Home | News | Reviews | Previews | Hardware
Fight Night: Round 3
Score: 84%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: EA Sports
Developer: EA Chicago
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Sports (Boxing)/ Fighting/ Simulation

Graphics & Sound:
"If you ask me, this has been a one-sided fight from the beginning. The sound came out strong in the first round and has maintained a professional consistency that we've come to expect. Graphics, on the other hand, really seems to lack discipline. You have to ask yourself just how much he trained for this fight. He's thrown some powerful punches, but you can see that he's clearly worn down; He's definitely not going to be able to endure if this fight goes the full ten rounds."

Yes, well... graphics and sound, indeed. My first introduction to Fight Night 3 was in the form of a PS3 "demo" at E3 2005. There has been much debate since that time as to the degree to which the demo's graphics would be representative of the PS3's graphics. I'm not arguing the point one way or the other at this time, but merely said that to say this; the quality of the graphics in the PS2 version of Fight Night 3 falls far, far short of what I saw last year at E3 - in some very understandable ways, and some very unforgivable ones, as well.

First, the understandable ways. While the boxers are nicely customizable and player (and opponent) models look very good, there is no way that a PS2 could create the brilliant imagery that was showcased at E3 2005; that's what made the idea of the PS3 so exciting. I fully understand that I wouldn't be seeing the level of realism that I had seen at E3. With that in mind, the boxers look good. The hair effects are nice for a PS2 game, the blood-sweat-and-spit that flies when a heavy punch is taken to the face looks pretty good and for the most part, the boxers' movements looks realistic. There are some times when the body physics is a bit off, or hair or an opponent's glove may clip through your boxer's face or shoulder, but in general, the graphics of the gameplay itself are pretty decent.

What really hurts Fight Night Round 3 in the graphics' corner is all of the "extras" -- the little details that, if properly done, would help to reinforce the realism. If properly done. Instead, these "extras" in some case actually detract from the suspension of disbelief and act as distractions from the prettier parts of the game. Your trainer's pep talk in between rounds had the potential to be beautiful. It's non-interactive and scripted. There should be nothing unexpected in these sequences. This is the kind of situation where perfection is possible. Instead, there are lots of little mistakes. Ropes that extend out from your corner to the edge of your screen and just sort of stop there, hovering - visibly truncated inside of the screen's view. This should only have required a slight change in camera angle to fix. Instead, it's quite distracting at times. In another angle of the same thing, the models of the crowd behind you are not only very low polygon count, but at times actually appear to be pixelated. I don't really understand how this could even occur. The point of using polygonal models is to avoid high levels of pixelation caused by zooming in sprites (2D graphic images) too far. What I saw in one case actually looked like really low poly-count models had been used to prerender an animation of a person in the crowd and then this animation had been zoomed in too close. I can't begin to speculate on how this could even happen. This is really just one example of ways in which the little extras take away from the realism of the graphics. I've seen a "Round Girl"s butt cheeks take turns popping through a skirt when she walked (easy - she was also wearing a bikini bottom). I've seen a ringside observer appear from nowhere... center screen! If this person was not in the animation at all, not much would have been lost - but popping in when the camera pans to where he's center screen is impossible to miss, and difficult to overlook.

Something as easy to predict as the text for the "Fight Posters" in the in-game Menu (used to select your next contract, train, etc.) is occasionally botched. For example, when the following three posters were shown, they threw me for a loop: "PERKINS ON THE RISE" ..."CAN PERKINS GET TITLE SHOT?" ..."YASEEM HOLDS TITLE BE". After a bit of pondering, I determined that it meant to say, "Yaseem holds title BELT", but two of the letters were cut off. This, even though the previous two captions clearly show that it's possible to use more than one line of text. Furthermore, the caption that messed up didn't have any unknown text. The character was made by the developers, not the player, as was the rest of the sentence. "Yaseem" weighs in at a mere 6 letters, and two letters were being lost, so apparently this message was not expected to be used with anyone whose name is longer than 4 letters?! I didn't see this type of mistake again, but that may be due to the fact that I found a way to get around these issues.

So, how do you get around the graphical glitches? Zoom right on past them. Don't read the Posters, don't listen to your trainer's pep talk unless you really want his advice, don't listen to the other guy's trainer briefing him unless you need the extra advantage, always push 'X' to bypass the intro banter (with the magnificent popping man) and, unless you really don't get out much, click right on past the Round Girls in between rounds; there's only three of them anyways - and with just a few scripted movements they go through. Sadly, all of these visual extras are best left ignored. Sure, you may be "treated" to a few low polygon models in the background during the fight, but if your difficulty setting is appropriate for your skill level, you'll be too busy watching for openings to pay attention to them.

The sound is typical EA fare. They've built a component and they're going to use it come hell or high water! You'll get several flavors of rap and hip-hop to train to and while in the menus, but in-game sound is limited to the audience, the color commentators and the sound of fists hitting flesh. Actually, there are some special effects sounds that are pretty good, as well. The sound in general has the level of polish I expect from an EA title - providing a stark contrast to the graphical extras, unfortunately.

"There's really nothing you can do against a fighter with well rounded skills like Gameplay. Gameplay has definitely brought his 'A' game today. Gameplay is really giving a textbook example of how it should be done."

