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Fight Night Round 3

The gloves are off for the next gen version of EA's splendid new boxing outing. Seconds out etc...

Well here's a thing. We've been having fun! Genuine, real, 'look at me I'm smashing your stupid face in ha-ha-ha' actual fun! Not the having to convince ourselves something's good kind of fun, but the crowd-gathering, making too much noise, accidentally making a weird snorting sound while laughing, real sort of fun. Playing Fight Night is like being eight years old again and watching Gladiators. Come on Jet!

Fight Night Round 3: everyone's been playing it. The bloke who sits in Marketing has been coming over to watch us as well, and even the usually sedate PC magazine staff have paused their flight simulators mid-Atlantic to see what we're all doing that's making everyone bray like donkeys and point at the screen.

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We've been punching people in the head, then standing back, watching all the blood fly, the noses break and the flesh ripple, cringing and laughing at the over-the-top blood trails and saliva that flies out all over the place and telling anyone who'll listen that this is the best-looking Xbox 360 game so far. And the first time you knock someone out and get the slow-motion gore-cam that is the 'KO Moment' you'll be laughing, pointing and going "Euurgh!" at the screen - and thinking that yes, this is the best-looking Xbox 360 game so far.

Not just because of the gore, but also thanks to how real it all looks. Yeah, we know, everyone bangs on about realism these days, but look - check out the screenshots. Look at the skin and stuff. It's incredible. We can't believe that pretend computer people can ever look any better than this, with everything - hair, sweat, the crowds and colourful lighting from the spotlights - coming across like those intro movies you usually get before a game. Only it's the game!

The only not-quite-so-amazing thing about the look of Fight Night Round 3 is the way the boxers crumple to the floor after a knockdown. They look like puppets who've had their strings cut, with a curious stiff-jointed effect, as though rigor mortis has set in before they're even hit the ground. Still, chances are you'll still be roaring with laughter from pressing X 50 times to make the knockout punch replay itself, so it's not that much of a deal-breaker.

To make it all look better still, you really ought to turn off the game's energy bars and play using your intuition. You can tell when the boxers are tiring, and with men this realistic, the last thing you need is a yellow bar telling you to stop punching so much and let your stamina build back up.

There's also a vast amount of tactical play hidden underneath the game's bruised and mashed-up exterior. Blocking, for starters. Round 3 encourages defensive play more than most fi ght games thanks to its dual-sided, high-or-low counter system, that lets you block, parry and counterattack any incoming punch. The Right trigger makes your man block. The Right stick then lets you block up and down or left and right, giving you counter-attack options like never before. If you're fighting someone who likes to punch low and to the left, you can block low and to the left to bat his shot out of the way, leaving him momentarily floundering and his head open to abuse for a second or two.

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And that's as long as it takes to unleash your Haymaker, the special punch that takes off as much damage as ten normal blows to the skull. It's less damaging than it was in previous versions of Fight Night, and the way it drains your stamina makes it a risky move to pick. We prefer working the body with roundhouses, produced by holding down the Left trigger and punching away. It's easy to mix up high and low blows in this fashion, with capable players flinging together awesome combos and humiliating opponents with ease.

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