By: Casey Curran
Boxing is one of those things where I never understood why it exists. Not in the sense of why it is popular, that is very easy to see. I just have a hard time imagining someone wanting to join a sport with a high chance of you being punched so hard and so often you lose consciousness. Yet thanks to these brave (probably crazy) people we have a great sport that also gave us Rocky and a few great games. And while Real Boxing does not match Fight Night or Punch Out! in terms of quality, this is a very solid budget title.
Real Boxing mimics Fight Night’s control scheme. The left analog stick is used for moving while the right stick controls punches based on what angle and side you push on. The shoulder buttons handle dodging, blocking, and aiming for body blows over face punches. There is also an option to use the face buttons and d-pad for punching, but given how cumbersome swapping between the d-pad and analog stick is, I cannot call this a viable alternative.
The main issue with the controls actually comes from the Vita itself. The system’s analog sticks work fine for most games I have played with them, but in this case they were too small for the needed precision. I would sometimes land the wrong punch in the heat of the moment because there was too small of a buffer zone between what registers as what punch. This was not a game breaker, but it was an annoyance that brought the game down.
Graphically, Real Boxing sits somewhere between a last gen and current gen game, while leaning a little more towards the former. This is normally not the best way to showcase the Vita’s power, but for a $10 title this is much more impressive than you will normally get. The character models are well rendered, albeit a little clunky, and they all animate very well. It feels like you really are getting bang for your buck based on the graphics alone.
Real Boxing is also one of those rare sports titles that did not make me want to punch the announcer. I am not saying he is brilliant, but nothing he said made me groan, and his lines had a good amount of diversity, so I call that a win. Meanwhile, the sound effects are exactly what you would expect out of a boxing match.
Real Boxing’s core mechanics work very well in both exhibition and multiplayer. The game employs a stamina bar that regenerates fairly quickly, though slower if you have less of it. Your punches do almost no damage if this is depleted, which helps keep defense an integral part of the combat. While I was wailing as many blows as possible early on, later sections forced me to focus more on dodging at the right time to land that perfect counter attack and getting some good body shots in between. This gave Real Boxing a fairly good balance between accessibility and depth, with maybe a bit too much leaning on the former.
What really brings the game down, however, is its career mode. This is due in large part to two central mechanics to making your character grow stronger. The first of these is a challenge per level. These were similar to achievements, such as do not get knocked down to get an extra upgrade point.
The problem was that these challenges were not always fun. Some of them gave goals like getting knocked down and making a comeback. The AI, however, was programmed to react to an aggressive player and not one looking to have his health whittled away. This is not to say the AI is bad, it reacts very well to attacks to counter them and is more than willing to follow up one of your punches with a few of its own.
These challenges were just poorly implemented into the game it was designed around, creating many fights that lose their fun because of it. Ignoring them is hardly an option either, as doing so would make your fighter considerably less strong than the competition over time. You need every upgrade you can get even if they come at the cost of fun.
The other comes from between fights where you go in the gym. These are all mini games, all involving pressing a button or landing a punch at the right time. While a decent distraction initially, doing this between every match so you can get those perks they reward you with after quickly becomes incredibly tedious.
For some mindless entertainment, Real Boxing provides a good budget title for your Vita. It is when you want something more substantial out of it, however, that its flaws really come to light. Real Boxing is worth $10, just expect to be bored and/or annoyed at various points while playing it.