Fight Night Round 3 PS2 Review

Ah…Boxing; the noble art of battering the crap out of each other legally. Fitting then that no other developer has even attempted releasing a boxing game since EA’s Fight Night franchise boxed its way onto the scene – effectively knocking out the competition just by existing.

Fight Night Round 3 is another addition to the ever-growing list of annual titles coming out of the EA camp – although shun the typical scepticism you might harbour for EA’s publishing regime and play Fight Night 3 with an open mind as this is the best boxing game ever made.

While we’ve been weaned on plush high definition screen shots and videos, don’t expect your humble PS2 to offer up the same visual treat. Slo-mos of jaw shattering left-hooks and rippling body shots are a privilege to those owning an Xbox 360. Fear not though, Fight Night’s quality comes not from its visuals but the depth in gameplay. You’re not likely to enjoy a beat-em-up as much as this essentially because it’s like nothing you have experienced outside of the Fight Night series. EA’s Total Punch Control, that enables you to control your fighter’s fists with the analogue stick, is the masterstroke that enables this to be such an enjoyable and balanced game.

EA, for once, haven’t managed to deliver in presentation. The FIFA Football series benefits from huge licensing, such investment hasn’t been made in Fight Night Round 3. The boxers at your disposal are largely made up of past greats like Muhammed Ali and Joe Frazier. While there are some current punchers in there for you to tinker with – Ricky Hatton and Bernard Hopkins are to mention a couple – boxing enthusiasts will remain a little disgruntled. Despite an appearance from Jermaine Taylor as well, we are sure that a more realistic approach would have been greater received – the unrealistic scenario of matching Jake Lamotta and Arturo Gatti just doesn’t sit easy.

This carries through to the career mode as you take your custom fighter up the ladder -except there is no ladder. The ranking system that worked so well in previous Fight Night incarnations has been dropped in favour of reputation gauged success. So fighting certain fighters will earn you an in increase in popularity, which in turn helps you in getting a title shot. It works well, yet doesn’t correspond with anything like what happens in reality.

Regardless of the superficial downfalls, Fight Night delivers when it needs to. The fight engine works fantastically and the balancing of the fighters in correspondence with their true-life counterparts has been superbly executed. Actually finding and acting upon a certain fighter’s strengths and weaknesses proves to be extremely rewarding. So while Ali can parry and hit fast, Frazier’s destroying body shots will knock you down with a few well-placed shots. Depending on whom you’re playing as, you must adjust and fight to your strengths. If Ali tries to slug it out with Frazier then he’s going down, no matter how fast Ali is.

It’s actually quite difficult to describe what makes Fight Night 3 so playable. The actual gameplay never alters, but like the Pro Evo games, no one match up is predictable, nor is one fight the same as another.

To get the most out of this you’ll need to get online – ducking and weaving the punches from a real opponent is something that is difficult to tire from. Fighting someone real offers a refreshing approach. The computer provides a somewhat regimented gradual challenge that sees each fighter become inevitably better at blocking and punching; you really don’t know what to anticipate from each fighter when playing online. It often takes a couple of rounds to work out your opponents approach and start acting accordingly – it offers a sense of realism and depth which is not present in the offline version of the game. Add to that the rating system that allows you to actually challenge for belts held by other players and you’re left with an absolutely compelling mode of play that will keep you compulsively stuck on Fight Night Round 3 for months to come.