me was the cuts and swelling which appear on the fighters faces after some damage has been inflicted. The detail in the fighter's faces is breathtaking. The great thing about Fight Night Round 3 is that you can tell the condition of a boxer just by looking at him and you really don't need to bring up the HUD (health meter). When you are fighting in career mode there is no menu or meters to distract you from the fight unless you select the HUD from the options menu. By not displaying the HUD the game really looks like any given fight night on ESPN and I really was drawn into this realistic look. In terms of the animations, at times it can appear somewhat 'jerky', however this mainly had to with my fighting style. After several fights, I found myself improving and eventually ended up delivering smooth combinations and blows and the action looked great. This has to do with the control system that EA implements and once you get a grasp of it the on-screen action looks fantastic. Last but not least, the in-between round ring girls have to be mentioned. A nice touch but some more variety would have been nice. The girls do look sexy but I think EA could have spent a more time on them in terms of details. And I have to ask why they all have tattoos and a mild case of camel toe? I think that this was a little over the top. Fight Night Round 3’s graphics is arguably the best selling feature of the game and the most talked about too. If anything, it left me wanting to see even more. I certainly look forward to the next instalment and how EA will graphically top this one. Sound As far as the sound is concerned Fight Night Round 3 is superb. The game's sound is a great complement to the fantastic graphics. The following sounds really stood out for me: 1) The punching sound effects are realistic; 2) Punch cut scenes are stellar; 3) The soundtrack has some catchy hip hop tunes; and 4) Boxing manager voices are clear and are critical component the fight at hand. The sound does not disappoint and scores high marks in Fight Night Round 3 as the punching sound effects are incredibly realistic and you can even hear the boxers exert shorts bursts of air from their nose as they deliver a bunch. As one would expect this is quite an important point as you are playing a boxing game so bringing such sounds as these is key to immersing one in a realistic boxing environment. For those of you who have a 5.1 Dolby Digital Sound System, the punch cut scenes are fantastic. During the scenes you will notice the strong bass and stellar sound effects. Granted some of the sounds in the game are a little far fetched (e.g. not every knockdown punch leaves a boxer with broken cheek bones) however it does add to the entertainment value of the game. The soundtrack in the game is good, but similarly to the venues if left me wanting more. After playing some other EA games of late I was relieved to find out there was no noisy punk rock tunes in the game. Instead you get some catchy hip hop tunes from up and coming hip hop artists. After 20 or so fights, there is no doubt you will find the soundtrack repetitive however it is a nice start and an area surely EA will address in the next instalment. As far as the Manager Voices are concerned they are a clear and very understandable. Of note it does get annoying that the low budget Manager always calls you "playa". But this just gives me all the more incentive to spend some money on a manager that gives you good advice in between rounds and is able to patch up your injuries at an acceptable level. Of note, I would like to see my boxer speak once in awhile perhaps during training mode, in between the rounds to tell the manager what is going on and/or during pre or post fight interviews. In terms of the commentary, there is nothing special here. In fact, you are often left wondering what fight they are watching. On a couple of occasions the commentators would indicate the refs are about the end the fight, but we would still be in he first round and there was nothing to indicate the fight was even close to being finished. Also, in between rounds you watch highlights from the previous round. On a couple of instances, the commentators would discuss how I dominated the round, but the highlights would show all the big punches from my opponent only. Gameplay Compared to previous versions of the EA Fight Night franchise I found the gameplay to be much improved. EA Fight Night Round 3 is structured quite similarly to Round 2; however you will notice some changes once you step into the ring. As with the graphics and sound, I found certain things jumped out at me while playing and they are the following: 1) Total Punch Control gives you better rhythm to the fight; 2) More than 700 defensive, punching, and movement styles in the ring; 3) Career mode is very enjoyable; 4) Classic Mode allows users to re-visit some of the greatest fights of all time; and 5) Multiplayer is smooth and I experienced no lag. I found that in Fight Night Round 3, there is a greater emphasis