Who says you have to grow up? Here at SI.com's Game Room, our staffers review the latest sports video game titles to hit the market and welcome your feedback.
12/20/2006 11:59:00 AM
Review: Fight Night 3 (PS3)
By Paul Ulane
It's no secret the video game market is oversaturated with sports titles, from the omnipresent Madden to the "Totally extreme dude!" Tony Hawk series. Only in those cases, if the game isn't in your library, you can still use the weekend to set up a game of touch football or pick up a skateboard. Boxing, on the other hand, is an entirely different story. Not only is it too violent for most weekend warriors, but you need equipment, a ring, and of course, ring girls.
Enter Fight Night: Round 3. Strapping on a pair of gloves, hopping into the ring, and punching out pro pugilists is something most button-mashers have never done. Obviously, the game's most attractive trait is that instead of concussions and loose teeth, the only injury to fear in Round 3 is a pair of sore thumbs. But that doesn't mean this boxing simulation isn't looking to make arm chair sparring partners feel the pain of a jab-haymaker combo to the jaw. The new "Get in the Ring" feature in Round 3 (only available on the PS3 version) lets you see, sometimes rather blurrily, what a real fighter sees. The game's most impressive upgrade is reason alone to pick up this title, and shows off precisely the type of innovative programming a next-gen console should aim to provide to gamers.
Obviously, the first-person perspective dumps you into the ring, but there's more to it than the ability to see the fight through your boxer's eyes. In addition to going toe-to-toe with the best fighters in the business, blurred vision, blind spots, and dulled sound are a painful reminder of what it feels like to get pummeled into collapsing on the canvas. The experience is so real, you'll find yourself scrambling for the Advil bottle after the bout. Adapting from the traditional view takes a few rounds, but it is absolutely worth the trip. Few sports sims offer this type of experience, and if it takes getting knocked senseless for a couple of rounds, so be it.
"Get in the Ring" also delivers a study in the sweet science. Learn to work all areas of the ring, don't get too close, and keep your guard up. Properly timing short jabs and body blows helps set up the bigger hits, like the haymakers, Flash KOs, and Stun Punches. In previous builds of Fight Night, it was possible to wind up and release a monster hit during the most minor of breaks. Round 3 forces you to earn your momentum-shifting shots and choose wisely, because winding up for Flash KOs and Stun Punches leaves you exposed for longer periods of time. The reward is worth the timing, however, as both deliver a blow that leaves your opponent one more connection from the mat.
As with the last Fight Night, all of these punches can come courtesy of maneuvering the analog stick, the motion of which -- pull back, follow through -- helps simulate what it takes to unleash different styles of punches in real-time while fending off opponents. (Don't worry, button bullies, you can still play old-school style... we just won't respect you as much.) Unfortunately, EA didn't take full advantage of the SIXAXIS controller. The only action for the PS3's new motion sensing unit is illegal blows from quick forward controller thrusts, which is also the best way to get disqualified from the fight.
As with all of the PS3's releases so far, its build of Round 3 boasts most of the same features as the Xbox 360's. The realistic graphics that deliver individual beads of sweat, busted lips, and crooked noses look as fantastic as they should on a high-def set up. The career mode gives you two options -- either start fresh with a customizable fighter or rebuild a legend's career however you please. For historians, you can also step into the ring as one of the greatest fighters of all time and put your own stamp on boxing's classic bouts like Ali vs. Frazier or Leonard vs. Duran. There's also little touches, like the ability to heal your boxer in his corner in between rounds manually. Nothing beats wiping blood and mucus out off your fighter's face -- let's just hope we never get to the point of emptying the spit bucket.
For the MTV (or is that MTV2?) generation looking for a quick fix of fisticuffs, there's the single-minded Hard Hits mode, which values brute force over strategy. The knock him down, knock him down again mentality offers the most entertainment value to share with trash-talking friends.
Since this is boxing, there's all sorts of advertising throughout the game, and while synergy in video games is at best irritating, Round 3's deal with ESPN offers up the option of getting the "World Wide Leader" Sports Ticker on all of the menus. Unfortunately, a trademark of this title, load times long enough to let two coats of paint dry, are also back in the ring with Round 3. If there's any fault, it's the amount of time you'll spend listening to second-rate hip-hop tracks from the soundtrack while waiting for your next bout.
Nit-picking aside, Round 3 is the first sport's title to significantly improve on its Xbox 360 counterpart. Obviously, the disturbingly realistic looking graphics and fight features carry over, but the "Get in the Ring" mode is a one-of-a kind gaming experience that has to be seen to be felt. One shot at a knockout blow in slow motion from the first-person perspective and it's clear why the Fight Night: Round 3 experience is worth the training.
SI.com's Game Room looks at this season's crop of games
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07 (EA)
Tiger's back for another round on the PSP. This game is a marked improvement over last year's game and while not as feature-rich as the console versions, it's still a solid portable golf game. We especially liked the mini-games for quick play fun that's arguably more addictive than the standard career mode.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Capcom Collection (Capcom)
Capcom will take you back a ways with this anthology of 19 games from the 1980s Arcade heyday. The highlights include three versions of Street Fighter II (complete with multiplayer ability!) and a triple-shot of the all-time classic 1942 series as well. To top things off, you get three spoonfuls of the Ghosts 'N Goblins franchise too. Plus, there are more than 900 different "collectibles" you can unlock as you play. The only downside is that some of the games don't use up the entire screen.
