Matt Keller
19 Mar, 2006

Fight Night Round 3 Review

Xbox Review | Down, but not out.
It seems like an age since Fight Night: Round 2 hit stores, but it’s only been a year. Hailed as the best boxing game to date (nominated for PALGN’s Sports Game of the Year, and scoring a rare 8.5 from yours truly), Round 2 served to combine a much more realistic approach to the sport with the all-important element of accessibility. The problem with releasing an update so good was that EA Chicago didn’t exactly leave themselves a lot of things to fix and introduce in the inevitable sequel. As a result, Fight Night: Round 3, while still a good game, just doesn’t come to the table with the same level of impact of its predecessor.

In fact, a lot of changes made in Fight Night: Round 3 seem to be for the worse. The ranking based career mode, which was perfectly acceptable in Round 2, has been replaced with a rather hammy popularity based system. You’ll still run through the amateur division, but after that, each fight you win will increase your popularity level until you become something along the lines of a people’s champion. The game isn’t quite clear about the level of fighters you can take on at any one time, never offering up the same amount of challengers available in Round 2’s career mode, so you can’t try to jump a few ranks in one fell swoop by taking on a fighter several ranks above yours. The rather random match up system also means that you can be fighting at the Staples Centre one night, and at a scummy basement or warehouse the next – we really wish EA would ditch the unrealistic fight locations. No new training modes have been added, which is disappointing considering the way that the current training system fails to convincingly portray the training process. The somewhat-hyped Rival system is a complete dud; the game will randomly assign you a rival (in my case, the amateur champ who was defeated on my fighter’s way to the professional ranks), who you won’t fight for a few matches, but when you do, the game will take every opportunity to hype it up. After a gruelling seven round bout with Sugar Ray Robinson (our longest yet), the rival decided he wanted to challenge our fighter. The game hypes the match to death, and yet the fighter was defeated in less than two rounds, due to not having developed at all since the previous encounter – a bit underdeveloped, no?

Smell my glove

Smell my glove
EA have brought on a whole bunch of sponsors for Fight Night: Round 3, including Dodge and Burger King. Normally we’re okay with advertising in games, so long as it’s limited to a sign or a “brought to you by […]”, but EA have really gone too far in parts of this game. Each of the game’s sponsors will have a special event which will earn your fighter a lot of money, but at the beginning of each of these fights, the commentator (Joe Tessitore) will go into a spiel that lasts up to 5 minutes about a particular product the sponsor is hocking at the moment. Heck, later on in the game, you can even bring in the Burger King as your second. These things are really obtrusive and take away from the experience, but the fact that they exist at all makes us feel uneasy about the future of ads in EA games.

The haymaker punch was introduced in Round 2, and many felt that it was a game breaking move. EA have toned it down a bit this year, but at the same time, they’ve added two even cheaper moves – the flash knockdown punch (a guaranteed knockdown) and the stunner punch (which knocks your opponent into a stagger). Parrying has been made far too powerful given its ease of use – instead of a general 1-2 second stint of being open for a blow after a parry, EA have changed the period of being defenceless so that it is based on the punch thrown. If you throw a haymaker and your opponent parries it, you’re open for a good 5 seconds, which gives him the opportunity to wail a flurry of blows on your fighter. On top of that, he’ll get an adrenaline boost for blocking the punch. When the shoe is on the other foot, it makes the game seem far too easy.

Is that your mum making out with the janitor?

Is that your mum making out with the janitor?
Not everything about Fight Night: Round 3 is bad, though. The game still retains it’s rather excellent gameplay, even if there have been a few cheap additions. The defensive AI is now outstanding, and really forces a player to think about their strategies – particularly Round 2 veterans, who will find themselves having to block and parry a lot more. Offensive AI is reasonably good, even if the early opponents follow a relatively easy pattern. The EA cut man returns with a shorter mini-game, but the atmosphere provided in the corner by your seconds (who also give much better advice) is still second to none. Some of the pre-fight crap from Round 2 has been eliminated, such as the need to select ring girls, entrance music and fireworks, which leads to players not getting those get-out-of-jail-free cards that those options provided. The roster of licensed fighters is better than ever, with greats such as Ali, Frazier, De La Hoya, La Motta, Hopkins, Leonard, Robinson and more. It’s a shame that some fighters from Round 2 didn’t return, particularly Marciano, who’s been very popular with fighting fans for generations.

ESPN integration is a new feature across EA’s sports line up this year, and Fight Night: Round 3 uses it in a few ways, with an ESPN ticker giving sports results during online matches, as well as the Wednesday and Friday Night Fights branding, and the ability to re-live some of the most famous boxing matches in ESPN Classic. The classic mode has some other cool touches, like a 8mm film-style overlay with scratches and flickering to make specific bouts look the way they did at the time. EA have also been nice enough to include online play this year – a feature which they cut out of the PAL version of Round 2. It can be a little unstable at times, but the game greatly benefits from being able to go up against skilled human components, even if it can turn into a race to perform those gamebreaking punches.

Get the straw and the soup ready

Get the straw and the soup ready
Fight Night: Round 3’s menu presentation takes on something of a retro look, which is a bit of a change of pace. The game still looks amazing, although it’s been well and truly overshadowed by media from its next-generation brother. The detail on the player models has been increased, with players now visibly sweating and bleeding between rounds – there’s also a glazed-over look in a fighter’s eyes when he gets knocked down. Animation is generally good on the offensive side, though the movements on the defensive side seem a little robotic. The pace of animations seems to have changed somewhat, largely based on a change in the way the game handles stamina, meaning that the game seems a bit sluggish early on in career mode, but is fine when using more experienced fighters. The trainers and ring girls look just as detailed as the fighters now, though the crowd seems to have suffered even more this year, looking worse than before. The bigger arenas have plenty of authentic detail, though the silly arenas like the warehouse and gym still look quite good. The EA Trax selection is once again dominated by hip-hop tunes by relatively obscure artists who are unlikely to be known to many fans – surely the developer realizes that boxing isn’t completely dominated by hip-hop culture. ESPN announcer Joe Tessitore returns to provide commentary and analysis; he’s got a lot more to say this year, although some lines will inevitably be repeated ad nauseum. Round 3 is also packing Dolby Digital 5.1 and 16:9 support for those with the relevant equipment.

While it’s disappointing that Fight Night has regressed in some areas in the past 12 months, the game is still arguably the best boxing simulation on the market. It’s likely that most fans are going to pick the graphically superior Xbox 360 version of the game over the current generation game, but if you feel that there’s a lack of pugilism in your life, you’re not likely to go wrong with Fight Night: Round 3, no matter which version you choose.
The Score
It's a step back from Round 2, but still delivers a knockout to the competition.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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30 Mar, 2006 Nice face, shame about the legs.
1 Comment
8 years ago
Don't know abt XBox version, but not impressed with the XBox360 version.
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