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Fight Night: Round 3: The Greatest...

Company: EA Sports

After hitting the Xbox Live servers a few weeks ago, Fight Night Round 3 quickly became one of the most played games on the system ? even finding its way onto the Top Ten Most Played list on Xbox Live. And, after spending a few rounds with the game myself, it isn?t that hard to see why the game has nabbed a sizable audience and even has a few non-boxing fans interested in the title.

For those keeping tabs on the title, Fight Night Round 3 was one of the marquee titles during Sony's pre-E3 press conference last year. The demo, which was meant to show off what the PS3 was capable of, quickly became a hot topic in the Internet Think Tanks known as gaming forums. Some had religious experiences, others thought it looked bad. Then there were the more loyal console loyalists who, depending on their side in the dispute, either thought that it (like the much scrutinized Killzone demo) was faked or marveled at the game?s detail and officially declared the next-gen console wars over, crowning the PS3 the victor. Statements like these would, of course, turn around and bite some in the ass when a playable version showed up on Live download servers looking every bit as good as the demo ? if not better.

Regardless of system, graphics are the first thing anyone is likely to notice about Fight Night Round 3. Just looking at the poly numbers alone, the next-gen version of Fight Night is stunning, but the most surprising aspect of the visuals is the realistic look given by the skin textures used on each fighter. Skin textures are taken from real photographs, which helps to take away the shiny ?plastic? feel seen in other sports titles. Instead, the only shine seen on models are the beads of sweat glistening on their bodies. If you thought the models in Madden were something to show off, you?ll find these even more impressive.

Another noticeable aspect of the game?s presentation is the lack of a HUD or any type of visual overlay letting you know how your boxer is doing health-wise. Instead, fighters show how worn out there are by reacting a little slower to actions or by visually showing fatigue, such as slumping down or just looking plain tired. Fighters even show bruises, cuts and swelling (and even broken noses) ? all of which help to give the game a more natural, immersive feel. Even the camera movements have a TV-styled quality that help to sell the experience.

Of course, despite the beliefs of some gamers (and developers, for that matter), even the best of visuals mean nothing without solid gameplay to back it up. For the most part, the Fight Night series has excelled at this -- especially with the introduction of the analog stick as the main fighting control mechanism. Completing half-circles, quick-snaps and other motions with the analog stick produces punches, adding a much better feel to everything. The more pop you put into the motions, the stronger the punch, eventually producing haymaker punches that will completely devastate opponents. Some special punches will even bring up a perspective change, allowing you to see the action from a first-person view as you pummel your opponent while he tries to block the incoming punches. Of course, there are still a few snags, namely with some punches and animations lacking some fluidity, especially when in transition between movements, but overall it is a good showing. Hopefully little issues will be cleaned up before release.

On top of all of this, each boxer will also have their own styles based on their real-life counterparts. Another cool addition is that you?ll also be able to customize your own style in the Create-A-Fighter mode, allowing for a personal touch.

As if all these additions weren?t enough, Round 3 also introduces the prospect of rivalries in matches, giving the single-player Career mode a little more meaning than the ?Just keep fighting people? setup of last year?s games. Info on just what rivalries entail is sketchy, but given EA?s track record, it should be worthwhile.

The verdict is still out on the features not seen in the demo, but if the core mechanics are any indication, Fight Night Round 3 looks to be every bit the revolution in the series the first one was as something to really look forward to regardless of system choice.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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