September 23, 2013
Real Boxing was originally released on mobile devices towards the back end of 2012 and in many ways it shows. To start, there’s no real story mode. Instead, you have to just create a character and go through arbitrary career mode that sees your character box against progressively harder opponents in a league, before ending into a playoff at the end.
In terms of the single player experience, this is pretty much the main draw. You can also take part in individual singular fights again whoever you want, but they’re pretty boring as there are no licenced fighters present within the game.
Gameplay is where Real Boxing starts to carve a bit of a niche for itself. However, there are some real pros and cons. The game transitions quite well over to the PlayStation Vita, but there are some clear issues.
When you’re in the ring, you have complete control over your boxer. You can perform jabs, hooks and uppercuts with the left and right hand. And you can also perform high and low blocks, as well as dodges. It all sounds rather great in theory. However, as you get higher up the ranks you get a bit limited with what you can actually do given how the controls have been implemented.
You see, all of the left-hand punches are mapped to the d-pad. If you want to do a jab you have to press up, a hook is left or right and an uppercut is down. This becomes an issue because movement is controlled by the left analog stick. Therefore, if you want to be nimble on your feet, you take a rather big risk in throwing any left-handed punches as you can’t move while doing so. This becomes problematic if you want to start throwing left/right combos, as you can’t quickly move before or after the combination is thrown.
The next issue comes with the game’s implementation of the clinch. This should be prefaced by saying that you can get a perk that makes the mini-game slightly less annoying, but it again highlights a rather bad usage of the PlayStation Vita’s gyroscopic functionality. When you’re “on the ropes” you’re able to enter into a clinch. From this point on, by tilting the Vita left and right, you have to keep a pointer out of the “end zone”. By getting a perk from training, these end zones are a bit smaller, but the whole implementation just feels lazy. This mechanic may have worked well on the mobile devices, but with the Vita that’s not the case.
Boxing feels natural and when you get up to the higher difficulties, there is a definite flow to the experience. You’ll see lots of ducking and weaving and the game’s challenge is quite commendable. Perhaps it’s a bit harsh though, but it’s a shame some more modern mechanics weren’t included. For example, you may sometimes have to put an opponent down on the mat 5-6 times in the same round to win and it just gets a bit silly after a while. There’s also no shock knock-outs, everything is very by the book and this works to the games detriment because it all gets a bit boring.
On the whole the game looks pretty decent. The individual boxers, while perhaps insultingly generic looking despite their heritage, do still have good models and they receive facial injuries as you’d expect. The game’s music can get a bit repetitive after a while and the commentator definitely suffers from that. You can only hear “good jab” so many times before you’ll want to jab your Vita in the face.
There is a slight RPG element in the fact that you can upgrade your boxer as he progresses throughout his career. By winning matches and belts, you’ll obtain money that can be used to enhance your strength, stamina and speed. You will also be given special objectives to complete during each fight that can net bonus points at the end. It’s worth noting that you will need these points as the opponents increase in stature rather quickly.
The game does have an online component if you want a slightly different challenge, but it’s not all that much different from the rest of the game. There are sometimes tournaments that take place, but it doesn’t feel like the community is that vibrant unfortunately. And when the single player experience can be over in 3-4 hours, it's a bit disappointing.
Real Boxing is a decent boxing experience for the PlayStation Vita, but there are some issues that stop it from standing out amongst the Vita’s existing library of games. There’s a decent amount of content, but some of the gameplay mechanics can cause issues. It’s also a shame that some more modern mechanics couldn’t have been included, but it’s also understandable considering the game was ported over from mobile phones.