Vivid Games' 'Real Boxing' for PS Vita.
Vivid Games' 'Real Boxing' for PS Vita.
Boxing has been a popular sport for quite some time. By that, of course, I mean practically since the dawn of humanity. It's no surprise, of course, that video game boxing has been around since shortly after the dawn of the industry. Real Boxing, the latest in the sports sub-genre from Vivid Games, looks to deliver some hard hits. Unfortunately, it takes a few lumps of its own along the way.
The concept of boxing is pretty simple: hit your opponent more often and harder than he hits you. In a pinch, that's exactly what Real Boxing is all about. Unlike arcade-style boxing games like Punch-Out!! and Ready-2-Rumble Boxing, Real Boxing tries to be as real as a boxing video game can be. Don't expect any over-the-top characters and far-out moves in this one. This time around, it's all about sweat, tears, and a broken nose or two.
Those expecting to having themselves held by the hand throughout this game will be sorely disappointed. Outside of a short-ish tutorial that teaches you the basics, it's into the ring and out of your comfort zone. Unlike the arcade-style games, however, it's not about throwing punch after punch. After all, that'll just tire your boxer out. Fighting in Real Boxing is much more like a puzzle game or well-choreographed dance as knowing when to punch, when to block, and when to dodge are all equally important. Of course, landing that perfect right hook is pretty sweet, too.
Just because the game doesn't put you on a step-by-step, color by number path to instant success doesn't mean players are left to their own devices. There are training modes designed for players to refine their skill (or develop some) and get some extra cash. The money is then used to outfit your boxer with fancier-looking equipment and hair-doos as well as level-up his skills. Later in the game these training modes can be easily ignored, but new players and those who haven't played for a while should find them useful for figuring out the game's muddled control scheme.
Controls are mostly mapped to the Vita's twin analog sticks (by default) or via touch (if one prefers). The former is the way to go, but it doesn't always make sense - nor is it as fluid a system as Vivid may had hoped during development. Boxer movement (controlled via the left stick) feels inexact and sluggish. The throwing of punches (controlled via the right stick) is responsive, yet inexact. Blocking and dodging are delegated to the shoulder buttons and are probably the easiest two things to control in the game. Opting for touchscreen controls simplifies things as boxer movement becomes automatic, but it also makes the actual fighting seem sluggish.
There were also some visual issues encountered during my playthrough. While individual boxers looked rather well detailed, there were times when their animations went (for the lack of a better term) wonky. Every now and then during a bout a boxer's arm would go weird before snapping back into place as if nothing had ever happened. At most, this occurred maybe three times during any one match - if it happened at all. Fact is that it would, at times, go spastic and cause a brief (but real) distraction.
In addition to its core single match, career, and training core gameplay options, Real Boxing also features online matchmaking. If you decide to give it a go, good luck. After three failed attempts at locating a sparring partner, I just gave up and considered it to be an offline-only game.
Real Boxing, while not nearly as fun as the arcade-style boxing video games, does still provide a fairly satisfying play. It's issues, while present, are not game-breakers and it gives Vita owners a new entry into a sports sub-genre that hasn't been shown a lot of love over the past few years. It'll be a good distraction to take on the go, but at home I'll probably stick with Knockout Kings 2000 on my Nintendo 64 as I have for the past dozen or so years.
Version tested: PlayStation Vita
(Vivid Games supplied a copy of this game for review.)
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