Fight Night Round 3
Even though the game is over a year old, EA Sports still thought it was a good idea to release Fight Night Round 3 again on the PS3. Whether they did a rush job, or really tried to make this version something special, is up to us to find out.
I’ll cut right to the chase: Fight Night Round 3 is still the best boxing game around and the PS3 has even gotten some exclusive perks, the most important one being the ‘get in the ring’ mode, where you can decide matches from a first-person perspective. This new camera position is really quite spectacular, but it might take some practice before you really start to appreciate it.
As in the previous game, the ‘total punch control’ mechanism is still the star of the show. With your left analog stick, you move around the ring, while the right stick is used to throw jabs, hooks, uppercuts,…
It takes some time getting used to, but once you get the hang of it, it delivers superb gameplay, much like what the swing stick did for the Tiger Woods series. You can punch people in the head or deal body blows and there are even some illegal blows (like giving your opponent a headbutt), that can be triggered by tilting the Sixaxis controller (or simpy by pressing the circle button). Except for the illegal blows, the Sixaxis’ motion sensing capabilities aren’t put to use.
An important part of FNR3 is of course minimizing damage. You can choose to evade your opponent’s punches (L1) or to block them (R1). Knowing when and how to defend and countering at the right time is the key to victory.
How you defend is also also an important aspect of your playing style (counterpuncher, slugger, balanced fighter,…). Some blocking styles absorb less damage but are better to set up counter blows, and vice versa. The concept of impact punches has been redesigned in this game. Impact punches are slow and leave you open for attack, but when they hit, they cause massive damage. There are three types: haymakers, flash KO punches and stun punches. Haymakers (R2) are the most useful throughout the match. They are relatively fast (as far as impact punches go, of course) and can quickly bring the health and stamina of the other boxer down. The last two should only be used late in the game, as they are awefully slow, but when they do hit, they basically win the round for you.
Between rounds, it’s important to regain your strength. To do this, a kind of minigame has been implemented. To heal cuts or bruises, you basically choose the side the wound is on and you start rocking the stick left to right like a madman (as you only have 30 seconds to heal everything). If you’re not good at this, you can also choose to auto-heal, but this method only heals half the damage done to your character.
The meat of the game is the career mode. You start out by creating your character (using EA’s tried-and-true GameFace technology) or by choosing one of the included boxing legends (Frazier, Ali, Holyfield…). The career mode has three steps: the signing a contract (you can pick the opponent you want), training exercizes and the actual fight.
To train your character (and thus improve some of his eight different stats), there are three different minigames. You can play them yourself, or you can let the AI do them for you (this will half the effectiveness of the training, though). Furthermore, there is a store where you can buy all kinds of unlockables (new clothes, signature moves, boxing styles,…). The ranking system from the previous game has been dropped in favour of a popularity meter. When it’s full (by winning matches), you can participate in a championship title match or a sponsored trophy fight. The repetitive nature of the career mode (sign, train, fight, lather, rinse, repeat) is unfortunate, especially since the fighting itself is so satisfying.
Another mode is ESPN Classics. Much like you could have expected from the name, you can replay legendary fights, be it in contemporary arenas, sadly. It’s also a pity that the Rumble in the Jungle (Muhammed Ali vs. George Foreman, in Zaire), by far the most famous fight of all time, wasn’t included in this game. The online mode is smooth and fun, but in my opinion nothing beats the feeling of pummeling a friend that is sitting right next to you (which is also possible, of course). The online component is stuffed with leaderboards, stat-tracking and what have you. Exclusively for the PS3 is the ESPN integration. You have access to news, provided by ESPN, and a massive database with all kinds of boxing info.
The graphics in this game are stunning. They have been slightly improved over the Xbox 360 version, but it’s barely noticeable. Even the slightest detail is visible on the lifelike character models, be it sweat, blood, cuts or swellings. When you knock your opponent down to the canvas, you get a slow-motion replay of the last punch you threw, complete with saliva and blood leaving the victim’s mouth and the frightening sound of shattering bones. The game is augmented by a fitting soundtrack of mainly R&B and hip-hop tracks and decent, but not flawless commentary
When it’s all said and done, Fight Night Round 3 is still an amazing boxing game, even after all this time. The PlayStation 3 version has the most options, improved visuals and maintains all the things that made this game so great on the 360. If you own any of the other versions of FNR3 (be it on X360, Xbox or PS2), you should probably refrain from buying this one, but if you don’t, the PS3 re-release gives you the chance to experience one of the greatest sports games o the last couple of years.