PSP Review: Fight Night Round 3

While the Xbox 360 version may get the attention for its flashy graphics and impressively realistic gameplay, there comes a time when a player needs to look past that. While it is a minor step down in gameplay, the PSP version of Fight Night Round 3 should not be underestimated or ignored. A plethora of features, in-depth money management, online play, and most of what was drooled over on the 360 is here.

From a gameplay standpoint, there are changes. This is definitely faster than the console versions, feeling a lot like the previous Knockout Kings series. The arcade-like stylings take a few minutes to come back to after a few years of Fight Night, but this isn't a bad thing. The game can still be played like a sim, though the system here is definitely more open to power blows.

The lack of the second analog stick required some work on EA's part, and while it's understandable to miss Total Punch Control, the button-based replacement is fine. Everything from the console version is here, from leaning to haymakers. To gain the largest amount of power from each blast, you need to lean back and come forward within the right span of time. Illegal shots, taunts, and special moves are mapped to the d-pad.

PSP Round 3's significant issue is parrying. It's not only easy to do since you can hold a parrying position for as long as you want, but the results to the person caught by one are ridiculous. Every parry leads to an opening for a special haymaker, and cuts (with a ridiculous amount of blood) can be caused in a matter of seconds when abused because of it. The nice cutman mini-game can't save a player who is fighting against another who abuses the parry.

Outside the ring, the career mode offers a staggering amount of depth. Money management is crucial, as your training team, entrances, and new equipment sap funds between each bout. Unlike the console version, trainers stay on board for a period of months, not a single training session. Entrances can fire up your boxer, adding to his stats for that fight or increase his chances of getting up after being knocked down. The only thing missing are training mini games which now rely on getting lucky after selecting how hard you want to train. Go too fast and you run the risk of injury and lose stat points. It's completely random though, and not especially fair.

Other gameplay options include basic Infrastructure and Ad Hoc play. Infrastructure is aggravating thanks to EA's policies, countless user agreements, an attempt at milking the user for an extra $2, unfriendly load times when selecting a boxer, and ridiculous lag (assuming you're not kicked from the fight in the first place). Additional offline modes include an opportunity to replay classic fights and either keep or change history. Medals are earned depending on how well you do.

Like the console versions, you can turn off the HUD and play with only the two boxers on screen. This works better than you think given the console's hardware, but the superb graphics rank up with the best the console can offer. Hair and cloth physics add to the impact of the punches, the 3-D crowd cheers ringside in a superb variety of arena locales, and the facial damage is disgusting to look at. You lose nothing when you turn off the HUD, and instead form a better appreciation for how this looks.

While purists will have no reason to take this over the Xbox 360 version, the PSP port makes a nice compliment to the casual boxing fans tastes. It's a nice throwback to the late Knockout Kings style of play, and if you're looking to beat down opponents with only a little strategy, this is a PSP game to grab immediately. With a few tweaks, Fight Night will find a die-hard following in the portable market.

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

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