The phrase ‘boxing clever’ is something of an oxymoron. Our idea of clever pugilism is not getting into the ring in the first place. After all, who wants to end up with cauliflower ears or a nose that looks like a squashed sausage roll? Computer boxing, on the other hand, we can handle. Even if it means we’re forced to listen to Don King prattle on with endless heavyweight clichés that make our hair stand on end almost as much as his.
However, you won’t be anywhere near King’s bling to begin with (though you still have to suffer his voice on the menu screens). Starting at the bottom in a backstreet gym, the career mode challenges you to make pro grade, then shoot for the title of champion while collecting the biggest purses possible.
Between bouts there’s a small selection of management duties to oversee. The most important of these is training for the fights. You can work on floating like a feather – upping agility and dexterity – or stinging like a bee with strength and stamina training (scuttling into corners and hiding like a cockroach is discouraged). All these sessions are played out as mini-games, most of which are based on rhythm or button mashing. It’s all fairly standard stuff.
The fighting itself is pretty neatly implemented. The four top buttons on the joypad throw jabs, straights and right or left hooks at the head, which can be modified to body shots with the right trigger. Blocking is controlled with the right stick and the basics are easy enough to get to grips with.
The speed of the boxing action isn’t sluggish, but it’s not particularly speedy either, which makes blocking quite possible. Reacting with blocks and countering with fast combos gives the game a realistic feel, and a stamina meter means you have to develop a measured attack. This authentic flavour is helped by the various styles the opposition boxers employ, so an agile counter-puncher really does fight differently to a slugger with a long reach.
There are some holes in Prizefighter’s sense of authenticity, however, as so-called signature punches are rather overpowered. These are staggering blows that can be executed when you’ve built up adrenaline by landing some normal hits, and they sap health like nobody’s business. They can change a fight a little too much in our opinion, which is fine when you’ve landed one, but more aggravating when you’re on the receiving end. They also mean Prizefighter sees more than its fair share of knockdowns, especially in a long fight.
Other minor flaws include the occasional spot of dubious collision detection, with punches appearing to be fudged to land at times, and while the graphics are passable on the whole, some of the digitised real life boxers don’t look quite right (particularly their heads, and this isn’t just the cauliflower ears we’re talking about).
There’s an impressive collection of extras alongside the main career mode, including classic fights to tackle and online play with both league and tournament options. A high score leaderboard for the training mini-games is also provided.
Company: 2K Games