Fight Night Round 3 Review (Xbox 360)
EA is back with Fight Night Round 3 and this was definitely a difficult game to review. I have to admit that I usually cut game companies some slack when reviewing the first game in a series on a new console. However, this situation is a little different. Fight Night Round 3 isn’t a launch game, and with the exception of the graphics and a few features, the game is a port of the current-generation console versions. Most of the major features can be found in all versions of this game and EA had three months after launch to prepare this game for release. Still, this is the first next-generation appearance for the Fight Night series and some growing pains are guaranteed to occur. As can be expected, there is plenty of good and plenty of bad with the third version of the Fight Night series.
Talking about the graphics is the easiest part of this review. They simply look amazing. No other current Xbox 360 game to date looks better. Each boxer looks exactly like his real life counterpart, including things as small as Diego Coralles’ chest tattoo. This year’s version also does a better job with cuts and swelling, and you can see the fighter’s face transform as he takes more damages The venues look fantastic and this is something that EA has done well with every 360 sports game they have released so far. Madison Square Garden is a welcome addition, and it looks exactly like its real-life counterpart on a fight night. What I would like to see is more true-to-life boxing venues. While I love the addition of the Garden and the two new mid-level venues, the lower-level venues are totally unrealistic and pretty much useless. The lower level venues include a warehouse and a gym. One thing that I know is that most fighters starting their career don’t fight in warehouses. They fight in venues like armories, small arenas and hotel ballrooms. Also, it’s been three years, and we seem stuck at the number six when it comes to venues. I don’t understand why EA can’t add more arenas - even if they aren’t real. Rocky Legends, another boxing title had more than 15 venues, so we know it can be done.
The crowd in each arena is 3-D and looks wonderful. They stand and cheer when the action gets heavy, and it appears that a bit of artificial intelligence was used to determine how they react. Instead of the entire crowd standing and cheering as one, you sometimes will see individual people or pockets of people standing and reacting to the in-ring action. The sound of the crowd is incredible and it really helps to immerse you into the fight. They cheer realistically and will chant a fighter's name to encourage him. I wish I could praise the game in the same fashion when it comes to commentary, but I can’t. Joe Tessitore of ESPN returns, and with the exception of some new fighter specific commentary, his lines are practically the same ones from last year. It’s time for EA to add a color commentator like Teddy Atlas or Larry Merchant to liven up the commentary.
To be honest, there are a lot of good things to say about this title, but I'm going to start with the bad.
I thought EA couldn’t get any worse with Fight Night’s career mode, but they found a way to pull this off in Fight Night Round 3. While career mode has always been rather simple and straightforward, this year’s version is just as simple - with fewer features. First, the world rankings have been removed from this version, so there is no way to know where you stand in your weight class or who the current champion is in your division. The only way to keep track of your progress is by a popularity meter that fills up with each big fight you win. After a number of big fights, you finally get a shot at the championship, but this is not even close to how it works in real life. I would cut EA some slack if this was the first version of this series, but mistakes like this shouldn’t happen in the third version - especially when the feature was in the game before. This simple-but-important exclusion makes me question how much the developers trully follow boxing.
One of the highly touted new features of Fight Night Round 3 is the addition of rivalries to the career mode. While this is a great idea in practice, it is poorly executed here. For example, in my career, I’m currently 30-1-1. Now, instead of making my rival - the one guy who knocked me out - or the fighter who took me to a majority draw, the game chose to make my rival a boxer who I knocked out twice previously. Instead of wasting time creating a pre-fight press conference cut-scene (another highly touted addition), EA should focus on adding features to the career mode that would interest boxing fans. It shouldn’t take three years to add promoters and real championship belts to this game. It also shouldn’t take three years to add a realistic and less linear fight schedule where you can decide when you want to fight.
People who have read my past reviews know that my biggest pet peeve involves developers removing features that were in previous versions. A number of things from previous versions of Fight Night have been removed in this version, including manual replays, but one of the removed features really annoyed me.
In previous interviews with this site and other websites, one of the developers of this series promised to continue to add on to the number of fighters and never reduce the number. Well, Fight Night Round 2 had 37 real life fighters - and this year’s XBOX 360 version has 27 fighters. So much for never reducing the number of fighters.
