By Alan Scherstuhl
By Charles Taylor
By Melissa Anderson
By Inkoo Kang
By Amy Nicholson
By Sam Weisberg
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Chuck Wilson
I knew it wasn't going to be as dark and myth-filled as Tosches' The Devil In Sonny Liston. And I knew it wasn't going to tell the whole story like Remnick's King of the World. Still, when I was told of the opportunity to meet and play FIGHT NIGHT ROUND 3 with cover athlete Arturo Gatti, I jumped at the chance. Since I had to keep my game face on, I didn't mention that I was nervous about meeting Arturo. Gatti's kind of a real life Rocky, who's known for his legendary fights against Micky Ward. He's also been the WBC super welterweight champ and he punches so hard with such spirit, the Jersey City-based fighter often breaks his right hand.
In a large suite in a fancy midtown Manhattan hotel, Gatti admitted he hadn't played the game until that morning. It was no comfort: I hadn't played the game at all. "But I'm pretty good at it," Gatti jabbed. Great, I thought, I'm going to get a virtual butt whomping which I will never live down.
Arturo chose to play as the legendary "fists of stone," Roberto Duran. I picked the equally legendary Ray Robinson. Both fighters looked ready, massive, fine-tuned bodies full of rage and stamina. When the bell rang, Gatti began to brawl: he wasn't blocking at all. I thought I'd be down in a minute: the swift punches came hard and the bone crunches echoed à la Raging Bull. I found the block button and got Duran with a series of rights. Duran appeared dazed. And then, Gatti as Duran fell, knocked down hard by Robinson. Gatti stood up and tried to use body English to get Duran off the mat. In the game, there's a way to revive a knocked down fighter before the 10-count. But Arturo wasn't able to move two dots into the center of the screen using the controller sticks. Duran stayed down. I had bested the great Arturo Gatti.
At first, there was disbelief on Gatti's face, then a flash of anger, at which point I wanted to run down Fifth Avenue as quickly as I could. Moments later, there was good natured respect. "Congratulations," he said. Even in loss, Arturo Gatti was a class act.
This ain't no cheap arcade game. On the next generation 360 console, the faces look as close to human as I've ever seen in a game (although I still love its brawling predecessor, Knockout Kings). This version doesn't make you use the annoying right stick to throw the punches if you don't want to. I'd suggest that you try Controller Setup 3 in Options. That way, you can use buttons to throw punches. You can still punch using the right stick, if you so choose.
The perks here are as varied as Ali's footwork. ESPN Classic mode lets you refight some of the best matches of all time. While the Career mode isn't stellar, it (and the whole game) sports some of the finest dialogue I've ever heard in a boxing offering. New innovations include the Stun Punch, which puts you in a scary first person perspective, and Flash KO, one dynamite punch that yields a knockout. Finally, there's a minigame which takes place at a press conference. After a few barbs are tossed, it turns into a brawl, just as some of promoter Don King's press conferences did.
I do have some beefs with FNR3. The announcers often seem to recount the pugilistic blows long after the punches are thrown. And the faces in the crowd, although nicely rendered, should be more varied. The online mode sometimes suffers from lag time, which is no good when you're boxing. Finally, I wish that the story within the game was as rich as Tosches' or Remnick's work. Then, I'd really be knocked out. Still, this game feels so real (and that goes for the Xbox, PS2 and PSP versions), you'll be gritting your teeth as you fight, ever bobbing and weaving . . . in couch potato mode, of course.Check out reviews of all the latest and greatest games (updated every week), along with past faves in NYC Guide.
World Soccer Winning Eleven 9 International
Developer: Konami TYO
Soccer moms: hide your children. World Soccer Winning Eleven 9 International is upon us and that means no homework will ever be done again. Despite its unwieldy name, WSWE9 is the only choice for action, graphics and a true simulation of soccer. Here're just the facts, ma'am. With 136 club teams, 57 national teams, and over 4,500 players, you'll never lack for variety. Plus, it's not simply kicking the ball down the field and into the goal. This game is hard to play, and that difficulty enhances what every sports game needs: dramatic tension, the hand-wringing, sweat-spewing, bug-eyed kind.
What makes the game even more intense is the so-called artificial intelligence coded onto the disk. From the referee, who constantly and manically runs up and down the field handing out penalties, to the players, who have the same personality traits and physical strengths as their real-life counterparts, you will be challenged so much that the ref would yellow card you in your living room.
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