I've always been a pretty big fan of boxing games. No, I'm not just talking about Punch-Out!! (who doesn't like Punch-Out!!?), but series like Knockout Kings, which later became Fight Night. Although I became disinterested with boxing over the years (as did the rest of the world), I always enjoyed the technical aspect of the sport, and creating characters from Rocky films to fight each other never got old.
But it's been quite a while since we've had a good boxing game truly break out, and now it's Real Boxing's turn on the PlayStation Vita.
Real Boxing (Android, iOS, Vita [reviewed])
Developer: Vivid Games
Publisher: Vivid Games
Released: September 18, 2013
Real Boxing puts you in the shoes of a regular old schmuck ready to make his way to the top. Although you can't fully create a boxer from the ground up, you can take a base fighter and customize your hairstyle, outfit, and a few other extras. At first you won't be able to do much however, as most of your options require cash money, but I'm pleased to say that all mentions of in-app purchasing (microtransactions) have been removed from the mobile versions, so that in-game cash actually equates to playing.
Since this is a bite-sized mobile-centric title, you don't have a whole lot of options at your fingertips once you're in the thick of things -- you can go for quick matches, play a short campaign mode, play training minigames, or play multiplayer, and that's about it. The game's career mode isn't particularly well balanced either, as it starts off incredibly simplistic in nature then quickly ramps up to the point where you may need to grind for stats in training mode.
But despite an uneven campaign, at its core, Real Boxing is a pretty solid simulation. This isn't an arcade-y slug-fest like Punch-Out!!, since fights are a bit slower-paced and technical. Hooks, jabs, and uppercuts are your main source of punishment, as is the ability to block, dodge, and clinch for a breather. While all the actual punches are easily pulled off, the dodge button can be abused in a fairly sleazy manner given that it doesn't deplete your stamina meter, which can be a problem when playing online.
You can enact these maneuvers in a multitude of ways, such as the touch screen, the analog sticks, face buttons, or any combination thereof. While using the touch screen does work just fine, I ended up opting for the dual analog scheme, which felt perfect. In fact, all of the control schemes work wonderfully, which is a testament to the game's design. Unreal Engine 3 does a great job of deciphering the blows and making them look substantial, even if it doesn't go the extra mile like a fully-fledged console game would.
But despite the solid core of Real Boxing's gameplay, unless you're planning on fighting your friends consistently, the experience can get pretty boring pretty quickly. There are no major stylized "title bouts" with recognizable licensed boxers, nor are their particularly interesting fighters on offer here from Vivid Games -- in other words, there are no Mr. Sandmans, and no Sonny Listons to get excited about. Instead, you're literally getting plain old boxing in a very vanilla presentation.
Your statline (stamina, speed, strength) will determine your avatar's skill, and you can engage in fairly menial mini-games to raise them. But training becomes decidedly plain after a few rounds of exercises, which doesn't really motivate you to raise them. You'll also start seeing some grating design choices over time, like the similarity between the fighters, and the fact that the announcer says the same few lines of dialog over and over.
Vivid Games has done an honorable job of porting a microtransaction-filled mobile game over to the PlayStation Vita, but the port has arrived on the PSN with some of the same flaws present in the original. If you're a huge fan of boxing games and have been itching for something to fill that void, Real Boxing may do it for you -- otherwise, just keep waiting.