I’ll be honest, the last time I played a boxing video game was Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out on the NES. That’s how into boxing games I am, but I saw EA’s Fight Night Round 3 for sale really cheap so I decided to pick it up and am glad that I did. Fight Night is the undisputed champion of boxing gaming, and if you need proof just look at the fact that there are no other boxing games out there.

In terms of core gameplay you’ve got Total Punch Control, which allows for fluid punching with the use of the analog joystick, and the integrated controls for leaning and blocking/parrying remain as well. Haymakers also feature big in the game, but thankfully, they’ve been significantly modified. Round 3 also adds two new kinds of punches, both of which are created by “pulling back” or “throwing forward” on the analog stick to a greater degree than you would for a haymaker. Stun punches throw the game into a first-person perspective with the defender unable to counterattack, defending himself against the attacker until the stun moment passes. If the defender gets hit with any heavy punch during the stun moment, it’s an instant knockdown. The other new punch is the KO moment punch; it simply puts the hit boxer into a standard KO moment.

One thing noticeable is the many different boxing styles that can be formed by customizing your boxer in three categories: “core” boxing style, i.e. speed, power, balanced, etc.; punching style, i.e. hard straights, quick jabs, heavy power punches, etc.; and defensive style, which includes the classic style and the cross style. These styles can be combined in a number of different ways, and they have very real and important effects on how your boxer moves, throws punches, and defends in the ring.

The career mode allows you to climb the ladder to the top of the rankings. You’ve got to deal with a popularity meter that determines just what fights you can and can’t accept. The game brings a lot of neat little features such as old trunk patterns, boxer nicknames, patterned gloves and lots more, making it extremely easy to customize your boxer as you see fit.

The graphics for this game are absolutely outstanding and look great. The environments look beautiful, as do the ring girls. The worst looking things are the audiences, which are your basic generic, undetailed crowds that we’ve come used to. It really doesn’t bother me though, especially when you see the detail in the lint in the air, the sweat pouring down the boxers face, the ripple of the boxers face when he gets pounded and so on.

The soundtrack is a pretty good rhythm/rap collection so if that’s your genre then you will be in heaven because they’ve done a great job with the selection of songs. Where things get really interesting is in the ringside sounds. Boxer grunts, punch impacts, and best of all, that horrible cracking-popping sound when you deliver a heavy blow to the head further enhance the playing experience. Joe Tessitore, from ESPN, turns in a solid performance as the match caller, but can get a little reptetive at times.

Fight Night 3 is an extremely fun game that gives you a great boxing experience and looks and sounds absolutely stunning. A lot of people have slammed EA for porting too many games to the 360 and doing nothing in regards to the looks. You can’t say that for this one, it’s definitely next gen material.