WITHOUT SOUNDING like proper pub car park psychos, short of slapping someone repeatedly in the chops for real, Fight Night Round 3 is one of the most satisfyingly violent games we have ever played. It is, without doubt, boxing perfection.
For within the confines of its digital ropes you'll be able to physically throw all manner of jabs, hooks, uppercuts and below-the-belt family jewel rippers. Simply move the right thumbstick in the direction you want your fist to fly, hope your glove connects with soft, crushable nose cartilage, then watch the blood and sweat fly.
Of course, if you've played any of the Fight Night games before then you'll be familiar with the 'Total Boxer Control' system of waggling both sticks about like mad. It adds a subtle level of skill and realism that Rocky Legends, with its button-bashing control setup, lacked, and as fans of the system ourselves we're glad to see this third iteration is the best yet.
The overly powerful Haymaker punches from the previous game have been toned down to more realistic levels, and everything feels just that little bit tighter and more responsive. Which is a good thing, considering nothing feels sweeter than a perfectly placed hook and an accompanying close-up of your opponent's jaw breaking in two.
The beauty of Fight Night's newly tweaked control system is that each boxer now feels more like an individual than ever before. With so many variations of style and type of punch to throw, you're forced to think and box like a real fighter. Choose a slugger - someone big and sweaty with man boobs, ideally - and you'll have to keep walking forwards while looking to land that single, devastating big hit, but go for an archetypal speed boxer like Muhammad Ali and you'll need to spring forwards and back, lashing out with quick jab combos before ducking and diving to avoid the retaliation. Better still, you can now create your own custom mix of moves and styles in career mode, meaning it's possible to tailor the game to precisely suit your own violent tendencies.
Talking of career mode, this is where you'll find the biggest Fight Night improvement. While it's basically the age-old boxing tale of unheard amateur becoming world champion, rehashed for its 15,000,000th airing by our estimate, Fight Night Round 3 places a cunning little narrative cherry on top to stop it from becoming just another simple climb up a ladder of ever-tougher pugilists.
It's not a plot, as such, but early in your career you'll acquire a rival, by relieving some chump of his amateur league champion's belt. As you progress so does you rival, and the further down the road you get the more frequently your paths cross. It's all handled pretty subtly to begin with, with your rival throwing the odd comment to you via the main career information screen, but as the fights get bigger and the occasions more elaborate the rivalry becomes increasingly intense until everything erupts in a shameful display of press conference tantrums and theatrics. Think Ali and Frazier! Rocky and Creed! Tyson and Bruno! Maybe not that last one...
Like we say, it's not a proper storyline, and unless you really plough through the career mode in one long sitting you probably won't even notice it happening that much. But it's a nice addition, and kept our interest going much longer than any halfbaked boxing plot ever could.
In fact, rivalries are pretty much this year's 'thing' in Fight Night, with a series of classic one-off bouts between legendary boxing enemies providing the refreshing dessert to the career mode's bloated main course. It's a somewhat limited selection of bouts, admittedly, and one that almost entirely favours American fighters, but for boxing nerds there's still a surprising amount of thrill to be had taking part in, say, Marvin Hagler's famous scrap with Sugar Ray Leonard.