I’m a boxing fan from long ago. The golden years with stars like Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard made the sport so enjoyable to watch; however, since that time I am of the opinion that the sport turned into a clown show, although it has made a relative comeback in recent years. In my eyes video game boxing has probably two or three really memorable titles throughout the years. Who could forget Nintendo’s fun and addictive Punch Out or the equally enjoyable Ready to Rumble on Sega’s ill-fated Dreamcast. Of course the most realized boxing series goes to Fight Night from EA, which brings me to Real Boxing for the PS Vita.
‘On-the-go’ boxing games aren’t at the top of my list for must play games, but Real Boxing for the PS Vita makes an honest effort to combine real boxing with some fun arcade elements thrown into the mix. My first impression is that the game mirrors the Fight Night franchise pretty closely from its presentation to the fighting mechanics. Real Boxing is available from the PS Store and it is a painless download, just make sure to have enough card space to install it on. I ran into space issues and kept getting error codes while downloading until I finally made some room on my memory card.
The game is surprisingly fluid but not without a few issues. Once you have created a boxer to your liking from a fairly detailed and impressive host of options; you can use one of two control schemes. The name of the game is to whittle down your opponents stamina while protecting your own. I had a tough time right from the opening bell, as my boxer was pretty average in terms of his attributes. You can elect to use the analog controls or the d-pad; either way is fine and I found myself using a combination of both. It was more button mashing then rather actual combos, but still, combos are there and they can be strung together for some great results.
There is also a block button on the right bumper. The button has another use in certain situations as it can trigger a dodge, which in turn can set you up for a vicious counter attack. Timing is key here as any advantage you may have gained from a perfectly timed dodge can fall flat if you do not time your offensive attack accordingly. It takes some practice but the rewards can be great. Getting knocked down requires you to tap the left and right bumper buttons in rapid succession to get back up, and while clinching you have to balance your Vita (left and Right) to keep the arrow within the green scale. If the area hits the red area your clinch will be unsuccessful resulting in your fighter not resting and leaving him vulnerable to more pummeling.
The initial learning curve is steep, but as you unlock more attributes and get used to the skill aspect of the game it does get easier. There is a pretty neat training area too. I’m finding that the gameplay mechanics are fairly sound, but somewhat robotic, perhaps stiff if you will. There were times that I felt as if the reaction punches are not fast enough often missing or becoming just glancing blows. I was also disappointed at the lack of signature punches for each boxer as well as the lack of licensed boxers that would truly reflect the spirit of the sport.
The Vita’s OLED screen is a perfect platform to showcase Real Boxings’ fairly impressive graphical qualities. The game is by far one of better looking titles on the little machine, as it pushes the much-vaunted Unreal 3 Engine. The fighters are all well animated and sharp looking although none of them have an ounce of body fat. The backgrounds and surrounding ring areas are nicely represented but can be a bit muddy at times and the textures tend to bleed into each other the farther out you go. To be honest most will not notice any issues though as their sight lines are focused on the action at hand, which looks solid.
The sound work in Real Boxing is also pretty well covered. Sound effects of the boxers grunting and getting punched are quite realistic with some aural color added. Unfortunately the ring announcer is quite terrible, and becomes extremely annoying. Even boxing novices will tend to tune this guy out, as some of what he says has no bearing on the fight at all. His script is predictable, repetitive and is the only real downer in the audio department.
Even with its shortcomings Vivid Games has done an admirable job of bringing a somewhat fairly authentic feel to a boxing game for the PS Vita. Sure, it has a few issues but it has enough going for it that most gamers and fans of the sport will like it. With sharp visuals and big rewards, even after a somewhat steep learning curve, I pretty much enjoyed my time with Real Boxing and you should too.