Rating: 7.5 out of 10
FIFA 07 (EA)
The FIFA franchise is back for a fast-paced and satisfying game that boasts more than 500 teams with representation from just about every league you'd want. Passing is smooth and accurate in FIFA, though the game stumbles a bit with shots on goal that sometimes go inexplicably way off target. However the scoring opportunities are frequent enough to compensate. If soccer is your kind of football then FIFA 07 is well worth it.
Rating: 9 out of 10
KillZone: Liberation (SONY)
Sports games are nice but sometimes it's better to get back to the time-honored tradition of killing lots and lots of aliens with a wide assortment of automatic weapons. Killzone pulls off this primal need very well. The point of view is a sort of mix between third-person and top-down that takes a little bit of getting used to but it works. The duck-and-cover shooting technique isn't perfect, but it's pretty satisfying once you get the hang of it.
Rating: 9.5 out of 10
LEGO Star Wars 2: The Original Trilogy (LucasArts)
There's something about Darth Vader as a Lego character that will crack you up every time. You don't have to be a Star Wars fanboy to enjoy this sharp-looking game, but if you are then this is something you simply must have. Playing through the original trilogy in Lego mode is more fun than a barrel of jawas.
Rating: 8 out of 10
This game looks like something nobody over the age of 6 should be playing. You control a little yellow ball that grows as you pick flowers off of stems. You can press a button and have the yellow ball split up into smaller little yellow balls, then press the button again to have them all rejoin again. The genius is in the controls -- the top left and right buttons cause the ball to bounce
around the screen -- and the ability to pick up and play it without having to read the instruction booklet.
Rating: 9.5 out of 10
Lumines 2 (Buena Vista)
This is not Tetris. If you are expecting Tetris and try to play it like Tetris, then you will be disappointed. If you are open to a new puzzle-game experience, though, then try Lumines 2. The gameplay is easy to grasp but can take a lifetime to master. You have to sort different colored blocks into larger blocks, thereby eliminating as many blocks at once as you can. Meanwhile, music videos from mainstream artists such as Black Eyed Peas, Gwen Stefani and New Order play in the background. Put on your headphones and Lumines 2 makes for the perfect commute companion.
Rating: 10 out of 10
Madden NFL 07 (EA)
Madden junkies will be happy with this title. As for everybody else ... not so much. The main problem is that the action just doesn't translate well to the small PSP screen. The quarterback often rolls out off your field of vision altogether, as do the outside receivers. To get around this, you have to press the "coach's view" button to pan out before every play so that you can see the whole field, then snap the ball before it zooms back to the regular view. If nothing else, the practice mode is worth it if you
want to brush up on your knowledge of formations and audibles.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Marvel Ultimate Alliance (Activision)
Dr. Doom has unleashed an evil plan to take over the world and as a Marvel superhero you're charged with thwarting him and his assorted collective of villains. MUA allows you to assemble a team of your favorite heroes from a healthy selection of 24 playable characters to fight your way through a story rich in Marvel comic characters and lore. One of our favorites, Captain America, is a must-play character just to see the pinball mayhem created when he throws his famous shield.
Rating: 9 out of 10
The XBOX 360 version of MotoGP is exceptional. The problem with the PSP version is that it lacks everything that makes the 360 title so good -- namely, the iPod-customized soundtrack and the Extreme racing modes that let you air out your motorcycle at hair-raising speeds. Basically, if you are really, really into motorcycle racing, then this is for you. Otherwise, you're better off
with a regular car racing game.
Rating: 6 out of 10
NBA 07 (SONY)
The regular gameplay mode is pretty standard fare. What makes this game interesting are the abundant mini-games, including a skee-ball mode of all things. Pickup hoops is the highlight -- you get to choose sides from a random allotment of scrubs and stars before each game. Conquest builds on the pickup hoops mode with a RISK-like setup that proves addictive.
Rating: 6.5 out of 10
NBA LIVE 07 (EA)
Those of you who were disappointed with the console version of this title may want to check it out on PSP. For a portable game, it's surprisingly deep. It's got tons of features, including two innovative mini-games (2 Ball and Handles). The gameplay itself can be a bit glitchy but for the most part it's pretty smooth. The key is figuring out the superstar controls that allow you to change the skills sets on your top players on the fly (i.e. from inside scorer to outside scorer, etc.). Perhaps the best feature of all is the full-fledged dynasty mode, which you can hook match up with your PS2 save file as well.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Need for Speed Carbon (EA)
Drive around town in your pimped-out ride and choose different street races to join in on, picking up new members for your crew and adding territories to your empire along the way. What this game lacks in graphics and glitz it makes up for with something you rarely see in video games these days -- an interesting story. The hard part: Shaking loose from those coppers!
Rating: 8.5 out of 10
NHL 07 (EA)
NHL 07 returns with a few game play tweaks from last year's solid title. One-timers aren't nearly as easy which in turn makes scoring goals in other ways a lot more realistic and interesting. Aiming and shooting are more precise though the game certainly leans more towards arcade than simulation, but for the PSP it works well.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories (RockStar)
In GTA you're Vic Vance fresh out of the army and in need of some quick cash to help out your brother. Vic is quick to remind himself and the other characters in the story how much he objects to the illicit, illegal and generally uncivil behavior he engages in to make the dough. While the story is silly the game play is classic GTA goodness. You'll learn to ignore Vic's speeches and enjoy driving many vehicles (including a helicopter and a water ski) and generally shooting, fighting and running your way through Vice City. Parents should note that this one is M for Mature.