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Fight Night Round 3

Developer: EA Chicago | Publisher: Electronic Arts
Players: 1 to 2 Player Game | Release Date: 02/20/06 | Genre: Sports

fight3.jpgFight Night Round 3 is, as far as I can remember, the first game I've ever bought that can be categorized as a sports game. That said, it should also be categorized as a fighting game, because that's exactly what it feels like. This review is only met to cover the next-generation version of Fight Night Round 3. So all you current-gen owners out there--read on for yet another reason to get an Xbox 360 and dump your aging Xbox.

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Anyone with a 360 has probably played the demo of this game, and no doubt has been impressed in some way. That's because this game is stunningly, and brutally, realistic. Not just with it's graphical advantage, but with the way the fight flows, with boxers being worn down and cut up throughout the fight, with the crushing sound of a huge uppercut connecting with your opponent's face, and especially with the way that the gameplay reflects the actual sport. However, seeing another EA Sports title will give many of you that familiar bad taste in your mouth, and immediately give the game a 'throwaway' feel to it, perhaps being fun for only boxing fans, or having weak, shallow gameplay. Both of these claims fail to ring true with this title, however, as Fight Night 3 is a game that even someone who has never even seen a round of boxing could enjoy. I'd know.

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Sadly, there are problems with the game that one would expect with an EA title. The game's presentation is through a 'spectator' medium, that is, it appears almost as if you're watching the match, and this comes complete with the sportscaster voice and realistic camera panning between rounds. However, the announcer fell far short in this game, and it won't take very long to start hearing him repeat himself or make comments that don't seem to apply very well to the fight at hand. In addition to this, the announcer often misses the point, so to speak, failing to comment on devastating punches because he is busy rambling on about a jab combo that happened 30 seconds ago. Another similar point that may annoy many players is the frequent, and blatant, advertising within this game. Most of it, to me, is acceptable: the announcer making comments such as 'This replay made possible by Burger King' or 'Let's go over to the Dodge punch cam' that go right along with any real ESPN program, but they seem to be too eager to slip in corporate logos and you start to see them in inappropriate places. The best example of this is The King, from Burger King, being a character in the game. Of course, advertising blankets the entire game, including arenas, clothing, and championship titles.

Since I'm discussing flaws, I can't skip over the music. Any 360 owner has probably become familiar with the integrated music that a lot of games come with, and predictably, Fight Night 3 comes packaged with about 10 very annoying rap songs that, thankfully, only play in the menu and can be turned off.

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Now, let’s discuss the gameplay. If you're a boxing fan, you know what to expect. If not, I'll try to sum it up. As a boxer, you can lean, block, parry, clinch, and of course punch. You can punch one of four areas, those being high or low with either fist. There are 8 types of punches, including the standard jab, hook and uppercut, and three additional 'impact' punches with act as very slow but VERY powerful, devastating blows to be used later in the fight. Each boxer also has a signature punch, which delivers a heavy blow in a different way.

Beginner players are likely to make every match a slugfest, using the biggest available punches, trying to beat their opponents into pulp. Experienced players, however, will see these punches coming and counter them. This is where the game becomes wonderfully similar to the real thing. You have to decide how to fight your opponent based on their style. Do you juke around the ring and slowly wear them down with quick jabs, body blows and dodges? Or perhaps hang back, wait for a mistake and slam them in the face when they open up? This is where the game shows its uniqueness. Every fight is very long compared to your normal, Japanese fighter, and this gives you time to figure your opponent out and respond appropriately. I have been knocked down three times in a match, and come back in an incredible way against my opponent, waiting for that signature right uppercut and responding with a few good slams to the face. Of course, the reverse has also happened to me, and seemingly helpless opponents have caught on to my tactics and ripped me apart.

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All this, though, takes place behind the very convincing curtain of its presentation. The graphics are stunning, the sweat, blood, and saliva all being perhaps too convincing. If you throw too many punches or take too many shots to the torso your fighter will visibly start to tire out, and move slower. Your boxer's face will swell up, and if you get slammed to much a cut may start to form during round 6. Blood from the nose is an early indication of your failure to protect your face, and this will quickly turn into cuts on the cheek and nose, and huge swelling that could block your boxer's visibility. This is more than just looks, though, as aiming for a cut on your opponents face will do more damage and open it up, making you look better in front of the judges and perhaps causing the ref to call the fight.

Between rounds, however, you get to counteract these effects just like they do in real matches. A short, 30 second activity allows you to apply a cold compress to swelling and try to seal up those cuts. Your ability to do this will reflect strongly in the fight.

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I have used the word 'brutal' many times in this review to describe the way this game looks, and this is best demonstrated in the slow motion replay of the finishing punch after every KO. This shows an up close, slow replay of your fist contacting with your opponent's face. His skin ripples. His cheeks stretch. Sweat flies out of his hair and bloody saliva will stream from his mouth. All this ends as he falls to the canvas like a pile of bricks. I've got to say, this is the first game where I've felt bad for winning.

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The game sports a very enticing online system complete with rankings and random matches. You can create your own boxer, determining the shape and details of his face, height, weight, and stats, and determine what kind of illegal blows, signature punches, and taunts they use. There's also a fun career mode where you start your boxer out from scratch, working your way to the top fight by fight, earning money to spend on trainers and plus stats clothing. You also choose what kind of training to do and have to option to play little training mini-games to maximize your stats. The career mode, despite being very long, is enjoyable and dynamic, and allows for a reasonable learning curve to be taken. I have heard complaints of the game's AI, but to be honest it responds realistically and dynamically to my strategies, and no one approach works on every computer opponent.

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Fight Night 3's simple system builds a very complex battlefield through which you and someone else can duke it out. If you want to fight your friends, buy this game. If you like boxing, I shouldn't have to tell you to buy this game. Even if you plan to play mostly single player, this is a good game guaranteed to give you lots of playtime. And of course, those looking for something to compete over online with their 360 will love this game.

By Andrew Bruck - 03/30/06
ESRB Details: Blood, Mild Language, Suggestive Themes, Violence
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Screenshots for Fight Night Round 3

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