I remember 1979 when Rocky II came out. I was on a family vacation in Florida and I came out of the movie theatre after seeing it, full of excitement and bravado, like I could take on the world!! I climbed up onto a bellmans luggage cart at the hotel we were staying at with my arms raised in the air and humming the theme to Rocky, the wheels shifted, and I ended up on my rear, but my spirit was not broken, just like my new hero Rocky Balboa.
But Rocky II was just a precursor to the Star Wars Kid like fascination I would have with the third installation of the series (which should have been the last), aptly named Rocky III. Clubber Lang (Mr. T) was like the baddest dude I had ever seen!! I mean, who could beat this boxing machine who was more of a street fighter than a boxer? And what was Rocky doing kerfuffling around with Thunderlips: The Ultimate Male (a.k.a. Hulk Hogan) when he had the match of his life ahead of him? The angst I felt was immeasurable!!
Now, I know at this point youre probably thinking, cmon Salmy this is a game review, get to the game, but I must tell you, I dont feel that I could properly put this game into perspective without relaying to you my passion for the Rocky movies.
There are a few different game modes, Knockdown Tournament, Survival Mode (which is an unlockable feature), and Career Mode. I played career mode. The game starts out with a few possibilities of play, which I believe, gives this game more legs than others in its genre. You have the opportunities to play as Rocky Balboa, Apollo Creed, Clubber Lang or Ivan Drago. Each choice brings its own video sequence and life story. I played as everyone, except for Ivan Drago, and the stories are ok - you know, the general background, and a bit thrown in. Each personality has their own unique climb up the ladder of contention, with a training session in between fights.
This is a part of the game that I really like. As you climb up the ranks, you have the opportunity to jump up a little faster by being able to fight a better boxer. So, if youre ranked 22nd, you have the opportunity to fight either the 21st, 20th, or 19th ranked boxers. However, things to keep in mind are amount of time before your fight, and your current skill level. If you jump too fast, then boxers ahead of you can have significantly better skill sets than you, and the fight can be an uphill battle. Sure you might get out of the gate pretty quick, but youll tire soon, and the fight can change hands quickly. So, in between fights, is the game within the game. You can train to improve your skills through several different training activities, some of which, are unique to the boxer youve chosen. Like for Clubber Lang, you can do chin-ups, or with Apollo, you can spar, or with Rocky, you can chase a chicken. Each of these training activities increases your skills in certain areas; so if you lacked the stamina in a previous bout, train in the area that increases your stamina. Now, me being as uncoordinated as I am, I had a tough time with some of the training exercises, so for the hopelessly ungifted such as myself, there is a handy little button called AUTOTRAIN, which helps you through. You wont score bonus points with it, but often helped me score higher than I would have. Ive often thought that game reviewers should get the teachers edition, so that everything is unlocked, and we can see what happens in the end, but my countless letters and phone calls have fallen on deaf ears (and given me an FBI file, or as we say in Canada C.S.I.S.).
Fighting is relatively easy, the buttons are straight forward, and once you get a few bouts under your belt, you can develop your own strategy. I found it easiest to stay put for the most part with the gloves up, take a few blows while covered up, then jab, jab, jab till your opponent is back on his heels a bit, then move in for the big uppercut. Usually in sticking with that tactic, you can run up your punch count on him, and win each round by points. There are times in a fight when you get like a super punch power, but I found it unclear how to get it. In addition, every once in a while the FURY feature comes up (again, Im not sure why), and if you press the fury button, your punches mean a whole lot more.
Im not terribly wowed by the graphics in this game, but Im not put off either. Its hard to make video game people look like real people, especially when theyre as famous as the characters from Rocky but they did a pretty good job. Remember Captain Keyes from Halo? The characters are rendered pretty much like that. Where they lacked, was in the general feel of the game. It feels sort of dirty, you know? Theres nothing at all crisp about it. Movement is good, and they really seemed to mimic the styles of each boxer well. Clubber Lang has that ferocious roundhouse flurry, Rocky Balboa has that distinct body twinge as he gets hit in the kidney, and every now and then there is blood splattered on the camera for an extra gruesome effect.
An aspect of this game that really could have used some improvement is the sound. It seems almost as though it was an afterthought. The worst part is the ring announcer, old kung-fu movies were dubbed better than this. In addition the cut scenes are poorly dubbed. The voices of the character arent a great match either, Rocky is pretty good, but then again, a 3 year old with a cold can do Rocky, but the rest are just off, they dont capture the feel from the moviesespecially Clubber Lang. I pity da po foo who did da voice of Mista T!!! The music isnt there either, I guess Survivor was charging too much on the royalties for Eye of the Tiger (with Rocky III being my favourite, I was looking forward to rocking out to it). The normal boxing sounds are there, and the crowd and so on, but it just wasnt put together well, and an increased effort needs to be there, should they decide to make this a video game trilogy (by the way, that was not a suggestion).
Suggestions: Over all this is a good play. I had a lot of fun with it, especially because Im such a huge Rocky fan. Had this game been a little crisper visually and lit a little differently, and some serious time been spent on sound, it would have fetched a far better rating from me. The problem is there are just too many loose ends with this title, and with it not being the biggest selling genre, its hard to blame them for not going that extra mile. However, with that being said, if you like boxing games, and especially if you like Rocky, give this a look, its a lot of fun, theres a little strategy involved, and with the different character stories to follow, and a few unlockable features, it has more life than other games in its genre. This is definitely one of the better boxing games Ive played.