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Xbox Review - 'Rocky'

by Justin on Dec. 11, 2002 @ 9:18 a.m. PST

Rage has exclusively licensed the computer and video game rights from MGM Interactive to produce a series of games based on the critically acclaimed Rocky movie anthology. The Rocky series will be recaptured and brought to life on consoles. The original Rocky film starring Sylvester Stallone earned an Academy Award for Best Picture in 1976, and went on to gain worldwide recognition as one of the greatest feel good movies of all time. To commemorate the titles 25th anniversary, MGM have released a special edition of the Rocky Gift Set. Read more and find out if it makes the final round or not ...

Genre: Sport
Publisher: UbiSoft
Developer: Rage
Release Date: 12-Nov-2002

Many years have passed since the debut of Rocky, a movie about boxing, starring Sylvester Stallone. Almost surprisingly, we’re seeing a game based on the five Rocky movies right now, when there’s absolutely nothing to promote. Nevertheless, Rocky is actually a decent game, and while it may not have the emotional factor the films had, it’s chock-full of fun boxing.

The characters of the game are obviously important in a movie-to-game translation, and thankfully, the game does them right. The Italian Stallion, Rocky Balboa, is modeled pretty nicely. Sure, it’s not picture perfect, but you can tell it’s Rocky. Mr. T, who stars as Clubber Lang, is indeed modeled nicely, which I do appreciate – who doesn’t want to be/beat up Mr. T? The other stars, like Ivan Drago and Tommy Gunn look fine as well. However, in order to extend the length of the game, many additional boxers were created by the developers. Some of them are actually pretty cool, but many are generic and boring.

When we boot up the game, we’re introduced to a few different modes: there’s exhibition, movie mode, sparring, and some other basic fighting game material; nothing groundbreaking. Movie Mode doesn’t quite live up to its name. Sure, you fight boxers in the order that Rocky did throughout the movies, and there are a few cut scenes that appear between every few matches, but it never really feels like you’re playing the movie, which is too bad.

Between every round, we find a few meters showing how good Rocky is considering strength, stamina, movement, and more. To increase his stats, you can participate in training exercises, which are admittedly pretty boring and repetitive, but they do help you become a little better at playing. Depending on how well you do in the exercises, up to ten points are added to that particular attribute. This is a pretty nifty idea that helps take away the monotony of fight after fight.

Also in movie mode and worth mentioning are the cut scenes. I hate to say it, but they aren’t that great. Sure, they lifted sound clips right out of the movies, but boy, they sound really muddy and low-quality. It sounds like someone put a microphone up to a television that was playing Rocky on VHS. The animation isn’t wonderful either, and the people’s faces lack emotion. They do get the job done in introducing the characters Rocky will be up against, and a few events, like the death of Rocky’s boxing friend, but a lot of the plot is gone.

There are a few nice touches, though. You notice that your coach, who was previously an old fellow, become past rival Apollo Creed. Rocky has a different look depending on how he looks in each movie. Little things like these make good use of the license.

As for the actual boxing, it’s not bad. There are different punches allocated to each of the four main buttons, and holding R will modify those punches. Holding L will allow for blocking and evasion, while the left thumb stick is used for movement. They’re simple, but they work, and anyone can pick up and play. Of course, since some of the moves are stronger than others, you’ll find yourself using the same ones a lot, and this can lead to some button-mashing. Frankly, there isn’t much strategy involved. It’s a lot of exchanging blows. It’s fun, but it does get old.

There are some kinks that could be worked out, too. You might often find yourself throwing a punch and having it almost connect, but totally stopped because you get hit before the other guy. Over and over and over again. The difficulty pacing is also off. You might go from one rather hard fight, to an extremely easy one, or vise-versa.

The graphics in the game aren’t bad, but they aren’t amazing either. The background behind the arena does look nice and detailed, full of life. There might be a bar with the arena in the middle, surrounded by tables, people having dinner and watching the fight. Unfortunately, the audience is pretty bland, never changing and only sporting a few simple animations.

The boxers themselves look okay though, and the animation is nice. It really looks like the blows are connecting and your opponent is getting hurt. A nice addition is that of real-time damage. It isn’t obvious at first, but if you concentrate on one area of your opponent, you’ll begin to notice black and blue spots, blood stains, and bruises all over. The sweat and drops of blood that might begin to fly off your face will collect on the mat where you were injured, adding another nice sense of realism.

The sound, however, is not so great. Sure, the Rocky theme song is nice and well done. But be prepared to listen to it over and over again. During the opening intro, at the startup screen, during menus, and at the beginning of each fight. You’ll have the thing memorized by the time you’re finished with this game. The intro music for other boxers’ works fine, but it’s really nothing we haven’t seen (or rather, heard) before. Voiceovers aren’t so great, either. Aside from the aforementioned cut scenes, a man will introduce the two boxers to the audience at the beginning of each fight, and your coach (as well as your opponents) will praise or encourage you between rounds. The people all seem to sound the same and speak the same lines after awhile, which isn’t good.

Another nagging thing is the way rounds are scored. You’re given up to ten points in each round, and when the set amount of rounds is over, or someone is knocked out, the fights over. But honestly, I’ve never seen anyone get less than eight points a round, even if they aren’t trying. And if you knock the other person down, you’re practically guaranteed a ten. I suppose they did this to make matches seem like a challenge and keep things close, but it ends up just being annoying.

The movie mode isn’t amazing, as I said before, but you’ll want to get through it to unlock all of the boxers and arenas, and there are quite a few. Playing the exhibition mode with a buddy can be a great way to spend an hour, and it saves you from having to go to the hospital if you’re in the mood to beat on each other. Overall, the game is decent. There are probably better boxing games, but this one is solid and fun, but it can get tiresome after awhile. Makes for a nice rent. Fans should definitely check it out, and the rest of us should have fun too.

Score: 7.0/10

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