If you read the section above and wonder why the score isn't lower, it is because the Gameplay is solid. It is fun, addictive, challenging and gives you the opportunity to actually use strategy while boxing. You decide when and how to block your opponent's punches, when to lean out of the way leaving him to swat the air and when to ignore his punches (or attempts) and concentrate on turning his body (or head, if you prefer) to jelly.

The strategy doesn't end there, either; in Career Mode, you'll have to stay on top of your training to increase your boxer's strengths and skills, and there's a trade off to be decided. Do you concentrate on increasing your Speed and Agility, while losing a little bit of your Power, or do you work on increasing you overall stamina? There are three different types of training to pick from before each fight: Combo Dummy, Weight Lifting and Heavy Bag. Each type of training is its own mini-game. You'll need to vary your training to keep your boxer well-rounded. This will also give you a lot of practice at the different training mini-games. If you do poorly in your training (such as before a crucial fight, say with Ali), you can reset your PS2 and try again (of course, you'll have to wait through the load time to get back into the game). If you simply hate one of the training mini-games or can't do well at it, you can choose to auto-train when you select that type of training. This will only give you half of the possible increase in stats that can be awarded, but it does so without any additional effort on your part.

During a fight - between rounds - there's a mini-game that allows you to play the part of the Cut Man. You'll need to address cuts and swelling; ignore this and the judges will cut your fight short and call the victory for the other guy.

If you get knocked down to the mat, there's another mini-game. You'll have to direct two indicators to a target on the center of the screen with the analog sticks. This simulates regaining your focus. You'll need to get both of them back to center within the ten count, or the judges call a knockout.

The controls take some getting used to, with the upper shoulder buttons being used for targeting higher or lower areas of the body as well as allowing you to lean (in conjunction with the left analog stick) and to block (in conjunction with the right analog stick). There are different ways to do similar actions, but the analog sticks give you more control than the button methods. For example, I tend to rock pretty hard against my opponents with well-placed, well-timed Haymakers using the R2 shoulder button. A similar looking Haymaker can be thrown using the Right Analog Stick. While the Analog Stick method takes more precision to pull off, it gives you more control and allows for much more powerful punches, called "Impact Punches" that can send your opponent to the ground much quicker.

When you train, you can choose your trainer. The high-priced trainers give you a little bit better possible increase, but they can also reduce the amount you lose in the areas you don't train. In general, I find it's wiser to spend my money in the Fight Store on Boxing Trunks that increase my Chin strength or Shoes that increase my Stamina. (Okay, so the bonuses you get for some of the items don't seem to directly make sense -- if you've ever played an RPG -- and I have -- you can't complain about this. This is nowhere near as ridiculous as a Sword of Parrying, so I'll let it be.)

If you don't want to play Career mode, there are other options -- there's a quick play mode called "Play Now" that lets you do just that, and a ESPN Classics mode that lets you select one of the historical pairings of awesome boxers and choose which corner to step into. You'll get your chance to float like a butterfly or feel the sting of the mat.

There are three difficulty settings: Beginner, Medium and Hard. The default is Medium, and I found that Medium presented a reasonable challenge for starting the game. I didn't lose a fight until after beating Ali, but I had to fight really hard and really smart to make it past a few of them.

If you find the game too hard, changing control schemes and practicing can help a lot. Also, the Sparring Training Type allows you to practice freestyle or select a boxing lesson to work on.

If you find the game too easy after turning the difficulty up a bit, the game suggests fighting against opponents that are one to two weight classes above you.

Game Mechanics:
"There really was no question about who dominated that round. It was a definite win for Gameplay."

There are a lot of technical issues related to graphics. I won't rehash them here, but it should suffice to say they they can be aggravating and distracting if you concentrate on them.

The control scheme has a steep learning curve, but is offset greatly by the control you get over your boxer. With practice, you can dodge what you want to, block what you want to, and deliver bone-splitting blows that are perfectly placed and perfectly timed. It takes practice, but the training mini-games and Sparring lessons do a great deal to help teach you the controls.

I can't help but walk away with the feeling that this game was developed first and foremost for a next-generation system, such as the Xbox 360 or PS3 and then, as sort of an afterthought, was ported to the PS2. It just seems that a lot of the issues that the PS2 version of Fight Night 3 suffers from are simple tweaking issues that should have been caught in QA (if not before). I can imagine that some of these issues could have been absent on the Xbox 360 version and might have shown up as a result of the act of porting to the PS2, but if that were the case, there should have been testers to find these issues and time allotted for developers to address fixing them.

The body physics are good... except for when they're not. In general, the way that the boxers respond to punches looks realistic. Occasionally, however, the algorithm that determines how the body should crumple to the mat evidently smokes crack. There have been a few times that an opponent has fallen to the mat during a fight and there pelvis sort of jumps around, never quite coming to rest. The most hilarious example, however, was in a "Fight Now" match when I got knocked to the mat. My boxer fell back against the ropes and then sort of slumped backwards, then back forwards and then his head kind of went straight down to the mat, with his body trying to figure out where to go. When the camera cut to a different angle, it was focusing on my opponent, but one of my legs was sticking straight up in the foreground. I almost lost it laughing at that one.

All things considered, I am sad that the production quality is not higher, but if there have to be things that aren't perfect, I would prefer them to be non-essential items (as they are) instead of essential items such as gameplay. If you're a boxing fan with a PS2, you should scoop this up. If you're on the fence after reading this review, I would definitely recommend at least renting Fight Night 3 -- you may find it very fun and addictive.

-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

This site best viewed in Internet Explorer 6 or higher or Firefox.