Xbox 360 Review: Fight Night Round 3

If you look at the Xbox 360 version of Fight Night Round 3 and believe the only difference are the graphics, you're wrong. It's not a matter of opinion. The first edition of the Fight Night series is a radical change, even if at a quick glance, it doesn't appear so. The technology is used to create the first truly next-gen sports title, and the benefits are stunning.

The lack of any meters, bars, or indicators is the game's crucial change. Though they can still be turned on if needed, getting into the ring without them is obviously the way this game was intended to be played. Instead of fighting with various colored bars, you're fighting against another person whose movements are the only necessary indicators. You can see the pain in their eyes, the fatigue setting in, and gruesome broken noses in brutal detail. This is what the graphical detail and processing power brings with it. Knocking someone down is guess work, not just pummeling them until the meter says they're down.

You'll be decimating your opponents with Total Punch Control, an overrated control scheme due to inaccuracies, and not one that was needed in the first place. The button controls still feel more natural, though it's ridiculous that given all the buttons, certain moves are not available to non-analog players. These moves require some work to pull off, whipping the analog stick around to various degrees and hoping you're executing the right one (since the margin error is minimal).

These punches create the unpredictability in boxing. Flash KO's, Stun Punches, and wild haymakers can change the fight instantly. Stunning a boxer puts the injured into a first-person view where they'll need to defend against an onslaught of punches to avoid being knocked down. It's a major change, and the balance in these blows is perfect. They're difficult to get off, and rightfully so. The cut man returns to patch up the damaged fighter, and this simplistic system adds a layer of depth outside of the punching.

While it's nearly perfect in the ring, outside of it the experience has some problems. The career mode needs more of everything, except for more advertisements. It's a sad day when your Xbox Live profile is forever plastered with company based "adver-chievements." The number of training mini-games is a miniscule three, items like shorts bought from the in-game store apparently help a boxers stamina, and there are some glaring gaps.

Though most screens show how long it is until your next fight, it has no bearing on the action. You can only train once in-between matches regardless of the time frame. There was room for strategy, but it's lost. There's also an opportunity to pay a contract fee for a new trainer, yet the stat boost is so miniscule, you're better off sticking with the free one you'll use from the start.

Online play is also poorly set up. This was not created for Xbox Live. For instance, a player must enter a room and get ready before they're able to send an invite. Worse, private rooms are password locked for no apparent reason. The invite system should have negated the need for that. Finally, there's seemingly no way to choose a control scheme for each player. The host dictates that, regardless of a player's preference. Still, there's a complete lack of lag when online, and when everyone's happy with the controls, it's a smooth, fun, and most importantly competitive title for online play.

That's the story with the entire game though. The in-ring action is close to flawless, it doesn't matter what complaints you have before you get there. The classic fights alone, some even being done in black and white for effect, are nearly worth a purchase. It could still use a push towards realism (400 punches to some ones head will not only knock them out, they'll likely never box again), but Fight Night Round 3 is the best of the Xbox 360 sports games so far.

(**** out of *****)

Comments (2)

Njiska:

Actually Matt, the trainers are very useful. Not because they give you a stat boost when training (The King excluded), but because they prevent you from losing stats when you do a counter-intuitive training session.

For example if you take the Speed Trainer and do the Weight-Lifting exercise you'll get the normal boost to your Power rating, but you won't lose any Agility points like you normally would and when you need to focus on on area that's lacking it pays to not lose points from your best stats.

As for the "adver-chievements" they're just a part of boxing. Achievements are handed out for reaching milestones in your career and the milestones happen to be the big sponsered bouts.

Boxing has been over-saturated with adverts for years and Fight Night Round 3 is just a natural extension of that.

Honestly I'd rather have my blatant, in-your-face advertisting in Boxing where it belongs then having unlockable iPod Secert Tracks.

I'm well aware of the advantages of the new trainers, but I'm saying there's no way they're worth the price. Like you told me, you stuck with the first guy for the whole game, and so did I.

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