Boxing has never really been counted as one of the major attraction in sports entertainment when it comes to America’s past time. It’s an event that doesn’t get enough media attention. Because many are not exposed to it, tracking down a boxer’s career, rank, or weight class is relatively confusing. If there’s ever a boxing match being publicized, most people just settle for the main event and forget the ones who we are not familiar with or the ones that have not had the privilege of consistent exposure through the media spotlight. Essentially, we are left with a critical mass of boxing aficionados, hungry for a 1-2 knockout scene.

Fortunately, Electronic Arts has an answer for those of us seeking diversity beyond the mandates of FCC-regulated sports television. If you’re one of the many deprived boxing-addicts, the anecdote is well within your reach. Just go to your local Gamestop and look for Fight Night Round 3. Fight Night 3 is an outstanding interpretation of what boxing feels like in reality. You can practically taste the intensity of a well-placed hook as it makes across the chin of your opponent. This is boxing at its best and you’ll never see it quite this spectacular on any other console except on Microsoft’s next generation machine, the Xbox 360.

The game features a robust selection of modes, which include Career, Play Now, Live multiplayer, and the new ESPN Classic. In Career mode, you have two choices: Rebuild a legend or create your own boxer. You’ll start as an amateur, and then climb your way up to the rank of a professional. Your objective is very simple – you fight one match after another. As you rack up victories, your popularity gauge will increase. Once you’ve reached a certain level of stardom, you’ll land a special contract such as a title fight or an exclusive event promoted by your sponsors. One of the great aspects about the career mode is that it doesn’t take too much labor to become a legend in the ring. It focuses more on the sophisticated culture of boxing rather than stressing through a never-ending level of pounding down opponents for the top spot. Your stats will increase as you achieve a new milestone in your career.

The greatest milestone you can attain is becoming a champion in your weight class. From there you can choose to advance to a different weight division and pursue another title. Fight Night Round 3 is filled with new revolutionary designs since last year’s release and the most interesting concept is the introduction of rivalry in Career mode. You’ll have one rival in the game and you’ll be facing him quite a few times during the course of your career. Having a rivalry is a very exciting feature; it opens up a pre-fight inhospitality to pump you up for the main event. The match itself is more than just a showcase of flashy moves and strategic boxing art; it involves illegal hits that sometime a referee would even approve. New to the franchise is the addition of ESPN Classic mode, which allows you to experience some of the greatest moments in boxing history. You can relive the one of the best fights that happened two or three decades ago, matches like Ali versus Frazier and Robinson versus Lamotta.

ESPN Classic is a good concept on paper, but in its finished stage, the historic authenticity is missing some details. The retro feel is dampened by overwhelming ads and glaring lights. The action for the most part seems underdeveloped. Fortunately, that is not the case with the Play Now mode. This feature provides you with a smoother boxing experience than the one found in ESPN Classic. Play Now is basically a “quick match” that allows you to randomly select your character, choose the opponent you want to fight against, and set the stage for instant ring-side action. One of the greater points about Play Now mode is that it lets you create unlimited dream matches such as pitting boxing legends against modern fighters, no matter what weight class they are in. You can have Eric Morales go up against Sugar Ray Leonard or Golden Boy Oscar De La Hoya takes on Filipino legend Manny “Pac-Man” Pacquaio.

While both the Career and Play Now modes are full of fun, the level of interest fizzles once you’ve become good at them. You just want to move on to better challenges, like the online multiplayer for example. In the multiplayer aspect of Fight Night Round 3, you can expect great gameplay. The only setback is the occasional lag time. Because it’s streamed for Xbox Live 2.0, you get tons more features such as extensive stat-tracking service and additional match options. In terms of action, Fight Night Round 3 delivers good balanced AI in all of its offline modes. The fights start off relatively easy and you’ll be taking down several opponents before the end of the fifth round. As you head deep into your career, your opponents are able to sustain heavier blows, and at the same time, their punches have a more resilient impact.

Needless to say, the game’s AI is rather predictable; they tend to use the same combos throughout the match. These repeated patterns open up weak spots for you to take advantage of, with a series of continuous strikes to the opponent’s trigger points. While still on the subject of gameplay, Fight Night Round 3 excels in delivering intuitive control mechanics, thanks to the introduction of Total Control Punch and Impact Punches. With Total Control Punch, throwing combos have become quite easy. You simply use the right analog stick to perform various punches, and the left analog stick to move your fighter. Rotating the right stick in either half-circle or quarter-circle motion will give you a strong haymaker or a nice hook respectively. With Impact Punches, you can execute different types of vicious haymakers. Haymakers are generally power punches that you just throw in for a crippling blow.

One example of Impact Punch is the Flash KO Punch, which depletes a lot of your opponent’s energy and sets him up for a quick knockout. The downsides of using these Impact Punches are often difficult to execute. They are slow to carry out hence easily countered. On the good side, Fight Night Round 3 has a nice repertoire of defensive maneuvers. But timing is the key to parrying your opponent’s attacks successfully. By holding the L1 button, you’ll be able to avoid punches. If you’re on the verge of a knock down, just “clinch.” And that should buy you time to catch your breath. With the new custom creation feature, you control how your boxer is going to fight in the ring. By changing the base style, the punch style, and the block style, you might just end up with a Caesar Chavez/Muhammed Ali fighter at your finger tips. It’s really fun to tinker around the different fighting styles you can implement to your character; but whatever changes you apply will certainly affect your fighting strategy.

From the graphical standpoint, Fight Night Round 3 is one the best-looking boxing games to date! Everything looks very polished, particularly the character models that look like their real life counterparts; they react realistically, struggling as their body wear down from repeated punches. As the match continues on to the last two rounds, his face becomes all bloody and bruised up! The best part of the game’s graphics is the knockout replays; they are fun to watch! You can see your opponent’s face disfigures as the camera closes in on your matrix-like haymaker tearing through his teeth. All the local venues, including New York’s Madison Square Garden and the StaplesCenter in Los Angeles are beautifully recreated. Even the crowd is far more vivid than we had hope for. The animation is exceptionally smooth, considering how many polygons have been injected, although we did notice some clipping issues to the boxer’s waist area and feet; but these are just minor glitches that can be easily over looked.

In the audio front, Fight Night Round 3 features great sound effects that have the feel of a live boxing match. You’ll hear cartilage popping and tendons snapping as the weight of your punch come across your opponent’s face. The music is good while it lasts, which is mostly made of hip hop soundtracks. The commentary, on the other hand, is a bit monotonous. The action scripts are being repeated way too much! Needless to say, regardless of the game’s irremediable issues, you have virtually a perfect boxing game. Fight Night Round 3 is going to be very difficult to knock over given the handiwork that has gone into the Xbox 360 version. The graphics are amazing and the fightin is as gruesome being next to the ring! Electronic Arts has certainly brought home the tenacity and the spirit that make the sports of boxing so great. If you’re looking for a fistful experience, Fight Night Round 3 is a punch out you’ll never forget!