You lay there, staring up at an intense white light, as the blurriness washes from your eyes you realise you are down on the mat, looking up at the bright arena lights. You hear the referee counting, he is up to seven and out of instinct you drag yourself to your feet. The crowd is roaring; they want a knockout. You glare across the ring and are met with the cold stare of your opponent, the bell rings and it’s time to fight! Last year, fight fans got to experience the newest installation in the long running and best selling boxing franchise; EA Sports Fight Night Round 3. Now, with the European release of the Playstation 3, Fight Night Round 3 comes to the PS3 with updated graphics and a new game mode.

The gameplay in Fight Night Round 3 is solid, obviously it is focused around combat and EA have managed to make the boxing feel very deep. During a round each boxer has a health bar, which indicates how close to being knocked out a player is, and an energy bar, which depletes whenever a punch is thrown. This is important, because if the energy bar gets too low you lose power and speed on your punches, as well as move around the ring at a slower pace. This adds a tactical element to a fight. Do you choose to advance, and start punching or do you back off and recover. There are some nice little details in-between rounds as well. At the end of a round you are sent over to the your cut man, whose job it is to patch you up and remove any swelling or cuts you might have received. Little things like this add up to a more realistic experience when playing.

One of the best things about this game is the control scheme. Instead of over-complicating the controls, the game relies heavily on the analogue stick, asking you to pull it in different directions to throw a punch. While some of the controls, such as blocking, illegal moves and signature punches are mapped to the face buttons, the central control method is the ‘total punch control’ which requires you to move the right analogue stick in a certain direction to throw a specific punch. So if you wanted to throw an uppercut you would roll the analogue stick from a down position to the up position. This makes fighting more immersive, you feel like you are actually controlling your fighter and throwing the punch yourself, instead of senselessly mashing buttons.

There are also some special punches that have been included called ‘impact punches’ which can turn the tide of battle in your favour. These impact punches are extra powerful and are essential to winning a fight. The first of these impact punches is the Haymaker, a wild punch that is not only more powerful than a regular punch but also gives a boost to your energy bar if it connects, making it valuable when you are running low on energy. The second impact punch is the ‘Flash K.O. punch’. If you manage to hit your opponent with this it will immediately deplete his health meter, making him an easy target. Only requiring one strong punch to send him to the mat. The last of the new impact punches is the ‘Stun punch’, when you connect it will trigger a mini game, that puts you in the first person perspective resembling the ‘get in the ring’ game mode, except this time you are seeing the action through your opponents eyes, all other punches that connect while in this mode do massive damage, letting you take out your opponent quickly. It would seem that the first thing that you would do would go in to a fight and use these punches as much as possible, but that will get you knocked out in a hurry. There are some downsides to using these punches, they are slow to throw, giving your foe ample time to see what is coming, react and hit you with a counter blow. If you fail to connect with an impact punch it also drains a lot more energy than regular punches, leaving you vulnerable to attacks. This adds some strategy to the fight, instead of going in and punching wildly you need to hit your opponent with weaker punches, watch their attack patterns and counter with a more powerful strike at a good time.

I do have some problems with the gameplay however, the biggest of which is the A.I. Even on the hardest difficulty it is not hard to win a fight, the A.I. is predictable and all of you opponents seem to play the same way. Once you learn their attack patterns it just becomes too easy. There is also not a lot of variation in terms of gameplay, a good few different modes available but apart from ‘Get in the Ring’ they all play the same way, making things a little repetitive. Another small annoyance I have is with the games load times, there are plenty of loading screens in the game, and most of them take a good amount of time to pass, which can get frustrating.

The biggest draw of the new Playstation version of Fight Night is its new game mode, entitled Get in the Ring. This mode gives you the opportunity to fight through the eyes of your boxer, using a first-person view of the action. This mode needs to be played differently from the rest of the game as you see things from a different perspective. Here, you will need to rely a lot more on your reactions as it is harder to see where the next punch is coming from, so you have to be able to react and counter more quickly. This game mode has some nice features, if you get punched in the face over and over again your face swells, this creates blind spots, making it harder for you to see the action. It is also great being able to see your opponents face when fighting, seeing their face ripple and the pain in their eyes when they get hit makes the fights seem more immersive.

