Electronic Arts' premier boxing franchise is back for Round 3. Don’t worry if you couldn’t get your hands on an Xbox 360, the PS2 version of Fight Night Round 3 (FNR3) might not be as pretty as its 360 counterpart, but there’s still a great deal for boxing fans to enjoy. FNR3 really does feel more like an actual boxing game than any of EA's predecessors. So let's get ready to rumble...
Perhaps, the main weakness of Fight Night Round 2 (FNR2) was the “EA Sports Haymaker” (a type of impact punch). You could literally chase your opponent around the ring with your arm cocked back ready to unleash one almighty punch, with little or no risk. This was completely unrealistic, and we are glad that EA has now made it more true to life and, therefore, harder to execute haymakers. On the important subject of punches, there are two new special attacks in FNR3. There is the ability to throw 'Flash KO' shots and perform 'Stun Punches'. The 'Flash KO' puts your opponent in a daze if you connect while using it, giving yourself the opportunity to knock him down before he regains composure. The 'Stun Punch' is probably the most deadly punch in the whole of the game. If you land one of these, the viewpoint shifts to first-person mode shown through the eyes of your opponent. The change of viewpoint makes it extremely difficult for your adversary to defend, and ultimately easier to knock out. The added selection of punches is also a real improvement on FNR2. Like the two previous Fight Night games, every punch your boxer throws (except for his signature punch) is performed using the right analog stick in what EA calls 'Total Punch Control'. This is when you press the right analog stick to mimic the motion of your boxer’s fists and devise your own approach in the ring. Overall, this system really adds to the game and is a welcome feature of FNR3.
In Fight Night Round 3, there is also the inclusion of actual boxer styles, which adds extra depth to the gameplay and variation to fighting techniques. This means there are various stances, such as 'Elusive' and 'Mummy', differing punching styles (Slugger, Fast etc.) and new defensive manoeuvres (Philly and Shell, etc.). Another new element of the game is that boxers can now lean on the ropes, which makes fights all the more realistic.
Graphically, Fight Night Round 3 for the PlayStation 2 may not be a patch on the Xbox 360 version, but it is still very impressive to say the least. The game is very similar in appearance to FNR2 - no drastic visual improvements have been made. All the arenas/stadiums, texture detail and boxers are particularly well done, such as the convincing sheen and rivulets of sweat on their skin. The members of the audience are graphically the worst element of the game. They look out of place, are depicted badly and all seem to be staring gormlessly into the sky. The gameplay is smooth with only occasional slowdown. Unfortunately, the audio lets FNR3 down. The commentary during fights is absolutely terrible and sounds almost identical to the last version. The soundtrack is 100% American Hip-Hop and R&B, which we at SPOnG admit is not our 'thang', and we recommend turning the music off, rather than having Ludicrous (sic) tell us how he is going to knock someone out.