Review: Real Boxing

RealBoxing_0007

Looking for a boxing game on the PlayStation Vita? Well, unless you dig back into the PSP catalog for an old Fight Night, you have but one option: Real Boxing from Vivid Games.

Real Boxing, while not great, is a respectable video game simulation of the sport. Three methods of control establish a strong fundamental core: You can float like a butterfly and sting like a bee using analog sticks and face buttons, or use the touch screen to turn those fingers of yours into fists. All three schemes are effective in their own way, but to my tastes flicking the right analog stick to jab, cross, and uppercut feels the tightest and most responsive. Putting together combo strings just has a snappier, smoother flow since you simply need to alter the tilt angle of the stick to change from a jab to a cross, compared to bouncing your thumb around the various face buttons to perform the different punch types. Touch screen punching works surprisingly well (tap to jab, swipe horizontally to cross, swipe vertically to uppercut), however fighter movement is automated and you have no control over modifying punches for high or low strikes like you can using buttons or analog stick controls. Due to these limitations, touch controls cannot be used during online play.

After playing the tutorial to learn the ropes and settle on a preferred control type, you’ll find that the game is for the most part mechanically sound. Real Boxing, as you should have already discerned from its title, very much is a simulation. You won’t find any crazy special attacks or unrealistically long combos, just boxing in its purist, simplest form, where blocking, dodging, counter-punching, and tactically out boxing the opponent will lead you down the road to success. A stamina bar keeps the pacing grounded in reality. You can bum rush the opponent with a flurry of punches if desired, but as stamina drains your punches and reaction time grow weaker and slower. It’s best to take a methodical approach, probing the opponent with jabs, softening him up with body blows, and making sure to keep your stamina reserves high for when an opportunity for a power punch presents itself.

Evasion is an important skill to master, as performing a perfectly timed dodge provides a quick stamina burst and briefly slows down time, giving you a small window to land a devastating counter. My only issue with the countering system is that it often prevents you from being able to continue into a combo while your opponent is staggered. So much force goes into a counter that your fighter either momentarily stops reacting, or the other fighter will be knocked backwards so far he’ll have enough time to recover before you can reach him. Character movement in general is just a bit too stiff.

RealBoxing_0008

As a simulation, I did find it disappointing how poor some of the logic is as it relates to boxing rules and scoring. For example there are no TKOs. On multiple occasions I have knocked another fighter down four or five times in a single round and yet the ref will not stop the fight, my opponent will somehow continue to survive the 10-second countdown to avoid a KO, and the fight will drag into another round when the fight should be called already.

The way judges score fights also strikes me as flawed. Winning rounds seems to be based purely on who lands the most punches, regardless of the quality of those punches and the health of the two dueling pugilists. When I reached the final career tier and found my growing boxer outclassed by fighters who would quickly drain my health bar with only a few punches, I found that I could win easily as long as I pecked away by piling up a lot of wimpy body blows. The other fighter was clearly dominating me in terms of dealing power punches and even knocking me down a time or two over the course of the bout, but I would ultimately win by decision simply by consistently landing a higher per-round punch count. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t hurting the other fighter whatsoever. At times I did feel like I was smartly out boxing my opponent, but at others it felt like I was exploiting a loophole to cheat out a win I clearly didn’t deserve.

Clinching is handled in a silly way as well. Whenever a fighter’s health has reached the point where a knockdown could be imminent, he will be able to attempt a clinch on the other fighter, at which point a tilt-the-Vita mini-game will appear. If you manage to balance an arrow within the green zone of a shrinking meter as it sways back and forth, without falling into the encroaching red zone for too long, the clinch will break and your fighter will be re-energized with a sizable health bar boost (or vice versa if you’re the one being clinched). The health increase is so substantial that it almost seems like an unfair advantage for winning such a crummy mini-game.

I have also noticed quite a few animation glitches, particularly during these clinches. A few times I’ve seen a clinch activate when the two fighters aren’t even next to each other. They both enter the grasp animation but are hugging about an inch or two of thin air between them. Another time I experienced a bug which actually caused both boxers to just sort of shut down on the spot at the end of a clinch, and neither I or nor my opponent could move for the remaining duration of the round. (Fortunately once the round ended everything was back to normal for the next round.) Yet another time my fighter went into the clinch state while the other fighter continued to move around and landed a few cheap punches before the animation finally clicked in.

RealBoxing_0010

The presentation is fairly poor overall, actually. I have seen knockdown replays fail to appear–the screen just goes black until the downed pugilist is counted out or gets back up and the fight resumes. I have seen other odd animations where a boxer’s arm will jitter around or bend in Gumby-like angles when making contact or when the animations are changing from a perfect dodge into a counter punch. This game also has one of the lamest sports game announcers I’ve heard. He adds no excitement to the bout, nor does he bring any substance as a straight color commentator; he just sort of throws out a bland one-liner every now and then.

But things aren’t all bad. Real Boxing’s solid fighting mechanics are complemented by some truly impressive visual assets. Vivid Games has harnessed the power of the Unreal Engine to produce detailed fighters that realistically bloody, bruise, and drop like a sack of potatoes. Punches land with both visible and audible impact, making all of your senses feel the oomph of every strike.

Real Boxing has the bare essentials when it comes to modes. You can quick fight against AI or spar against other live players in local or online bouts. Finding online opponents hasn’t always been easy, but except for a match or two performance has been stable when I have found someone to make my punching bag. Of course the main attraction here is the career mode, a basic series of bronze, silver, and gold round robins which end in bracketed tournaments. As you grind up the ladder and complete practice mini-games (punching bag, speed bag, jump rope), you’ll earn cash and bonus points to pump into advancing your created fighter’s attributes in strength, stamina, and speed, in addition to unlocking perks which allow you to augment your character’s skills with special abilities like faster health regeneration or reduced stamina cost for certain punch types. Fighter customization is fairly in-depth, too, offering up a wide variety of gloves, shorts, shoes, tattoos, hairstyles, and facial hair options to unlock along the way.

Unfortunately, finishing the career mode doesn’t present much of a challenge, and as a result it won’t require more than a few hours of your time. Hell, when I reached the gold level I restarted from the beginning just to build stats for the final gauntlet and I still managed to complete the career and 100% all attributes in only a couple sessions. There just isn’t much long term substance here.

Being the only boxing title available on the Vita makes it a little easier to forgive some of the game’s flaws. Real Boxing definitely fills a niche and for that alone it is worth considering if you are a fan of the sport. (The cheap $9.99 full price helps ease some of the expectations as well.) However, even though the game plays well and looks great most of the time, overall it doesn’t quite deliver the world class boxing simulation the Vita deserves.

TryIt

Pros:
+ Three well-implemented control schemes
+ Solid core mechanics make for realistic boxing action
+ Impressive Unreal Engine graphics
+ Good fighter customization depth

Cons:
– Basic career mode doesn’t require much time or effort
– Slight mode lineup overall
– Horrible clinching mini-game
– Bland announcer and crowd ambiance
– Too many animation glitches
– Flawed judging logic

Game Info:
Platform: Reviewed on PlayStation Vita, also available on iOS and Android devices
Publisher: Vivid Games
Developer: Vivid Games
Release Date: 10/15/2013
Genre: Sports – Boxing
ESRB Rating: Teen
Players: 1-2 (local and online)
Source: Review code provided by publisher

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!