We didn't expect to have to write this preview. After all, the 360 version of Fight Night Round 3 just shipped back in February '06 and practically defined the term "next generation". Its graphics and action were so over the top, we figured we'd be lucky if the developers at EA Canada could port them onto the alien PlayStation 3 console within the time limit with only minor sacrifices.
Damn, when you're wrong, you're wrong. While this PS3 version of Fight Night is 80% identical to its high-scoring 360 predecessor, it also packs an extra 20% of pure kicksauce, immediately sending its ancestor to the mat like a chump.
We wouldn't have thought it possible, but the graphics actually got notably better. Individual beads of sweat refract the light independently now, the fighters' arms bulge with detailed veins, and when a punch is thrown, you can see the muscle and sinew actually change shape at the fist hammers toward its target. Even the cloth of the pugilists' trunks looks silkier and moves more naturally.
Shortly after that - especially if you're admiring these subtle graphical flourishes a little too much - you'll notice the gruesome new depths that the facial deformation system can plumb. From the rivulets of blood that seep from all the painful places to the unnatural, discolored bulge that develops around an eye socket that has taken too many hits, this is gorily impressive stuff.
That deformation isn't just for show, either. It affects your vision. This fact was pummeled home when we stepped into the new, first-person camera view, which is accessible in every play mode - even split-screen multiplayer. It's a bit disorienting at first, because the camera jerks every time the opponent's fist gets close. Then you realize the jerking is your head snapping back from the impact of that fist, and you start swinging back.
Eight minutes and three rounds later, a deep crimson anti-glow darkens the left edges of the screen every time he punches you - it's a reminder that he's pounding your eye on that side so hard that it looks like someone stapled raw liver to your eyebrow. But you've beaten a blind spot into his face too, and one last good shot - perhaps even an illegal hit like a kidney punch, head butt, or knee to the groin (every fighter has one, triggered by a quick forward snap of the Sixaxis controller) sends the screen flashing white, signalling you've connected big time. He goes down, and you realize that the best, most impactful boxing game ever just got notably better and even more visceral.
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