This is a Guest review by Sarge.
Fight Night Round 3 is setup pretty much like Round 2, but with a few changes. They have kept the Total Punch Control (TPC) system they introduced in the first Fight Night back in 2004. If you're new to the Fight Night series you may find this a little tricky at first but once you have been in a few matches you'll soon get used to it and find that it allows you to do so much more than the "button bashing" approach found in previous boxing titles. Veterans of the series will be happy to know that they have made the controls feel more intuitive and as a result you feel like you have more control over your boxer than ever before.
The lack of HUD adds to the immersion and feel of the game, it also gives an added boost to the difficulty of the game without making the boxers harder. With no round timer you really have to listen for the tapping on the table and to the announcers to find out when a round is almost up. The lack of health and stamina bars is something that has never been tried before and really makes you watch just how you and your opponents boxer is moving to work out just when to unleash that killer blow you have been dying to throw all round or when to lay off the mad swinging of fists to catch your breath. The power of your punches, breathing and stance change depending on how much health/stamina you have remaining, this and the added help from the announcers all helps you make the vital decisions of when to attack and when to lay off. With all these letting you know the condition of both boxers in the ring the removal of the HUD is a risk that has really paid off.
Fans of Round 2 will be happy to hear that the Haymaker makes a welcome return but you also have 2 new hard hitting punches to unleash on your opponents. The Haymaker works much the same as it did in Round 2 but with more severe consequences for missing this time round. The two new punches are a little trickier to pull off but yield greater rewards for your risk. The "Flash K.O", if done correctly will drop your opponent's health completely and leave them ready for the knock out blow, on a rare occasion even a one punch K.O. The "Stun Punch" does exactly what it says on the tin, stuns your opponent and shifts the view to that of your opponent, allowing you to see more easily his defence. However, they are even more guarded when in this mode. If you do manage to break their defence, or maybe slip one round it, you're rewarded with extra damage and if hit with a Haymaker or a clean hook this will result in a knock down. Because of the risk involved however these moves should be used as part of a well rounded attack consisting of jabs, straights and hooks. Only by utilising all maneuvers at your disposal can you become truly triumphant.
Round 3 offers a variety of different modes for you to chose from including a training mode where you can practice all the training types used in career mode before hand (which is very handy if you're new to the series), learn just how to execute the devastating "Impact Punches" or do a little sparring (which also shows up in career mode). Sparring has a few modes within, free sparring where you can just lay into your sparring partner or you can opt to take some sparring lessons, these allow newcomers to learn both the basics and advanced techniques needed to become champ and returning players to brush up on the necessities before they step back into the ring.
"Play Now" lets you jump right into the ring as your favorite boxer against an opponent of your choice. You can choose from a whole host of different boxers in all the different weight classes including some of the greats such as Mohamed Ali, Joe Frazier, Evander Holyfield, Jones Jr. and many more.
ESPN Classic mode allows you to jump right in during one of the great boxing rivalries and take control of your favorite and relive or perhaps change the outcome of the historical boxing events. All of which are accompanied by a few short clips of a match between the boxers and running commentary explaining what happened leading up to this event. Winning a match in this mode will also unlock some extras for you to buy in the fight store during career mode and give you extra styles for your created boxer.
"Create a boxer", well you create a boxer. This feels a lot faster in this title but keeps the same level of detail you had with the previous titles in the series. You pick a name, nickname and place of origin. You also have to make his overall fighting style by mixing his stance, defence, and punching style. Depending on your weight class you can adjust his height and weight, all classes have preset limits, along with weight you can chose if he is well toned, muscular bulk or just plain bulky. You have the standard hair and facial hair options but can also change such details as ear size, nose width, bridge size, lips, chin and jawline as well as head size and slope. Once you have his look and style picked out you will have to distribute his attribute points, you have an inexhaustible supply of these but once finished the game will balance him out somewhat, after all you wouldn't want to go online and face lightweight boxers with maxed out stats would you? All in all there is a good choice of customizable features that make you feel as though the fighter really is yours and will standout when used online.
In career mode you can either revive the career of a classic boxer or create your own. In career create a boxer you have a limited number of points to spend in his stats and few little extras like tattoos that you can add to him, to give him just that bit more of a customized feel. You also have access to the fight store where you can buy new ring attire, which adds small bonus's to your stats, new signature punches and illegal blows as well as new tattoos. The items in the fight store can be unlocked by progressing through career mode and winning certain fights or completing ESPN Classic bouts.
Once in career mode you will start off as an amateur boxer who will have to prove his worth by winning the amateur title belt for his given weight class. Once you turn pro you will have to work your way through the ranks to reach the top, but not only do you need to win matches but also win over the crowd, as the faster your popularity raises the faster you get a chance to go for the gold. Along the way you will have the opportunity to compete in special bonus events such as the heavy hitters match where the round ends when a person hits the deck and the one with the most knock downs at the end of fifteen rounds wins, or the last man standing. These types of events will give you special bonuses such as a larger popularity boost or extra cash. During your career you will gain rivals which allows for a few interesting new aspects in career mode, such as psych outs at press conferences and brawls at weigh-ins all that all have an effect on the upcoming match. Once a rival has been made and played out you can relive it or show a friend in the ESPN Classic mode.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Fight Night games the controls are basically the two analog sticks. The left moves you around the ring and in order to punch you simply move the left stick. Jabs are executed by pushing in up while straights are up and slightly to the left or right depending on which hand you wish to use, hooks are done by bringing the stick directly to either the left or right and moving it around to the top and uppercuts are the same only you angle it diagonally towards the bottom and bring it up. Body punches are done in the same way but with the left trigger held in, also with the left trigger held you can lean using the left stick, this allows you to keep your feet firmly planted near your opponent while letting you avoid any incoming punches, giving you a handy alternative to just blocking. Blocking is done by holding down the right trigger and using the right stick to block high and low. You can however parry an attack if you move the right analog stick either left or right with the right trigger held down, giving you an opportunity to land a counter punch, counter punching can be a key factor for victory or defeat.
