After more than a year on store shelves, the PS Vita has proven itself a viable platform for today's hottest fighting games. From Mortal Kombat
to Street Fighter X Tekken
, Sony's handheld is more than capable of feeding your one-on-one appetite. But if there's one type of portable fighting game that has been all but ignored, it's boxing. That is until now, thanks to Real Boxing from Vivid Games.
Despite my love for the fighting genre, I confess that my interest in boxing is low. That's not to say that I haven't put my fair share of time into becoming a virtual pugilist, but most of that time and effort went into Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! on the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System. With a name like Real Boxing, I had a hunch this PS Vita game wasn't going to have me fighting Mr. Sandman and Don Flamenco.
As it turns out, I was right. Real Boxing attempts to create a proper simulation, not unlike Electronic Arts' long-running Fight Night franchise. But don't expect the big budget visuals and diverse modes from that series, because this digital download cuts a few corners in order to meet the ten dollar asking price.
It all starts with a custom pugilist. You choose the look, attributes, birthplace and more, all in hopes of taking him through the ranks and becoming the greatest virtual boxer of all time. The campaign is split up into three different tiers -- Roosters' Tournament, Night of Champions and Boxing Legends. Each tier plays out the same way, with our customized fighter slowly making his way up the ladder until he qualifies for the tournament. Win the fight and earn a trophy, rinse, repeat.
But the dream of fighting to the top requires a lot of training. When you're not fighting the game's medium-sized roster of computer-controlled boxers, it's important to hit the gym. Here you can earn special perks by playing a series of mini-games, including jump rope and hitting a punching bag. You'll also be able to spend money to upgrade the fighter's speed, strength and stamina.
Most games allow players to choose between several different control schemes, but only Real Boxing allows you to use them all at once. Most players will likely opt for the dual analog approach, which maps all of the different punches to the right analog stick. If that isn't precise enough, the game also allows players to use a combination of face buttons and the D-pad. Switching between these control schemes doesn't require going into the options menu or restarting the match, it's as easy as repositioning your hand.
The boxing mechanics are extremely simple. No matter whether you use the buttons or the analog sticks, Real Boxing is accessible for all players. Perhaps even a bit too accessible. I found that most of the computer-controlled fighters didn't put up much of a challenge. In fact, I didn't lose a single match until well into the third and final tier. I quickly grew bored with Real Boxing, thanks in large part to the lack of challenge and incompetent computer opponents.
Had the game been slightly more difficult, I likely would not have noticed the lack of modes until much later. Players can jump into a quick match, train in the gym, change their profile and work their way up the career ladder. That's it. Sure there are a few mini-games to complete, but 99% of Real Boxing involves you going toe-to-toe with a mindless computer opponent. It doesn't help that many fighters look and act the same. The whole game feels aggressively repetitive.
Thankfully, many of these problems melt away the moment you play against another human player. Either online or off, Real Boxing comes alive when you leave behind the idiot computer opponents. Unfortunately, the gameplay is too simple for its own good. Even though the human players put up more of a fight, I grew tired of the same basic moves and lack of depth. This is a game that gets many of the core basics right, but fails to build on the theme in any meaningful way.
Real Boxing was originally an iOS game, but you wouldn't know it from the visuals. The character models look good and the seven real-world backgrounds (including New York, Rome, Chicago, Las Vegas and London) are full of detail. Things break down a bit once the action starts and the characters begin animating. Sometimes my fighter would be incredibly stiff, while other times the punch animation would unrealistically wiggle (like a wet noodle). Most of the roughness is easy to overlook, though I would have liked a more diverse roster of opponents.
Real Boxing succeeds in offering a simple sports simulator at an affordable price. This is a game that has all of the core fundamentals in place, but doesn't bother to do anything with them. There aren't enough modes to keep a player busy and the barebones gameplay lacks any kind of depth. And to make matters worse, the whole thing is so easy that you'll barely need to bother blocking. Real Boxing puts up a good fight, but doesn't manage the KO.
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