What do you want from your boxing games? Blood? Concussion? Nearly-nekkid ladies parading about the ring? If that's an affirmative, Fight Night Round 3 has all of these essential boxing ingredients in abundance, but it also has one special trick tucked inside its gloves, something to really set it apart from its peers. Cheek-rippling (oh yes).
We're not talking about the sort of thing you'd find on some insalubrious webcam site, but rather the shockwave from a haymaker ploughing through a boxer's chops. And when you see a glistening arc of spittle spout from his face, now compacted to the size of a postage stamp over the area where his eye normally resides, you know you're in for a visceral experience.
It's not easy, mind. In fact, compared to other EA Sports games, this is positively ball-breaking, gut-busting work, and feels heavily geared towards realism. Big punches take time to execute, larger fighters lumber around the ring, and you can almost feel the sweat running into your eyes and your brain bruising under the constant battering. It takes effort, of the kind that'll make you almost physically exhausted from the strain of it all, and there are few sports games - few games at all - that involve you quite so firmly in the action onscreen.
K.O.'S ARE OK
Round 3's controls take to time to become even vaguely familiar if you haven't played any of the previous versions. As one of the messages on the loading screens states, "Button mashers aren't allowed". So your first stop is always the gym, to take advantage of the training section. With a bit of time, you'll get used to using the right stick for all your shots - sharp, upward thrusts perform jabs, while winding the stick around plants harder-hitting punches. L1 makes your boxer duck, and holding it while punching performs body blows. Go into a fight without having practised this and you'll be annihilated, but soon it'll be intuitive and very rewarding, with fights turning into tense, draining encounters. Different strategies come into play, too: you need to factor in your blocking, ducking and weaving skills when planning an assault.
The depth and quality of the core gameplay is sold short by the simplistic Career mode. A contract is signed for each fight, you train, then box, and the process is repeated. There's no tangible sense of edging along a long road to glory. Apart from this slight disappointment, and some overly long loading screens, this is easily the finest sports title yet to hit PS3.
Round 3 can count itself the undisputed champion of boxing games - and just check out the visuals.
- The boxers look amazing
- Gruesome In The Ring mode
- Rewarding control scheme
- Basic Career mode set-up