SONY PSP REVIEW: FIGHT NIGHT ROUND 3

Preparing for Round 3 will require training, sweat and lots of thrown punches, but it's well worth the effort. by StewXX

February 24, 2006 - Fight Night Round 3 for the PSP can be summed up by a couple of cliches: Good things come in small packages, and you reap what you sow. Unfortunately both these cliches apply to the game which means that if you want to play the game the way it's intended to be played, you've got a lot of work ahead of you.

You have to approach Fight Night Round 3 as a boxer. It requires a lot of training. This is not a direct port of the console version, it's been recreated exclusively for the PSP but if you've played the console version you know one thing, there are more control buttons on the console controller than on the PSP. That's where the main problem lies. In order to give you a deep fighting experience, the developers have included a large variety of moves, punches and variations, but with so few controls there are going to be combinations to memorize which just don't come natural.

Forget about renting Fight Night Round 3. Even if you're an old pro at the console versions, the control system is going to have you down for the count. There's just no way you're going to get the hang of it in a couple of days. You have to play this game a lot to get comfortable with all of the combinations so that they become second nature. It's possible, and even easy, to get through some of the single-player modes because the AI maintains a fairly consistent pattern that you can counter by using only a few punches and moves. But eventually you're going to want to play online and you're going to face players that have spent a lot of time on this game exploring all of the moves and will definitely be in a position to kick your ass.

I ought to know. After three days of intermittent gaming (about three hours a day) I was able to make a dent in the single-player mode but the very first online player that I encountered was an absolute whirlwind. He, (or maybe it was a she), was using moves that I had never experienced when playing against the AI in the Career mode. Considering the game had only been released a few days ago I found this quite amazing. Must have been another game reviewer that managed to get it a week or two before its official release date.

Your boxer moves around the ring with the aid of the analog stick. Pushing the D-pad in any of its four positions yields moves such as a clinch in the up position, a signature punch in the down position, an illegal blow in the right direction and finally a taunt when pressed to the left. So far nothing too taxing but just wait. There are four different punches including a jab, uppercut, haymaker and hook which are mapped to the four face buttons - but these punches are for both hands which makes a total of eight punches. Double and triple button combos are required to access haymakers and uppercuts.

Then there is blocking, which requires you to press R for basic blocking. To parry and defend specific regions of your body which is divided into a quadrant of upper, lower, right and left, you have to press R in combination with the corresponding face buttons. And yes, it's just as confusing using these controls in actual gameplay as it is reading about it.

Not only is the control system going to take some time to burn itself into your muscle memory but there are a few other aspects of the game that you should be aware of. The first is the AI which I mentioned tends to use the same moves in a pattern that you can easily figure out and counter. The AI doesn't block much. It tends to throw hooks and doesn't have much of a strategy. You can win matches by blocking and then throwing a few well-timed hooks of your own. As the game progresses the AI becomes stronger but not necessarily more intelligent, throwing many of the same punches.

Another problem with the game is the online mode which is inconsistent. Some matches are perfect while others suffer terribly from lag. It makes some matches unplayable. This game is new so hopefully this will be fixed in the next few weeks.

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System: PSP
Dev: EA Chicago
Pub: EA
Release: Feb 2006
Players: 1 - 2
Review by StewXX