on technique and fight management and this is where the Total Punch Control comes in. Fight Night Round 3 uses an innovative control scheme dubbed the Total Punch Control (TPC). By using the right analog stick, you can select from a variety of punches and fake-outs by using the TPC in conjunction with other buttons. Learning the TPC is critical to your success. Compared to previous EA Fight Night chapters I found there was much more emphasis on technique. I found that you actually have to box your way through fights as opposed to delivering haymaker after haymaker. You can still win the majority of your fights with special punches, especially online, however you’re computer A.I. opponent adapts which gives you more of a realistic boxing match representation. On the downside, I did find it annoying how my fighter would leave himself totally exposed for what seems like an eternity when one of his haymakers does not connect. In almost all cases, you can expect a jaw jolting counter from your opponent. I think the developer may have done this to discourage people from continually using their haymaker punch to win a bout. In Fight Night Round 3 there are three special types of punches. In addition to the traditional Haymakers, Flash K.O. and Stun Impact punches are now possible. The Flash K.O., if you connect, will end a fight with your opponent dazed, but still standing. The Stun Punch will change the camera angle so that you are now looking through the eyes of your fighter. If you get past your opponents blocks, you are rewarded with an instant knockdown. All three special punches make Fight Night Round 3 more enjoyable than previous chapters. In career mode, you can create your own fighter or choose one of the greats like Muhammad Ali and Oscar De La Hoya. Creating your own boxer is simple and straight forward. You can adjust everything from weight and body mass to ear shape and cranial depth. All of the major classes are represented and you can also select a basic punch style (e.g. speed, slugger, etc) as well as block style (traditional block style or the less orthodox cross-up technique). Separate styles each have their advantages and disadvantages. As part of building your boxers career, and prior to your fights, you can participate in training exercises to build up your fighters speed, strength, agility, heart rate, etc. You can lift weights, work the combo dummy or the heavy bag. My only concern, once again, is the limited amount of training exercises. There are only so many times you can bunch the bag or do arm curls before it gets boring. Thankfully there is an auto-train feature where you don't have to repeat the exercises over and over. I would hope next year's version, will address this area and maybe throw in a skip rope or speed bag exercise. If you don't have the patience for a somewhat lengthy career mode, you can always play in ESPN Classic mode and re-live some of the greatest boxing rivalries of all time. You can compete with boxing legends such as De La Hoya, Frazier, Ali, Leonard, Jones Jr., etc. Each fighter is an exact duplicate of their real-life counterpart and is also similar in terms of fighting styles and signature punches. There’s also the chance to play Hard Hits matches (which are also featured in the Career Mode) that award fighters for knockdowns only. Another one of my concerns is the product placement in the game. I think it goes a little over the top when you have the Burger King Mascot Guy escorting you to the ring. Not that I don't like Burger King, but it just seems wrong that the Burger King guy could be escorting Muhammad Ali to the ring. The EA Fight Night Round 3 online gameplay is enjoyable but not without concerns. The online aspect of the game will be a popular feature of the game and it's relatively straightforward. Quick ranked and unranked matches can get you fighting in no time. You can also customize a contest by changing parameters such as skill level, venue, and game type (ESPN Classic, Hard Hits, or standard match). If you are new to the online EA Fight Night online community, make no question you will get destroyed in the beginning. I found it a little disheartening getting thumped in the 1st round by a guy whose record was not all that flattering at 17-14. But like with anything, it takes some practice and eventually you will have some success. Conclusion Although I had some concerns about EA Fight Night Round 3 it still is a fantastic game and certainly lived up to my expectations. The graphics are brilliant, especially in High Definition, and the sound is rock solid, and even more so in Dolby Digital 5.1. In terms of overall gameplay the career mode is challenging, the quick game choices are plenty and the online multiplayer will be enjoyed by many. If you are boxing fan, even a casual one, then Fight Night Round 3 is a no brainer. If you are just a gamer who owns an Xbox 360 then you should at least give some serious thought to this game as it is a worthy addition to anyone’s 360 gaming library.