Review: Does Fight Night Round 3 go the distance? Or does it repeatedly "Golotta" you in the junk?
Fight Night Round 3 has finally been released on the Xbox 360, which is starving for games for its library, especially those that can justify the power and innovation that the system seems capable of harnessing. The graphics of Fight Night Round 3 have been lauded for months now, but the gameplay has been an uncertainty. Does the game reach the perfect balance for the two key areas? For all intents and purposes, yes it does. A few areas provide some annoyances, but Fight Night: Round 3 still delivers many positives to take away.
The team at EA Chicago has been saying all along that they wanted to innovate on the gameplay, thanks to the boost in power that the 360 hardware and software gives them. The most iconic member of the team is Kudo Tsunoda, the executive producer at EA Chicago. Tsunoda has been trumpeting the innovation of the ?impact punches? onto the gameplay, as well as the rivalries present within the ESPN Classics scenarios and the career mode proper. However, Tsunoda also promised to innovate in the graphical department on the Xbox 360.
Since the visuals are pretty much the first thing you'll see (almost literally, as there is an opening cinematic with in-game graphics), it is appropriate to start out with them. Many games from the Xbox 360 launch showed a lot of visual creativity and detail, whether it was Kameo, Call of Duty 2 or PGR3, but Fight Night Round 3 raises the bar even further. The player models and lighting within this game are so arresting to the senses that you really have to see the game played (or better yet, play it yourself) to appreciate how smooth the action is and how detailed everything looks. Admittedly, the pace of the game may be a tad slower than current-generation versions (and past releases of Fight Night), but the boost in visual articulation and ambience is more than worth that small sacrifice.
Starting off the presentation assault is the complete lack of HUD interface that usually holds your hand for game details like health, stamina, round time, and boxer picture/profile. In FNR3, you are able to appreciate the game unobstructed, and this immediately immerses you into the fight and actually adds to the gameplay. Instead of checking health gauges or looking at the clock, you'll have to watch your opponent's (or your own) posture and glove position to learn fatigue level; you even have to listen to the announcer for an indication on the end of a round. This type of change may not seem like much, but once it is experienced, there really is no other viable alternative. It might have been said by others already, but the industry can expect this type of game interface to proliferate in the near future ? it could turn out to be this year's motion blur or bullet time.
The boxers themselves are easily the best looking aspect of the game and each element of a given fighter looks fantastic. The skin detail and body construction is spectacular, and this is highlighted by accurate muscle tone, realistic skin colors, and some amazing lighting to amplify the little details. Facial hair looks very realistic, but, admittedly, some of the hairstyles do look a bit odd (and they are limited in selection). During a fight, the ring lights up above shine down on everything and everyone; this creates a cinematic quality, as the fighters, gloves and ring all seem to be glowing with realism.
You can get a real good look at the fighters and their wounds when a round has ended. At this point in time, the minigames from years past have returned, and you have to work on cuts and bruises. It is in this view that you can really see some crazy detail on the face, and as the cut man swabs a gash above your eye, you really can't help but wince at the eerily accurate facial contortions and beads of sweat.
For anyone who has played the demo or seen any of the media, the signature graphical moment (only available on the 360 version) comes when an opponent is KO'd. In these fight-altering instances, everything goes into a sort of silent, slow-mo vacuum as your punch connects with an opponent's head. When a fist connects with a jaw, temple or chin, you'll see the rippling impact of the punch as it courses through the boxer's face. Tendons snap, teeth rattle, blood and sweat fly, and the boxer then awkwardly crumples into a heap. Since the type of punch, point of impact, and fatigue of the fighters play into these ?KO moments,? it is quite cool to see a different animation each time. This is something that will be experienced a great deal during this game, but it is satisfying to see each time because of its ferocious impact and frightening realism.
Sure, FNR3 has some small elements such as an abundance of advertising in the arenas and some ever-so-minor clipping issues, but it is really hard to deny the clarity and quality presented in these fights. HDTVs really help the detail standout, but standard-definition TVs do just fine on their own. Of course, we have all seen media on upcoming games like Gears of War and so on, but for now, the bar has been raised, visually speaking, as the presentation of this game deserves to be recognized to the fullest.