Electronic Arts has a knack for making me think they should stick to making sports games, but this is usually for reasons that don't reflect well on EA. I'm happy to say that Fight Night Round 3, which has wowed people with recent hype as a PS3 title, plays nearly as fluidly as it looks.
A demo was released earlier today on the XBox Live network for free to subscribers of the service, featuring two fighters and a single ring, which is certainly adequate to sample the depth, if not the variety, of gameplay.
I had the chance to play the game in front of someone who is not a gamer, and they were completely blown away by what they described as nearly believable photorealism. I suppose I'm a bit more jaded when it comes to game graphics, but I do have to confess I'm impressed. The combination of high defination textures and models with unique camera and lighting techniques creates an experience that's closer to controlling a fighter in a televised boxing match than I would have thought possable.
The dialog that accompianes the fight is equally laudable. EA Sports titles have had commentary that has impressed me going back at least as far as their NHL game in 1997, but this is the first one I've played that blends in as background noise when screened out in the same way that real commentary does. This may not sound like a compliment, but the difference is in the jarring cuts between bits of dialog that we've been spared this time around - to me this brought to mind an otherwise competant jazz band with a terrible bass player. The difference is in what you don't hear, and while the result begs to be experienced through something with good bass reproduction to counter a slightly tinny edge, this demo features undeniably the best virtual sportscast audio I've ever heard.
The combination of the graphics and sound, combined with the ease of downloading the demo onto the 360, for no additional fees beyond the XBox Live subscription, goes a ways towards quelling anxieties about what I think is a rather lackluster lineup of launch titles. Watch for Fight Night Round 3 to come out next month, which adds nicely to what is shaping up to be a great Winter season for Xbox 360.
As a Buffalonian and upstate native, it would be neglectful of me to not mention that if Baby Joe Mesi isn't included in the game, he really ought to be made available as a downloadable character (*ahem*).