Product Type: Electronic Arts Xbox 360 games
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Fight Night Round 3 (Xbox 360)
Member Name: Stunt 101
Fight Night Round 3 (Xbox 360)
Advantages: Core gameplay is excellent, stunning visuals, brutal sound effects, excellent analog control scheme.
Disadvantages: Disappointing career mode, not a lot of single player options, a bit sluggish at times.
While the 360 has plenty of sports games on the market, it really depends what kind of sports you're looking for. There are plenty of Football games, whether it is Pro Evolution or FIFA, a decent amount of golfing simulators (mostly Tiger Woods) and other sports like American Football and Tennis. But, along with Rugby and Cricket, Boxing games don't make a whole lot of appearances on Microsoft's console. So, it's good then that the boxing games that do appear on the 360 are great ones, at least if Fight Night Round 3 is any indication. With excellent boxing gameplay, stunning graphics, intuitive controls and great multiplayer, Round 3 is a winner.
The Fight Night series has built its name on its unique analog control system, and Round 3 continues to improve it. You move with left analog stick and perform moves with the right analog stick. How this works is you move the analog stick in a motion to perform a move, and the motion sort of resembles the move. You can perform straights by moving the analog stick forward, perform hooks by moving the analog stick to a side, then moving it in a circular motion upwards, and many more. There are some complicated moves, like haymakers and stun punches, but as you play you'll get comfortable with it. Fight Night veterans will be able to jump right in, but newbies may need to try and get accustomed to it. It's a unique and exciting control scheme, but if you don't like it you can change it to one of six control schemes to suit you. The rest of the moves like blocking and dodging are mapped to the face buttons, bumpers and triggers. A tutorial shows you how to play Fight Night, so it's not too daunting.
After you drop your jaw at the amazing graphics, you realise you aren't watching a movie and need to play this. Yet, Fight Night Round 3 also succeeds in the gameplay area too. The basic core gameplay of previous games is still here-you use the right analog stick to perform moves like jabs, haymakers (which aren't nearly as unfair as Round 2) and hooks. You must mix up your moves and not mash on the A button to perform your boxers signature moves otherwise you'll be countered and blocked a lot. You need to block to, which you can do by using your hands, leaning away and simply moving away from the punches. The HUD is removed from this Fight Night, though you can put it back on. If you leave it off, you can tell how you're doing by the way boxers are acting. If weak, they will breathe heavily and throw sluggish shots. This is very realistic, as is most of Round 3. Mixing defense with offence is what will help you succeed in Fight Night Round 3, but you can also use a couple of other tricks too. Matches can be a bit sluggish at times, where you just can't hit the fool dodging your punches, but it doesn't happen too much.
There are a couple of moves called 'Impact Punches' which are new to the series. Flash KO is when you can immediately put your opponent into the KO phase which during the phase means you can send them to the canvas of the ring, with the right punch. Usually you'd have to weaken them first, but using this move puts them straight into the KO phase. It's worth the risk of getting hit, as this is leaves you defenceless for a bit. But pull it off and the match could end quickly. The other Impact punch is Stun Punch. When this is connected, the opponent goes on the defensive, using his hands as protection. After it will only take one big punch to send them to the ground. Your opponent could counter with this move too, so watch out. The returning stun punch is the 'EA Sports Haymaker' which will instantly shift the momentum on your side after connection. These moves won't be used often though, as you'll rarely have chance to use these because of the challenging analog stick command.
There are also a couple of illegal moves too, like head butts and Clinching, but using these too much is a bad idea as it's embarrassing losing by Disqualification. You'll probably get away with it the first time, but if you keep using it then don't expect to win. Besides, opponents will probably counter it as it hurts still. You can also pull off a taunt, but these are useless as it doesn't affect anything. A real boxer would get angry being taunted, but in FNR3 they just keep doing their thing. It's a shame, and the A.I. as a whole isn't the best. Sometimes, they'll punch at a place you were blocking before, and the main issue is that their strategies never differ usually. They'll mainly block, punch, block, dodge and punch and it gets predictable. They're a bit like punching bags, though make mistakes and you'll suffer.