I understand that unlike other sports, where if a game company gets a license from a union, the company can use the likeness and name of every member of the union, in boxing you must negotiate and sign every single fighter separately. This complicates matters because every boxer thinks they are worth a certain amount and EA only gives the Fight Night series a specific budget. That said, I can’t believe that EA cut the boxer budget so significantly that they had to reduce the number of fighters by 10 (especially since Fight Night Round 2 sold rather well). Also, I doubt that small- and middle-tier fighters like Chris Byrd, the Marquez Brothers and Miguel Cotto were demanding so much money that they had to be cut.
One of the biggest fighters missing from this series is the current best fighter in the world - pound-for-pound - Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Removing Floyd from this game leaves a big hole in the roster, but it is understandable because Mayweather is known to be a tough negotiator.
A few months before the game was released, EA stated in a developer’s interview that the game had 32 real boxers. Later we found out that this was an exaggeration. The game features 27 real boxers and five unlockable boxers. Now, had the five unlockable boxers turned out to be real boxers, all would have been forgiven. However, three of the five unlockables were created characters whose sole purpose is to promote the advertisers featured in this game. This adds nothing - and actually detracts from the game. One would think that with all this extra revenue coming from the constant advertisements seen in this game, that EA would use that advertising money and use it to increase the boxing roster. I guess I was wrong.
One interesting thing about this game is that I’ve seen every possible reaction by players. Some say that the pace is just perfect. Others say the game is too slow. Some say the haymakers and parrying are unrealistic while others say it’s a perfect mix between simulation and arcade boxing. My point is that we are all playing the same game and still we all come with such different opinions about the game. Why? Because everyone has their own opinion of what is realistic and fun. What’s the solution to this problem? It’s the same solution that almost every sports video game has found. Sliders. While they aren’t the solutions to all problems, they would help some of the major issues facing this series. Think the CPU throws too many haymakers? Use the sliders to turn them down. Wish the pace of the fight was a little slower? Use the sliders. In a developer’s interview, EA responded to a question about sliders by saying that they would rather focus on getting the gameplay perfect than adding sliders. Two questions arise from that statement. One, who decides what’s perfect? A perfect boxing sim to me may be totally different to another person. Why can’t EA perfect the gameplay and add sliders?
Even with the flaws, there's still plenty of good stuff in Fight Night Round 3. An underpromoted addition is the new boxing styles. In previous versions of this game, there were two styles, boxer and slugger. This year there are multiple stances, defensive positions and punch styles. With this addition, you will actually feel a difference between fighting as Winky Wright and as Marvin Hagler. This makes exhibition and career mode fights more enjoyable and adds a level of strategy to the game.
Online play shines. Ranked, unranked and custom fights are still available in Fight Night Round 3. I have fought several times online and they have all been lag-free. When fighting a realistic online opponent, you can have extremely realistic and fun boxing experiences. This mode alone will keep this game in your Xbox 360 for months to come.
There are a number of small improvements added to this year’s game and they all lead to an enjoyable in-ring experience. The HUD-less game play adds to the drama and uncertainty of a prize fight. You have to pay more attention to the body language of your fighter and your opponent to determine their health. The cut-man game has been tweaked and is now more realistic. It now focuses on where you apply the pressure and is similar to how a real cut-man works to stop swelling and cuts. The silly post-fight celebrations of year’s past are gone. No longer will you see Sugar Ray Leonard celebrate wins by doing backflips or other silly celebrations. This year, fighters celebrate similarily to how real life fighters do after a brutal fight. Finally, I’m seeing more one knockdown victories then I have seen in previous versions. While it will still take 3-5 knockdowns to take out a fighter with a high Heart rating, it does seem to be more random than previous versions.
As I said before, this is a difficult game to review. In my opinion, it’s the best looking Xbox 360 game to date and the in-ring action is the Fight Night series' best ever. Online play is extremely enjoyable and adds to the replay-ability. However, the career mode is a one-trick pony and the constant fluff additions like press conference fights and rivals mode actually detract from an enjoyable game. With that said, I recommend purchasing this game if you are a boxing fan who can look past some very apparent flaws. However, EA should be aware that many fans of this series, myself included, will not be willing to continue to purchase this game if some significant changes aren’t made to the fighter lineup and the career mode in Round 4.