If after a few matches you still feel uncomfortable with the TPC system you have the option to switch to the button configuration. This assigns certain punches to certain buttons for a more traditional feel. Some attacks can only be preformed by the press of a button, namely the signature punch and illegal blows, both of which can be turned from high to low by the press of the left trigger.
The graphics are simply amazing. The textures are spot on in every detail right down to the imperfections of the boxers skin. This game has some of the most detailed player models I have seen on the 360 to date. No detail has been over looked, be it the oiled muscles or the sweat dripping down the boxers body, it has all been studied and realistically recreated. The lighting effects used just emphasis the beauty of this title, be it the sweat glistening or the dusty haze that you get in the distance of the back alley gyms.
The facial expressions show a real feeling of pain as they take a hit or strain as they put everything they can muster into that one knock out punch. These are enhanced with the reply feature as you see the flesh shift and wobble with the power of a knock out punch with the lips stretching out as the glove passes by them and the spit and blood come flying out, you can almost feel it hitting you as you sit in the front row.
Some of the animations don't seem as fluid as they could be but that is the price we pay for the TPC system and it is often jerky due to player input. The fall animations have been improved a fair bit over the last as well and they seem to fall slightly faster this time round so as not to allow you to unload a five punch combo in the time it takes for them to hit the deck but that doesn't mean you can't still get the odd hit in. Once they are down however you can still get the jerking and flopping around like a dead fish look, this wouldn't be too bad if they had indeed been hit hard enough to cause them to have a seizure but when they are back up after a seven count it all just seems a little silly. This is caused by the physics they use, although it is very good in every other part of the game it does lose it down here where by the slightest snag of the head on a rope or landing on their arm will cause them to bounce and flop about. It seems as though once they have been knocked down the body loses about 95% of its weight. I feel that three installments in a series is more than enough to fix small problems like this, sadly they have not.
The entire crowd is modeled in 3D from the front row right into the balconies, this along with other little details really give the background a sense of realism without taking attention away from what's happening in the ring. The ring girls however feel somewhat rushed and look like they have been pulled right out of the last installment and would be more at home in the front row than center stage. This is the only real graphical problem I could find as they just didn't match up to the standard of the rest of the game.
Once again it seems the AI has taken another step forward, you will really need to box to beat these guys, you can still win by just throwing power punches constantly but it's a damn sight harder than it's ever been before. The AI will dodge or block if you telegraph your punches and counter you with some stinging punches of their own which could turn the tide of any match. You will also need to keep evolving your fighting style and change your tactics not only after each round but during it as the AI will see how you're fighting and constantly think of ways to counter it. Once they feel themselves on the verge of being knocked out they will defend like nobodies business and clinch for dear life and visa versa. Once they see you're on your way they will step up their attack and do everything in their power to avoid you being able to clinch.
The crowd has also been given their own animations to react to what they see happening in the ring, sadly they all seem to do the same thing at the same time and it does make you feel a little strange seeing the entire crowd at Madison Square Garden all standing up at the same time throwing jabs into the air. At first glance I thought the crowd had erupted into an all out brawl. Maybe next time they can give them some randomization as to which ones get up and swing.
This is where the game really shines, career mode may end but the satisfaction you gain from getting a first round knock out on a friend will last a life time. You have a variety of different match types to choose from including ESPN Classic, Hard Hits or a standard match, all of which can also be selected during online play. The online community is somewhat lacking in the fact that it is almost none existent, but if you are just there to relieve some stress by beating the holy hell out of some random person then I don't think you will really care. Before you take any boxer online however make sure that he is ready, by this I mean has some decent stats, because if you take some chump of a boxer online he will get beat like one. All this bundled with the incredible features this game has to offer make multiplayer mode the longest lasting thing about Round 3.
Much of the same from Fight Night here they're all very good songs from the Hip-Hop genre, most from well known names. The only real problem is there aren't enough of them so you will have to look towards your custom soundtrack again folks but that's not always bad, this way you could find yourself fighting or sparing to a certain "Tiger" song?
The sound effects in this installment are very nasty indeed. You may often find yourself cringing at the sound of bone crunching as you land a big Haymaker. The sounds may be over exaggerated with the crushing of bone and squishing of flesh but it all adds to the atmosphere of the game. Plus it's always rewarding to hear the sound of their jaw breaking on the K.O replay (even if it doesn't actually break).
This is difficult to judge as it is both very long and short term. It's a game that you will most likely play hardcore for a few weeks or until you have completed career mode, maybe twice as both a created boxer and a career revival, but then won't really touch unless you have a few friends over and fancy a little tournament or for a quick match here and there on live or play now modes. If you are a hardcore boxing fan however you may find it lasting you longer because of all of the boxers careers to revive and great rivalries to revisit.
Fight Night Round 3 does exactly what it sets out to do, bring the boxing genre to the next-gen level with a devastating Haymaker. With intuitive controls, a lengthy career mode, create a boxer and live it does it with style. Even though there are no other boxing games on the market to rival the Fight Night series EA doesn't seem to be slacking and keep pushing themselves that much harder to put out a better quality of game each time. This is definitely a top notch title from a top notch series.