Maybe that's why the career mode in FNR3 is so weak. You first must choose between creating your own boxer using the robust create-a-champ option, or use one of the real-life boxers in the game, including Muhammad Ali, Roy Jones Jr. and Sugar Ray Leonard. Either way, you then must apply around 100 points worth of stats to your character in what ever area you choose. Then you can sign a contract into one of many fights of your choice. You then train by selecting a trainer (which could cost up to $50.000) and then selecting one of four training sessions. You can do weightlifting, punch bag, dummy punching and sparring. The first three add more stats onto specific areas. After that you then fight. And then you repeat that until you've won the belt in your weight class. There's no storyline, meaning there's no spice to the action. It's just fight after fight, with the occasional moment where you get assaulted in the weigh in.
That comes in the form of rivalries, which is a new thing to the series. And it doesn't work very well. Basically, you'll come across a boxer whom you've defeated that has some 'bad blood' with you. You then fight him again and the commentator will say 'these guys really don't like each other' or 'these guys want to kill each other'. That's really the extent of it, and the assaults in the weigh in last a few seconds and don't add much except to delay the next fight. You can't help but feel that choices would have helped, like conversation trees or something like that. Instead, they're mere annoyances, and the fights play like they would normally so it doesn't have much of an affect on the match.
As you win matches in career, your popularity goes up. Once the meter is filled, you fight in a match sponsored by a company like Dodge or on a special event like Pay-Per-View. The weird thing is that one of the sponsors, EA Sports, will have a fight before you fill your popularity up that much. It basically means EA Sports could come up twice, as well as the other sponsors. Like I said, they don't affect gameplay much-just trying to spice up the action. After you win a title belt at the beginning, you don't get anyone challenging you for it, as if you don't own it. Its things like this that really detract from the career mode, and as such, is a weak spot. Thankfully, you'll probably continue just because the actually fights are great.
The create-a-champ mode is pretty robust. You can change a lot of things, from skin colour to facial hair to height and weight to even their nose size. It's very robust, though because it's a boxing game you can't really change their clothes, per se, as they don't wear jeans and tank tops while fighting. You can buy some different trunks and other clothes they wear during boxing matches in the career mode, using money you earned by winning. Like the WWE games, you can create some funny creations like a giant headed boxer or a guy with a massive nose or a guy with a small head and big arms. There are also some different boxing styles to assign to them, which go from an overall style to how they block and punch. You can select styles to suit how you play, and can change them anytime during the career mode, which is a plus.
There are some other modes you can choose from. The 'Play Now' mode lets you create a match, letting you choose which corner to fight in and how you are going to fight with. The 'ESPN Classic' mode lets you take part in some of the biggest bouts in boxing history, from Ali vs. Frazier to Gatti vs. Ward. This is quite a fun mode, especially if you know your boxing history. You can choose rivalries from your career mode too, using even you created wrestler in these situations. There are some issues, like the fact that fights don't take place in authentic arenas for the time the real fight took place in, but overall it's a decent diversion. Shame the A.I. wasn't slightly better in the single player modes, though it's not brain dead.
That's why FNR3's best asset is its multiplayer. Whether you play it with a friend on one console or over Xbox Live with a complete stranger, matches really pick up in these modes. You can change quite a few match options, and there are several stat-tracking features, as well as leader boards. Obviously, you're not going to have four people in the game playing against each other because, well, it's boxing but it doesn't need to. Another two-player only sports game was Rockstar's Table Tennis which had a perfect camera because it was two people and one table, removing split-screen. FNR3 does this too, which means you don't have to look at a smaller screen, which makes it enjoyable. There's some minor lag at the beginning of games, but as a whole the multiplayer is quality.
