Hmm, tough one to review.
At first glance it is very very impressive. A good array of fighters from many eras.
The introductions are good, but some become a bit boring (the boxers do the same entrances etc just to different music)
The exhibition matches are fun, you can set up all sorts of dream bouts in different settings (unlocking more as you go along).
The control method is strange at first, but feels good. You use the left analogue stick for controlling your boxer around the ring, then hold a button and use the same stick for ducking and weaving. You use the right stick to control the punches. You can unlock some devestating moves and unlike other boxing games you can really feel the punches land in different ways. Some of the animation is good, especially when you land a sweet hook on an unprotected opponent who has just swung and missed. Boom.
Another nice addition is, at last, the ability to hit such a good punch you knock your opponnent off balance / down / out even when his energy level is high. Too many games turn into a boring punch fest, just a case of hitting punches and wearing each other out...boring, at least this adds the element of a possible knockdown at any time, just like in real boxing!
The career mode is fun, you work your way up the rankings in smaller venues, adding rating points by completing certain training exercises, some are pretty unique and fun.
The design mode is excellent, at last you can faithfully recreate boxers and save them to use. There is no limit on what you can create (although most of the extras, like tatoos are only unlockable in career mode, but once unlocked you can use them anywhere!)
The ring announcer is pretty naff.
There is a good records section. It has records for real boxers and also human players. It has tables for win/loss record, quickest ko, most ko's etc. Quite a good idea.
2 player mode is fun, there is a lot of potential for setting up some epic encounters. Ali vs Liston, Ali vs Marciano, Lewis vs Bugner. And even the inclusion of some great non us boxers.
But with the edit mode its easy to create your own boxers, took me about 5 mins to put Nigel Benn in.
Back to the gameplay. The control method is tricky to pick up. You will get used to it but even then you sometimes miss an opportunity because you didn't make the right move for a hook or uppercut. It can be annoying but at the same time it does add a nice dimension to the game, and you feel as if you are actually throwing the hooks instead of just pressing a button.
The idea is that the joystick movement mimics the way you would throw a real punch. So a jab is a case of moving the stick up/left or up/right for left or right jabs. A hook is a case of moving it left and then swinging the stick round to the up position. And an uppercut starts off by pushiong down and then curling it round to the left or right.
Body shots are done the same way but by holding the shoulder button down.
There is a new 'knockdown' section. Instead of the usual button bashing to get back up you now have to line up three images of a referee. Its a bit tricky at first, and the worse you are beat up the harder it is to get the refs to move. Its pretty clever and works well, although you can put the auto mode on if you prefer.
Overall its a lot of fun. Graphically excellent to other boxing games, and the arenas are lots of fun to fight in (there is a lot going on outside the ring especially in the smaller arenas, people having fights, falling off chairs drunk and the like...its wasted when you are fighting but fun to watch when a friend is in the ring!)
Overall I think it falls short in something, longevity is not likely although its a game you would go back to time and time again for a quick fight, especially with mates.
Talk about everything but Kick Off.
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