Fight Night Round 3
Fight Night's PSP debut features convoluted controls, but might still be worth checking out...
Fight Night Round 3 is an almost textbook example of both what can go right and what can go wrong with portable ports. EA Chicago including features and entire modes that aren't present in the console release proves the company's dedication to releasing quality PSP releases. Yet that understanding of how to differentiate portable and console releases fell apart in the game's control. The game attempts (and mostly fails) to make the dual-stick "total control" system work on the PSP.
For the PSP release the analogue nub is used for movement, the four face buttons correspond to right and left jab/hook, R blocks, and L leans. It sounds simple enough and on the surface the problems don't show themselves. They become mightily apparent once gamers dig deeper and learn the ins and outs of EA's trademark haymakers, however.
Haymakers have to be charged by either leaning right or left, which is done by holding L and manipulating the analogue stick, which becomes cramp-inducing, and quickly gets confusing. Defensive abilities also frequently require an almost incredible number of button presses. Holding R blocks, but when held the face buttons and the analogue stick both act as block modifiers, and things quickly get ridiculous.
We found that the convoluted defense didn't matter as long as we were facing off against the AI, however. Even at high levels of career-mode play not much intelligence was displayed. The AI does up its aggressiveness and block more often as you progress, but CPU opponents seemed to be locked into a small attack pattern that reveals itself early in a fight, and then doesn't change, round after round. Additionally, the CPU is unable to recognize and shut down player attack patterns. I found myself just hammering away with the right hook over and over, ignoring all other attack options, and still emerging victorious time and time again.
The career mode itself, however, is surprisingly fleshed-out with multiple levels of depth outside the ring. The create-a-fighter options are almost obscenely robust, allowing you to set brow or jawlines, nose length, type of eyebrow, and many, many more options. You begin as a fairly weak amateur boxer fighting other amateurs for paltry paychecks. After you gain the amateur title the real career mode begins.
Once you turn pro you can spend your hard-earned dollars in a surprisingly large number of ways. There's a shop that sells various trunks, mouth-guards, etc., all of which give a stat boost. You can hire a new trainer to give you greater stat-boosts in between bouts or a new cutman to better heal your swelling and cuts in between rounds. Perhaps most interesting of all is the ability to customize your entrance with various bikini-clad women, music tracks, and special effects available for purchase. Each of these gives you a boost for that fight, such as additional stamina, a "Get out of a KO free" card, etc.
Round 3's career mode is further fleshed out by the PSP-exclusive fighter rankings and rival fights. Very early in your career its possible to obtain a rival, who then rises through the professional ranks alongside you. You'll find yourseld butting heads (or fists) time and time again. When you first turn pro you're a lowly rank 50, but slowly and steadily work your way up to #1, or at least get KO'd trying.
Another PSP-exclusive are the rival challenges, which come in three varieties: repeat history, change history, and my history. Repeat history allows you to step into the middle of a famous match (Ali vs. Frazier, for example), take control over the winner of the historical match, and (hopefully) guide them to victory. Change history is just the opposite. These challenges have you taking over for the real-life loser of such bouts, and tasks you with turning the tide back in their favor. My history is perhaps the most interesting- using your career-made boxer you compete in varied challenges such as keeping your opponents hit percentage as low as possible, or scoring as many hits as possible while your enemy is taunting.
Rounding out the package is ad-hoc (local) and infrastructure (online) multiplayer options. In our online tests Round 3 didn't receive a passing grade, however. We played four matches, and three resulted in lost connections. Only one was fought to a completion, which was a loss for Modojo, no less. Oh, the shame!
Fight Night Round 3 is by no means a bad game. The hits feel weighty, the career mode is filling, and the other goodies mix up the formula well. I played it so much I actually developed a callus on my left thumb from the analogue nub, which says a lot about how fun and addictive the experience can be. The controls are very close to being a dealbreaker, however. Modojo suggests that you try this one out before you buy, to make sure that you can deal with the changes.
What's Hot: Exclusive PSP features
What's Not: Control scheme literally causes cramps