FNR3 is rated 16+ for violence. I'd be inclined to agree here-the moments where the game shows the replay of your knocking a guy to the floor is rather gruesome. You hear the sounds of their face crunching, you see their faces squash up, blood goes flying out of the boxer's mouth and it's just not a pretty sight. That said, there isn't much else to offend here so if you can handle that then there isn't too much offending in FNR3. Swear words in the rap songs are censored, and it's not like you see heads flying off. The gameplay is also easy to adapt to, making it great for parties.
Graphically, Fight Night Round 3 is the best looking boxing game ever. It benefits from the 360's hardware capabilities and creates an almost photorealistic look, let down by minor glitches like clipping. While the frame rate isn't 60 frames per seconds like the PS2 and Xbox versions, it doesn't need to be. The character models look incredible. Their bodies glisten with sweat as the match goes on, their faces deform as you hit it, as well as your face, their clothes dangle as if they're not glued to the boxer's body and their animation is perfect which flows from move to move. The game has perfect lighting, and you can actually see the dust as it flies through the light. The environments aren't as detailed, but it's not a massive issue. There are plenty of crowd members cheering, though they look a bit blocky. The frame rate is 100% smooth, and the little issues like clipping don't hurt the game too much.
The sound is also of high quality, though not as good as the graphics. The best thing is the effects, especially during replays after knocking someone down to the canvas. As you watch the replay, you cringe at the sound of your boxing glove breaking some teeth. It sounds so real and so forceful that you can't help but shiver in disgust. The other effects, like the different sounds of punching when using different moves, and the crash of when you take someone to the canvas, really help build realism. Unfortunately, the rest of the sound is a bit average. The commentary from Joe Tessitore isn't as bad as, say, the commentary found in Smackdown vs. Raw 2008, but hearing him compare the Philly shell defense to a Philly Cheesestake three matches in a row gets annoying. The soundtrack is also weak, composing of a small, and I mean small, selection of Rap tunes which not only alienates anyone not into rap, but also gets repetitive. It does suit the tone of the game, though.
-(The Replay Value)-
Fight Night Round 3 suffers a bit here. The main career mode lasts until you retire, but you'll probably quit after about six hours because it's not too engaging. The other modes of play, like ESPN classic, are fun for a while but not too engaging either. You'll still play though, because of the excellent fighting system in Fight Night. One area that really disappoints is the achievements. There are only eight (which is even less than King Kong's achievements) and you could earn a good 6 of them in an hour. You unlock achievements by completing special fights in the career mode, whether it's a sponsored fight by Dodge, EA Sports or Burger King. Once you win that, you earn 100-150 gamer points until you eventually get the full 1000 gamer points. It's disappointing to say the least. The area that could keep you busy for weeks is the awesome multiplayer, whether it's on one system or over Xbox Live.
-(The Ending Comments)-
Fight Night Round 3 is a superb boxing game. It may feel a bit sluggish at times, but all the boxing matches you'll fight in will be enjoyable. The excellent gameplay still shines, despite a weak career mode. As you deliver a Haymaker to take someone to the ground, the slow-motion replay will send chills down your spine as you hear and see their faces squishing, which is a sight that some people could puke over. This is thanks to the incredible graphics, which consistently make your jaw drop, despite some issues. It's a shame there isn't more to go around, with a brief single player, very little extra modes and poor achievements. The multiplayer will keep you busy though. It's a lot like Rockstar's Table Tennis-it focuses on the gameplay rather than delivering lots of gameplay modes or fancy stories and provides a fantastic sports experience. Unless you're not into sport or boxing, then you should give Fight Night Round 3 a go.
-(The Extra Info)-
This was published by EA Sports and developed by EA Chicago.
This was released on March 10th, 2006 and is also on PS2, PS3, PSP and Xbox.
This is available from Amazon for £16.99 (Classics Version).
Summary: The best looking boxing game ever and it plays pretty darn well too.
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