Fight Night Round 3 Xbox 360 Review

EA Sport: Fight Night Round Three is the third instalment of EA Sports’ critically acclaimed boxing series. Given the lack of choice in the boxing genre (other than the passable Rocky games) Fight Night has, by default, become the benchmark for other games to aspire to. It just so happens that Fight Night has raised the bar to an impressively high level. The third addition to the series remains faithful to everything that made the previous instalments great, and then adds to this with some of the most realistically gorgeous graphics ever to grace a video game system.

Fight Night Round 2 was a pretty game with recognisable boxers and realistic environments. Fight Night Round 3 however takes Fight Night Round 2 and every other sports game ever made into the back yard and gives them the most life-changing beating money can buy. The graphics in this game are, in a word, stunning. Games like this are the reason why you bought an Xbox 360, from the sweat running over the characters to the way the face ripples in the most bone crunchingly painful way during a knockout; this game really does raise the bar. You may even find yourself enjoying getting beaten just to see the contents of Ricky Hatton’s head jettison from his mouth before crashing to the mat. If anything else, this game should fill you with confidence over the visuals that the next generation consoles will be able to achieve in a few years time. Characters are all instantly recognisable in an almost startling way. This is the first game I’ve played where I’ve gone from thinking, ‘that looks quite like Roy Jones Jr’ to ‘that is Roy Jones Jr’. It’s almost eerie how closely some of the characters resemble their real life counterparts and scary when you realise that you’re thinking how two men in pants hitting each other could ever be described as beautiful! Although the boxers look realistic, it appears that the crowd and women in bikinis were modelled using the money left over, which apparently amounted to no more the £1.50. These aspects of the game are very ‘last gen’ and do pale in comparison to the detail and realism that is so apparent in the character models for the boxers. However, this is merely a minor criticism. Also, during the knockouts the players can seem to experience some kind of seizure when they crash to the mat. It’s disappointing that this ‘rag-doll physics gone mad’ syndrome that was so apparent in Fight Night Round 2 has not been addressed.

Another thing you will notice when you play this game for the first time is the complete lack of any displays on the screen. There are no health bars, stamina bars or any form of displays whatsoever. You have to gauge your boxer’s health through how quickly he can throw punches and move around the ring. As soon as the slow motion kicks in, it’s time to head for the hills as this means you’re on the verge of death (or at least a knockout). Again, this lack of an interface adds to the levels of realism and makes you feel that you are truly part of the game.

Fight Night Round 3 stays true to the EA ideology of sticking to a gameplay formula that works whilst adding a few subtle gameplay changes with every new version. In this respect, Round 3 is true to form by providing gameplay almost identical to that of its predecessors. The Total Punch Control feature is back whereby you control the boxer’s punches and jabs with the right thumbstick, for example pressing up will jab whilst moving the stick from the bottom upwards will perform an uppercut. For those who find this method of control difficult or frustrating there is always the option of using the controller’s buttons as well. However, persistence with the Total Punch Controls is the name of the game here as it is this feature that has turned the Fight Night series from button bashing arcade games into a fluid, thoughtful and realistic portrayal of boxing. This Total Punch Control system succeeds in adding to the game by forcing you to outwit your opponent by timing and choosing your punches wisely. The ‘Total Control’ aspect of the game is not only limited to offensive punch throwing. As any boxing fan knows you can have the toughest right hook on the planet but if you can’t avoid getting hit then you’re destined to spend most of your time looking up at the roof wondering why you can’t feel anything from the eyebrows down. With this in mind you can now weave in any direction by simply holding down the left trigger and moving the left thumbstick. Blocking is treated the same way by using the right thumbstick. This also means that players cannot simply hold block and magically absorb a barrage of punches before flooring their opponent with a haymaker from nowhere. If you’re blocking your stomach and you get a right hook to the face then the blocking will do you no good at all. These features combined together lead to a much slower, more realistic game. You and your opponent will probably find you’ll spend most of your time weaving around like idiots before a single punch is landed and that slugfests matches tend to not last very long at all.

Another new addition to the game is the ability to turn the tide of the match with a single punch. The introduction of the haymaker facility makes this a sometimes common occurrence, however the damage one of these punches can cause is counterbalanced by the time taken to pull it off and also the fact that you can see them coming a mile off.

There is also the new knockout camera which kicks in during single player when your opponent is about to bite the dust. The camera switches from the standard side-on view to a first-person perspective. Although this looks good, it serves almost no useful purpose what-so-ever as it becomes incredibly difficult to land the crucial punch needed to finish off your opponent. During rounds you also have the choice to play the role of your ‘cut-man’ whose job it is to patch up your wounds. This is a mini game in itself and has you wiggling the thumbsticks like crazy to reduce the swelling of your face or close up the gaping wound on your forehead. This is a great little addition to the game which helps to add a bit of variety to the in-game experience.

The game itself features the usual affair of a Play Now mode where you can play against a friend as well as an Xbox Live feature so that you can slug it out online. The single player is your usual ‘rising from the gutter’ boxing situation and is not particularly challenging to begin with. You’ll spend most of your first few fights watching the computer controlled opposition picking themselves up off the mat. However, the difficulty does ramp up and your efforts are rewarded by unlocking new arenas and extras.

The sound in the game is also top notch with some excellent commentary that fits in well and can also be startlingly accurate. The music is very evocative of the Contender and provides a typically classic American slant to the game. The bulk of the in-game sound consists of various, uninspiring punching and grunting men sounds. That is until you reach a knockout. The knockouts are really the pinnacle of the game, not just in terms of the graphics, but also the sound. It can be a wince inducing moment when you hear the crunching sound of fist on face or the explosive slow motion noise of a man’s entire rib-cage crumbling. When playing with friends these moments will no doubt be met with a mixture of ‘WOW!’ and ‘OWWW!’ In this respect the sound really does complement the gorgeous visuals.

Graphics aside, Fight Night Round 3 is pretty much what you would expect in terms of a sequel to Round 2. The gameplay options are all as you would expect but the addition of Xbox Live play really does add to the longevity of the experience. Also, the pick up and play aspect of the game also lends itself well to the ‘pre lads night out’ entertainment genre and leaves scope for a lot of trash talking and bragging. However, if you don’t have Xbox Live or any friends for that matter you may find this game a bit thin on the ground. Although the game is beautiful to behold, the single player experience can get a bit dull and also doesn’t vary greatly to the single player experience found in the now much cheaper Fight Night Round 2.

Fight Night Round 3 is a real technical achievement and I will put my mortgage on the fact that you will be impressed the first time you witness this game in full motion. The graphics are stunning. Full stop, can’t say anymore than that. The gameplay is a tried and tested formula, albeit with a little fine tuning. Although it may be a little too similar for some, the game really does a good job of translating the experience of boxing into two small movements of your thumbs. The inclusion of Xbox Live play adds another level of depth to the game and increases the likelihood that you’ll still be playing this game months down the line. So, if you like boxing – get this game, if you like good graphics – get this game, if you like good multiplayer – get this game. If you don’t have any friends or disapprove of violent sports then you should maybe give this a rent first but for the vast majority of people you’d be mad to miss it.

9 out of 10