The Basics: Take a proven winner of a game play formula, mix in some serious authenticity, and throw in some real next-generation photorealistic visuals, and you've got all the makings of the first true killer app of the Xbox 360 era. Fight Night Round 3 looks to make a major statement this February that it's pound-for-pound the champion of the world.
To be blunt, the demo of the game available over Xbox Live is jaw-dropping (especially when you're watching jaws breaking). This is no ordinary game - the "wow" factor is in full effect. From the opening bell, you'll be amazed at the way the boxers look, punch, react, and, especially, get their faces beat in senselessly. Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones, Jr. slug it out in high-definition glory, and when the pain rains down on them you can almost feel it coming through the television. Particularly brutal punches are magnified and, upon the poor soul's getting knocked down, the devastation is shown in super slo-mo, complete with the requisite facial undulation and blood bursting out of various parts of his head. And remember, kids, this is just the demo!
EA has taken an interesting approach with situational awareness. Namely, there's no HUD display. You rely on the boxer's movements (quick and responsive = good), facial status (bleeding and swollen = bad), and overall mannerisms (gloves hanging at side = buh-bye) to determine how your chances to win...or just survive.
The full game, scheduled to hit retailers next week, boasts a lot more than "just" a hyper-realistic visual presentation. Plenty of real boxers from the past (names like Ali, Duran, Lomatta) and the present (think Gatti, Chavez, de la Hoya) are here and ready for action. Using the ESPN Classic License, gamers will be able to watch real footage of past matchups, then put those rivalries to the test in the ring via an "Instant Classic" mode. We're talking Leonard-Hagler, Ali-Frazier, Hopkins-Taylor...you get the picture. In addition, the career mode should be deeper than past games, featuring all sorts of customizations for your created boxer that you'll then scale up the sweet science’s ladder on a quest to be the Champ. You can even bring your boxer to press conferences before big fights to rile up your opponent, and start brawling with him at the pre-fight weigh-in. While we saw no indication that your momma would come into the ring with a shoe and start smacking your rival in the head if he gets the best of you, I won't put it past the folks at EA Chicago.
Naturally, the Xbox Live crowd should be well-represented. You'll be able to take your created fighter into the online arena, and EA promises that certain achievement accomplishments will boost your online chances. Between the single and multiplayer options, it looks like EA has everything well positioned for a great boxing experience.
What do we think? We've been burned by the hype many times, my friends, but all indications are that this one's a no-brainer. Even if the 360 weren't suffering from a dearth of new titles since launch, I'd be all hot and bothered by this one. If the demo is any indication of the finished product, this is one title that will need to be in any 360 owner's library, boxing fan or not. So save your pennies, read the review shortly after shipping, and plan on spending a lot of time getting your face beaten to a bloody pulp.