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In Memory
Sean Pettibone


Fight Night Round 3
EA Sports for Playstation 3

EA's boxing franchise hits the PS3 in excellent form with the release of Fight Night Round 3. The game includes an impressive roster of legendary fighters including Micky Ward, Sugar Ray Leonard and Muhammad Ali along with younger boxers. The game's controls are superb with dynamic fights that allow you to perform a variety of punches, parries and blocks easily. From a visual standpoint, the incredible realism and movement of the fighters is impressive, with an all-new first person mode adding more urgency to the battles. Look inside as we get in the ring with this excellent title.

Despite the fact that Fight Night Round 3 has already appeared on other consoles, the upgraded Playstation 3 version is the best of the lot. Featuring some significant graphics upgrades and an all-new first person 'get in the ring' mode, the game is the most polished version of the game to date. You can choose from multiple modes of play including single matches, classic bouts, split screen multiplayer modes and more. As you begin the game, there are many fighters to choose from with boxers from many different weights from feather to heavy-weight classes. You'll find many famous fighters in the game ranging from classic heroes to more contemporary boxers, which is a cool feature. This approach allows you to pit fighters from different eras against each other, and also allows you to relive famous matches in the ESPN Classic mode to see whether you can change the outcome. From a gameplay standpoint, Fight Night offers an excellent sense of realistic boxing, accurately mimicking the pace and structure of a real bout. Each round lasts two minutes or so and in-between rounds you sit in the corner with your ring man and can restore your health automatically or by performing a series of mini-games. As your body depletes in energy, your shots become less effective which means its important not to waste punches. You can also perform some illegal moves such as head-butts but this isn't recommended since the referee will end the fight if you resort to these too often. These illegal moves will also reduce your points at the end of the match, which can make the difference between victory and defeat. The strategy of boxing is accurately recreated with an excellent system of parries, combos, special moves, dodges and more.

The controls are fairly well done and use the PS3's Sixaxis controller effectively. Players can choose from several button/analog stick configurations which can map the punches to different areas. Fight Night uses the Total Control system which allows you to accurately adjust the strength, power and height of each punch. When you take an opponent down, you can deliver a knockout punch by circling the analog stick and can also use a combination of buttons to dodge and block your opponents' throws. If you get knocked down, you can regain your footing by moving the left and right sticks into a circle in the center of the screen. Fight Night also uses the Sixaxis' motion sensing which allows you to tilt the controller to dodge moves, which is a nice extra but doesn't really add much to the game. Playing the game is fairly easy to understand thanks to Fight Night's intuitive controls, though it does take a little getting used to at first. During the game, you'll find that the number of moves and abilities you can control is impressive and lets you implement a number of fighting strategies. Foe example, if you have a powerful fighter, you might find punching on the inside (close range) to be an effective strategy. However, you need to be careful with this approach since the opponent AI can be surprisingly aggressive. This leaves you vulnerable to attack since it's more difficult to dodge their strikes. Once your opponent gets some momentum, he gets much harder to defeat. When their adrenaline meter rises, it allows them to throw punches without expending much energy, which can give them a significant advantage. It can be difficult to counter-act these surges, and the best strategy seems to be to move away, run down the clock and try again the next round. This definitely adds to the strategy of the gameplay and gives each battle an intensity and nuance that matches the real-life battles. The boxers in each class themselves seem to be well-balanced and you won't find many one-round matches, with makes for a more interesting and challenging game.

The first thing you'll notice about the game's visuals when you start playing is the realism and movement of each Fight Night's boxers which is absolutely stunning. The character models appear lifelike with silky smooth animation, incredibly detailed models with impressive body modeling. Their bone and body structure feels quite realistic and gives each fighter a believable presence in the ring. This makes the battles even more intense, since you can see the glaring intensity in their eyes. The game looks incredibly authentic and allows you to see them in the smallest detail. Everything from their tattoos, to facial expressions and punch motions makes them look stunningly real. You can see them breathing in between rounds, which is really cool and there's an authentic layer of sweat glistening on their bodies as the rounds progress. Adding to this sense of realism is the physical damage you incur with swollen eyes, bloody lips and bruises visible in their faces. This is further enhanced in the first person mode where the screen becomes blurry to reflect their loss of vision, which helps to further immerse you into the action. When you deliver a strong uppercut and finishing move, things change to a slow-motion mode where you can see the impact of your punch reverberate through your opponent's body, that adds to Fight Night's special effects. The game's presentation is excellent as well, with multiple close-up camera angles, cinematic cut scenes and slick boxing ring environments that brings the feel and atmosphere of a boxing match to life. Fight Night Round 3 also does an excellent job of recreating the sounds, intensity and ferocity of a professional boxing match, with excellent play by play announcing and a superb hip-hop soundtrack adding authenticity and grit to the game.

The game's slick production values and polished presentation succeeds aesthetically, but the solid gameplay underpinnings are what will keep you coming back for more. Fight Night Round 3's intuitive controls and straightforward interface allow you to have a great deal of flexibility in the types of punches and strategies you use during each match. Each fighter in the game brings a unique style to the matches, which adds to the challenge and depth that you face. An impressive variety of single and multiplayer modes adds to the title's longevity and extends its replay value significantly. The most impressive new addition is the "Get In the Ring" mode which makes the fights even more visceral and exciting. Overall, Fight Night Round 3 is a solidly entertaining, visually arresting title that is one of the most impressive showcases on the PS3 to date.

Grade: B

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