Developer: Vivid Games
Publisher: Vivid Games
Platforms: PS Vita (reviewed), iOS, Android
Release Date: August 28, 2013 (AU/EU), September 17, 2013 (US)
Price: AU$14.95/ £7.99 Available Here (AU) / Available Here (EU)
Sports games have proven to be a popular genre on the PS Vita. Ignoring the woefully small library available to Western gamers for a second, sports titles roughly equal the amount of RPGs, racers and fighters in each category. Fans of football, soccer, baseball, golf and even tennis have something to try on the handheld. Previously released on mobile devices, Real Boxing has been beefed up for its PS Vita debut, promising the most authentic and realistic boxing experience on the handheld platform. Does it score a knockout hit? Read on to find out.
Real Boxing begins with you selecting your fighter and nationality of choice. While I’m no expert, there is plenty to choose from and you can even pair up fighters with a nationality they clearly don’t belong to. That might be a little awkward but it definitely increases the variety. Once you’re in you have four options: Quick fight where the game randomly pairs you up with an AI boxer, career mode which sees you take part in three tournaments, online multiplayer with several features and the gym where you essentially level up your fighter.
The gameplay mechanics in Real Boxing are surprisingly well done, utilising every aspect of the Vita’s control scheme without resorting to any gimmicks you’d normally expect from a more casual title. There are optional touch controls, but you should leave the default button scheme as it is. This is boxing simulation, and it’s done right. The left analogue stick controls the player movement, while the D-pad and action buttons control the left and right arms respectively. Left and right directional and action buttons on each side deliver your hooks, while up and down throw jabs and uppercuts. Alternatively, Vivid Games have made use of the right analogue stick controlling both arms by moving it in various left or right directions. The left shoulder button allows you hit lower body shots while the right button importantly lets you dodge and block by either pressing or holding.
It might take getting used to, but I was able to deftly land blows and evade hits in no time. Career mode is where most will start off, and at first it can be a little too easy to knockout opponents before even the second round. But the difficulty does increase, and when you’re matched up with an opponent who has higher stats than you, you’ll be fighting for your life. Punches hit hard and are satisfying to deliver, while successfully dodging a swing and driving home a counter never gets old.
Fighters are customisable and you have a selection of tattoos, clothes and hair styles to choose from if you have the cash. Money, as well as upgrade points, are earned by winning fights and fulfilling random objectives during a fight such as a knockout delivered by an uppercut. Upgrade points are spent on just three stats: Strength, Stamina and Speed. With at least two points granted after each victory, I found I was upgrading far too quickly across such a narrow choice. More options and skills to upgrade would have spread these out more and would force players to choose wisely on how they want their fighter to perform.
The entrances are a little dull, certainly nothing like the spectacular wrestling counterparts, and bizarrely cut off too quickly before your fighter enters the ring. I was confused a couple of times thinking I skipped the entrance before realising it just ends abruptly. The gym is where you upgrade your fighter splashing cash on your three stats or gain perks by practicing four activities which require you to press the buttons as prompted. Anyone who’s played rhythm games will probably find this too easy, though.
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to test the online component because the game simply couldn’t find any available players at the time. Which is a shame as it seems to have had a lot of work put into it. Players have the option of a single fight, the European Championship, friend invite, leaderboards and local matches.
Real Boxing is clearly made for drop in, drop out gameplay without sacrificing the essence of boxing simulation in the ring. This is perfect for mobiles and handhelds when you’re on the go. Unfortunately, though, this means any real depth to Career Mode is sacrificed in favour of easy-access gameplay. Things like branching storylines, sponsorship deals and more back stage activity would have spiced things up, rather than simply stacking fight after fight on the player and calling it your career.
Real Boxing is running on Unreal Engine 3 and manages to look very slick on the Vita. The player models are clearly motion-captured with smooth animations and bloodied faces that reflect the pummelling that’s dished out over time. It’s a shame though that the same faces manage to look really uncanny during entrance scenes and victories, as the eyes don’t blink and facial features remain static. It would have been at least reassuring to see a smile, or any change of expression, following a win.
The audio makes a good first impression with a really nice menu music theme, convincing announcer voices and really solid sound effects once you start thumping faces.
While the quality with what we have is top notch, in some areas there’s just not enough of it. Announcers say pretty much the same thing every time you win, leaving variety, and therefore the excitement it brings, few and far between.
Real Boxing is ultimately a genuine boxing simulator available as an affordable download title. There is great depth in the gameplay here for the price you pay, even if you don’t get the slew of features one normally expects in a full-priced retail game. The lower price tag also means there is little more to do once you finish the career mode and exhaust all the fairly limited customisation items in the store.
This, however, is perfect for whipping out and relieving some stress on the train after a day’s work. For boxing fans that happen to own a PS Vita, this one’s a no brainer as it’s currently the best boxing experience on the handheld. If you don’t have a PS Vita, it’s hard to recommend buying one solely for this game even with the cheaper model on the way.
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