This is not the only game mode, however. Fan favourites such as hard hits, a game mode that differs from other game modes in the fact that you can only win by knock out. As well as the simple exhibition type matches are present. As is ESPN Classic, a mode that lets you re-live classic bouts, such as Ali Vs. Frazier, as well as giving you a little background information about the fighters. The bulk of your time, however, will be spent playing through career mode.

Before you start career mode you will be asked if you want to rebuild the career of an already established pro, or to create a fighter and build your own legacy from scratch. This makes no difference to the gameplay, but it is good to have the choice. When you have got the fighter that you want, you need to develop yourself a fighting style. The character creation tool lets you change the way your boxer fights, including their stance, whether you want your fighter to be a power, speed or defensive-based fighter as well as the type of strikes and blocks that you want to use. You then assign some base stats for your character such as power, agility and stamina. Giving you these choices lets you create a character that is suited to your playing style, giving you the feeling that your character is unique to you.

The aim of Career Mode is to take your fighter from an unknown amateur to a world-class champion. You start in the amateur circuit and fight your way up the ranks, progressing through the under card fights until you reach superstardom, and compete in main event and Pay-Per-View fights. Your progress throughout you career is measured by a popularity bar, which increases every time you win a fight. Each time you meet a milestone you gain an opportunity to fight for the title as well as a new sponsor, which gives you more money, bigger fights and a set of unlockables.

The problem with the Career mode is that it can get repetitive. You choose the contract that you want to sign, train and fight your opponent, this is pretty much all you do in career mode. The training tries to break up the gameplay by giving you some mini games to play, the higher the score you get the more your stats will increase. These mini games range from lifting weights to training on the punch bag. They are fun for a while, but get stale pretty quickly, and soon you will just keep simulating them. The career mode is enjoyable however; just don’t expect to be playing it for a long time. If there is one thing to keep you playing the Career mode it is the amount of content you can unlock, you can win up everything from new attire for your boxer; to new base styles, punch types and stance. Whenever you win an event in a new arena it becomes available in the other game mode. There are plenty of the unlockables to get, so dedicated gamers will be playing for a longer amount of time.

Once you are done with the single player aspect of the game you will want to move on to the multiplayer action. If you like to play with your friends then two players can play on the system at once, but Fight Night has also incorporated an online mode, so that you can take the fight to anyone with access to the Playstation network. Online is done well in this game. When I was playing online it was easy to find games, and once I was playing there was no lag, disconnects or slow down. The game also gives you an online career, giving you access your online stats, information about previous bouts and your trophy room, which gives you trophies as awards for doing well in online games; rewarding you for things like not quitting for a certain amount of games, or building up a decent winning streak.

Online isn’t perfect and is more presentation than actual substance. For some reason whenever you quit out of the online mode, your game profile will sign out, and you need to load you game data again. The ‘Get in the Ring’ mode has been omitted from online games too, leaving you with online ‘regular’ style matches to compete in.

One of the high points of Fight Night is the way it looks, everything seems realistic and polished and the amount of detail that goes in to each of the fighter is remarkable. There are also some tremendous sweat effects, where the stadium lights shimmer off the fighters’ bodies. The licensed boxers resemble their real life counter parts very closely and all show a great amount of expression and personality.

The characters are also animated very well, moving realistically and showing different facial expressions when throwing a punch or getting hit, which deepens the experience. The arenas look decent as well, famous real life venues such as Madison Square Garden and the Staples Centre are available to fight in. Each arena has its own unique look, realistic lighting and detailed surroundings. However, the audience looks very pixilated, and doesn’t match up to the standard set by the rest of the game.

The sound in the game is rather hit or miss. On one hand you have the soundtrack, some great tracks from recording artists like Akon, Obie Trice and Dipset have been included in the game, which are nice to listen to and fit the style of the game well. The sound effects in the game also work well, fighters groan as they get hit and the sound of a punch connecting is always satisfying. What lets down the game’s audio is the commentary. As with most sports games these days commentary is provided during your matches and, as with most games with commentary, this hurts the game a bit. The commentary gets repetitive within the first match, with the announcer only having a limited amount of lines, which are often repeated to late or at the completely wrong time.

Overall Fight Night Round 3 is a great looking and fun game, which manages to have a deep combat system without over-complicating the controls. The game can get repetitive and has some downsides such as less that perfect A.I., long load times and a lack of variation but if you look past that there is a great boxing sim underneath. People who are in it for the single player experience will be left disappointed after a while, but bring some friends over or go online and you will have a blast.

Originally Written By: Liam Kenna

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