Review: Does Fight Night Round 3 go the distance? Or does it repeatedly "Golotta" you in the junk?
The gameplay was pegged to innovate in a similar fashion to the graphics, but promotional rhetoric is an easy thing to throw at the media. Fight Night Round 3 is certainly engaging when played, but mileage may vary depending on how you play the game and who you play against.
With respect to the previously mentioned impact punches, the game takes the ?haymaker? system from previous Fight Night games to the next level. Essentially, a boxer can now throw the standard haymaker from before, but by adding a larger windup or a longer follow through the punches can have different results. The ?Flash KO? punch has a longer-than-normal windup, and this punch places the opponent into a daze (and sometimes knocks them clean out), which allows the antagonist to move in and finish the job with one punch. The ?stun? punch has both a longer windup and longer follow through, and this allows for a bone-jarring strike that puts both players into a first-person perspective; the attacking fighter must land a few punches to put the challenger down, while the defender must block and parry punches in order to survive. The head snapping animation for the punch and the sound emitted is downright devastating, and the visceral impact of these blows will make you wince more than once. All of these punches fit reasonably well in the game and they move just slowly enough so that a knowledgeable defender can counter them appropriately. You will see many users attempting these haymakers in online matches, but again, they can be countered with patience and timing. Honestly, these impact punches aren't really that innovative on the gameplay, but they sure look as if they hurt like hell when you're busting some dude in the grill.
The other punch schemes remain pretty much intact from previous iterations of Fight Night ? this is a good thing. You'll be able to use the right stick to execute various hooks, uppercuts, and jabs, plus you can use the left trigger to go down low and start attacking the body. The face buttons are also available for executing all of these punches, and this provides a familiar alternative to those wanting more speed to their punches or who might not be as comfortable with the thumbstick attack method. Personally, I found a happy medium by using a combination; thumbsticks for haymakers and some uppercuts, and face buttons for the hook combos and quick jabs.
Defensively, your fighter can bob and weave quite effectively by using the many options available. By using the left trigger, your boxer can move his body in any direction or height, and this is extremely helpful for drawing out an opponent or evading overly aggressive adversaries. In concert with the ?Total Body Control? is the ?Total Blocking Control.? In order to block in FNR3, you must depress the right trigger and then aim the right thumbstick to place your gloves. This aspect of the control works extremely well, as you can pick a style that just blocks the majority of punches or you can pick a stance that might leave you open to attack, but that gives you a great chance of parrying or counter punching.
Counter punching and parrying attacks plays a huge role in any fight you'll have, whether it be offline or online. Even if a given fighter is not a ?counter puncher? by trade, he will still need to stay back and execute his attacks with timing and poise. By using the aforementioned evade and block controls, a fighter can quickly dodge or block a punch and then retaliate with a devastating hook combo or haymaker. The blocking goes even further, as a perfect block can parry the punch and then leave the other boxer open to attack; the duration of parry time depends on the blocking style and skill of a given boxer. Moments that showcase each boxer juking and jiving to evade punches and then trading some well-timed shots are very entertaining, and you will often find yourself smiling at the realistic way in which the fighters conduct their pugilistic business.
Also of note is the way in which each of the boxers fights ? each has their own style. It is actually quite easy to spot the light-on-blocking jab attack of Ali, as well as the passive base style of Joe Frazier. Each fighter executes all of their punches with differing levels of speed and finesse, and each one also possesses a signature punch that changes up the action a bit. Additionally, you can create your own fighter (for the career or otherwise) and select all elements of punching and stance that can produce your own unique style ? good stuff, here.
The majority of users will likely experience this game through its single-player components, which aimed for adaptive AI and ?rivalries.? The AI is actually not too bad when you get to the high-level opponents, but a great deal of your adversaries will be complete pushovers, no matter what strategy you employ. To ease this somewhat, it is recommended that the game is set to ?hard? difficulty, as this will make some of the early fights slightly more interesting. But even so, the AI does often rely heavily on counter punching and hanging back. There will be guys who come out swinging ? to varying degrees of success ? but many just hang back and sit there as they are bopped and bludgeoned over the head and shoulders.
While the computer AI is questionable, the logistical aspects of the career mode certainly do not innovate, to any degree. This career involves creating a fighter ? which allows for customization of equipment, body features and fighting styles ? and then signing various contracts for fights. Before each fight, your fighter must play a training minigame and pick-up some equipment (if there's enough scratch in the coffers). The training consists of hitting heavy bags, lifting weights and practicing on combo dummies, and these sequences only serve to break up the action ? they aren't really good or bad, just sort of average. The concept of rivalries in the career is only loosely implemented, and it basically involves some simplistic commentary about your supposed ?rival? wanting a fight or some on screen text and images that (between fights) that show a rival calling you out. Apparently ?Rey Mo wants Wigmore!? and ?Wigmore declares himself best ever!? are the building blocks for rivalries, but I would've preferred more colorful dialogue such as ?Wigmore just busted your mug!? or ?Wiggy likes pizza!?, but alas, it was not to be. The whole career consists of doing this process over and over, but you do occasionally get a ?hard hits? fight where the rounds end when a knockdown occurs. The career could've benefited from some better boxer rankings and more involved story dynamics ? some element that allows you to have a deeper investment into what's going on. Also, what's with EA making your fighter have the same song from the title screen? You've got no choice in the matter and, apparently, people ?like my swagger? and ?my chain is hangin' like Ali Baba.? ? Yeah! ... I think.
The only minor ?fresh? element form the career comes from the achievements, but even they sting a bit, as the game uses a lot of its sponsorship ? Burger King, Dodge, Everlast ? in order to motivate you. Winning these sponsored pay-per-view events is the main way of getting the 1,000 achievement points so this should provide a bit of motivation to push on though the career mode.
All is not lost for offline users, though, as there is a ?play now? option, as well as the ESPN Classics mode. The ESPN Classics mode is good because it actually does something with the concept of rivalries and pits legends like Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, Jake LaMotta, and Sugar Ray Robinson against one another. These fights give a cool little intro that highlights the reason a given rivalry was what it was, and a great little touch in the Robinson / LaMotta bout is that the event takes place in black and white. This mode won't add a whole lot of value, but is an entertaining addition, nonetheless.
The action manages to pick up when FNR3 hits the online ring. Logging in through the EA servers remains annoying, as does getting ?dropped? from their ?servers? (they don't host the games so this is still perplexing). When you get fighting against some other people, though, the matches are usually entertaining and lag free. Punches and blocks execute as responsively as can be expected, and you'll likely enjoy talking some light smack against a buddy as you slap him around (or maybe you'll be muting it when you get pummeled). Fights can be setup for weight class, round time, and rules, plus you can use a custom boxer online (you have to ?retire? your career fighter in order to use him in online bouts). Online statistics are tracked through EA's servers, and the method of checking in on your opponents and inviting friends has been improved from previous EA Sports entries ? least EA is making their ?servers? do something useful. The gameplay online is certainly a lot of fun and if you have Xbox Live, the reasoning for checking this game out is certainly enhanced a great deal.
The reality of Fight Night Round 3 is that it is fantastic looking game that has some excellent presentation, but also some good impact with its hard punches and style-driven fighting. The career mode only serves to put you through the motions and it basically just serve as a setup to those who have Xbox Live. Against friends, this game plays extremely well and can provide a great time. The boxing engine from previous games remains strong, plus the impact punches add some variety in how a fight can end.