Fight Night Round 3 Review

Developer: EA Chicago Publisher: EA Sports
Release Date: February 21, 2006 Also On: PS2, Xbox and Xbox 360

EA Sports’ next-generation launch was as steady as the legs of a worn-out boxer. They ran a decent game with Madden NFL 2006, but missed a few tackles. They completely air-balled NBA Live 2006. FIFA 2006: Road to the FIFA World Cup was a decent game, but like soccer in real life, didn’t reflect a lot of excitement. Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2006 was also a decent game, but wasn’t the 300-yard blast that Xbox 360 golfing gamers expected. Now, with Fight Night Round 3, they’ve proven something—even a worn-out boxer can come back and make a big hit to get right back into the game. Fight Night Round 3 is easily above and beyond everything that EA Sports has done so far in the next generation, and it stands as one of the premier Xbox 360 titles right now.

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Featuring two headline gameplay modes, ESPN Classics and Career, Fight Night Round 3 is chock-full of stuff for boxing fans. ESPN Classics puts you into the trunks of boxing greats and throws you into the ring against the star’s biggest rival. For example, there is an Ali vs. Frazier match, a B-Hop and Jones Jr. match, and more. For boxing fans and those of you out there that know your boxing history, this is a real treat. Re-creating big match-ups is something that’s always enjoyable.

Career Mode is where the rest of the gameplay is found, and it lets you create your own avatar and make a name for yourself as a boxing legend. This mode forces you to train your boxer, earn money and hire trainers, buy boxing gear, and sign contracts to fight in upcoming matches. By the end of your boxer’s career, you’ll have fought in all sorts of events, like ESPN Wednesday and Friday Night matches. I enjoyed the Career Mode the most, as it allowed me to have full control of my boxer and his stats. For example, if I needed a power boost before an upcoming match, all I had to do was participate in the Weightlifting training game and my boxer would be a little beefier. Eventually throughout your career you’ll form rivalries that are reflected by the action on the mat, where a rival might start throwing illegal hits and taunting your avatar.

The on-mat gameplay is phenomenal, to say the least. Boxing is a test of stamina in real life, and this has been held up very well in the game itself. The punching controls are mapped to the right analog stick by default, and throwing punches is as easy as moving the stick into a certain direction. For example, quickly slashing the stick in an upwards-diagonal motion will result in your avatar throwing a mean jab. Swiveling the stick from down to up will execute an uppercut. There are even haymakers that are done by moving the stick in different motions. Though these punches are much harder to successfully execute, when they are landed on an opponent, the effect is dramatic. Once you wear down an opponent, he’ll start to throw sluggish punches, he’ll swagger, and he’ll eat the floor when you land a clean hit. Of course, punching wildly and getting hit by your opponent will have the same devastating result on your boxer, and the finesse, knowledge, and stamina required in boxing is also required in the videogame in order to win matches. On harder difficulty settings, this game is truly punishing to any and all mistakes you make.

The gameplay is actually enhanced by the visuals; something that I feel the Xbox 360 hasn’t really accomplished yet. Playing Fight Night Round 3 in high-definition glory is an experience that truly has to be seen. From the sweat beads dripping down a boxer’s chest to the skin ripples in his face when he’s hit, Fight Night Round 3 delivers detail in every way. The bright lights make sweat glisten and will actually blind you from time to time, putting you right into the head of your boxer. The default camera angle is extremely close to the combatants, making the action up-close and personal. Sometimes, especially after a big hit, the camera will swivel or shak, representing the unnerving feeling of uncontrollability and pain that a real-life boxer would feel. Like I said, with Fight Night Round 3, the visuals actually enhance the gameplay. Getting hit with a big punch not only feels brutal, but looks brutal thanks to these visuals.

The menu music is fitting, but I usually ended up listening to my Xbox 360 Custom Soundtrack anyway. Fortunately, the in-game commentary is actually worth listening to, even though some of the sound clips are played in a strange order. For instance, after each match, the commentator usually commends one of the boxers but sometimes won’t specify whom he’s talking about until he’s finished complimenting. It’s almost as if the sound team put in the different audio clips backwards. If there’s anything worth bragging about in terms of sound, it’s the sound effects, which do a fantastic job of signaling when your boxer’s bones are crunching and when he’s gasping for breath. And when the crowd gets into a fight, and starts chanting, you’ll really feel it.

In almost every way, Fight Night Round 3 is a sensational game that sports, fighting, or boxing fans will enjoy. In fact, I really can’t find anything to complain about. If you own an Xbox 360, I highly recommend giving EA Sports’ knockout title a chance. Of course, the game on the Xbox, PlayStation 2, and PSP share the exact same gameplay features, but they don’t have the visual enhancements that the 360 version delivers so perfectly. If EA Sports can continue to hit this hard with their next-gen games, sports fans won’t have much left in their wallet when Madden NFL 2007 and NBA Live 2007 release.

Graphics: 10
Sound: 9
Gameplay: 8
Creativity: 8
Replay Value/Game Length: 9
Final: 9
Written by Cliff Review Guide

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