Unfortunately, there isn't much of anything that is "real" about Real Boxing.
Vivid Games has managed to do a few things right with Real Boxing, first and foremost releasing the first boxing game ever on Vita. That right there sets itself up for lots of potential sales, but then there is the possibility of really disappointing boxing aficionados if it can’t deliver what its name promises. Unfortunately, there isn’t much of anything that is “real” about Real Boxing.
While it delivers a basic boxing experience in a genre previously non-existent on Vita, using the Unreal Engine 3 does not give it the right to suck as a game. I’m talking about shiny high resolution boxers and semi-realistic blood spatter being the reason for an unbalanced defensive game, poor AI, cookie-cutter characters, physical controls that feel tacked on (that’s unusual), and a boxing experience that — despite using the Unreal Engine — feels as though it lacks power.
Real Boxing is a mobile phone game ported to Vita with added physical controls, online multiplayer with leaderboards, and near functionality. It has a Quick Play mode that allows you to choose from an array of similar looking boxers and one of many similar looking opponents, all with varying stats. In Career mode, you take a boxer through three tournaments varying in degree by their difficulty (Bronze, Silver, Gold). Each tournament match also offers a random challenge; anything from “win by knockout in the first round” to “clinch three times and win by decision.” Winning while completing the challenge earns you extra in-game currency called “cash” and 1 upgrade point.
The leveling up of stats involves using a bonus upgrade point or spending cash earned from fights. Unfortunately, this menu does not tell you how much each stat costs. Only after you’ve spent the cash can you see how much it cost you. Stat point prices go up as the meter builds closer to the illustrious 100% maximum. I found that upgrading the stats altogether was ideal until I started to lose, then I focused on Strength, then Speed, and finally Stamina. Other than leveling up your stats, you’ll also unlock Perks by playing the workout mini-games. Perks like reduced stamina costs for certain punch types or a regeneration perk that heals your boxer more quickly can be crucial to winning and will give you the edge you’ll need in tougher bouts.
Real Boxing fights can take place in a variety of levels and they, like the boxers themselves, look very detailed. The backgrounds are blurred to effectively give you the sense of depth and brighten the details of the ring and the boxers within. It all plays to the effect of Unreal Engine 3 nicely and is the strongest selling point Real Boxing has. When entering the ring there is an extravagant intro with only the boxer parading out beneath a canopy of fireworks that will also impress visually, but this ends abruptly.
One thing I was surprisingly unimpressed by was the bikini-clad ring girl, who looked scrawny and lifeless. At the end of the fight, she can be seen over your boxer’s shoulder and she does this jarring graphical twitch that cracks me up every time. Furthermore, I noticed that once a fight started, the announcer was absolutely useless. 90% of the time, after the first punch landed he would say “Another hit lands.” Sometimes I’d miss a punch and he’d say “Accurate punch.” Or occasionally, I’d land an uppercut and he’d say “Quick jab.”
The physical buttons are typically the winning element of any mobile-to-Vita port. However, in Real Boxing the stat boosting mini-games are made more difficult and considerably less fun when using the sticks. This is likely due to the tiny size and floating lack of resistance of the Vita analog sticks. Switching to touch controls in settings had me swiping up for uppercuts, left and right for hooks, and tapping the screen for jabs. I found this considerably more fun, easier to do, and more rewarding for my stats.
No footwork in a boxing game is unreal to me.
On the other hand, taking the touch controls into an actual boxing match is much less enjoyable than physical controls. Online multiplayer won’t even allow the use of touch controls and I couldn’t tell you why. With touch controls, all punches are thrown with taps and swipes on either the left half or right half of the screen to throw punches with the left hand or right hand respectively. To punch high and low you must touch the screen high or low. Basically, imagine the screen is a 2×2 grid.
There is an on-screen block and evade button that matches the R button doing both of these things. This is how Real Boxing functioned on iOS and Android, but they didn’t have the ability to move around the ring. Touch controls means NO FOOTWORK! No footwork in a boxing game is unreal to me. This led less action per round and less punches thrown because I was constantly waiting for my boxer to get close enough. I’m not a fan of auto-movement.
Fully switching back to physical controls, now the left analog stick moves the boxer around the ring — albeit unnaturally and without ease. Double tap that left stick away from the opponent to quickly lunge backward. This is a crucial addition to the Vita version that makes it an overall better gameplay experience than the mobile version. And if you’re trying to see if Real Boxing is anything like Fight Night, there is no button for parries.
I had a terrible time trying to get my guy to block when commanded to with either physical or touch controls. For some reason, it worked whenever it wanted to and this didn’t always work for me. Block is executed by holding the R button and can absorb three punches before being broken. An evade is executed by tapping the R button. One huge issue I had with the evade is that it only works against high punches. There is absolutely no way to evade body punches. The only defense to the body is to block or lunge backward, keeping your distance.
Jabs and hooks to the body are the way to go and work especially well online as everyone wants to pull off a successful evade. Landing a punch after an evade deals 3x more damage. This can be evaded as well, which can lead to a short term evading war. It’s fun to watch, but nothing like watching Daigo’s Ken parry Justin Wong’s Chun Li at EVO 2004. To make matters worse, the preferred follow up punch to an evade is the uppercut. But the uppercut hits way too low and, if not thrown while up close, will fail to make contact 90% of the time. I recommend to avoid using the uppercut altogether.
In Real Boxing, punches lack that much needed feeling of impact clearly noticeable in the Fight Night series whenever a glove touches a face. The impact sound, the slow motion crunch, the creases in the glove and the wrinkles in the face — all missing in Real Boxing. To make matters worse, I often noticed the AI reacting to a blow to the head in advance of the impact; or a punch grazing his hair and yet blood is splattering. Some poorly timed jabs can produce as much blood as the most perfectly executed hook.
My experience with the online multiplayer was short and bittersweet. I attempted to play a few online matches, all leading to the same fate as seen in the screenshots embedded within this review. While the matchup was quick and seamless, the gameplay was laggy and unreliable. I was throwing punches to an opponent that was both lagging behind me and suddenly throwing three simultaneous punches ahead of me. I still laid a beat down, with stats nearing 100% in all three personal stat categories. Their punches just didn’t have an effect on my boxer while mine would deal much more damage. This is undoubtedly why our connection failed in the second round immediately before each of my opponents were about to taste mat.
Adding near functionality to any game is a nice touch, but I don’t think people understand how it works. It’s a feature that benefits the people around you or people in your friends list. Real Boxing lets you drop any item from the Customize Boxer screen found under the Profile tab. Things like hair styles, boxing shorts, gloves, facial hair, etc. Most of this stuff is locked with only a few options available to new players. If you buy something cool, share it using near and others can have instant access to it without purchase. But don’t expect anything in return.
I really want to like this game and recommend it highly. But after having played through the game in its entirety, acquired all three tournament belts, experienced the unreliable online multiplayer, and now having one final silly gold trophy left, I’m tempted to advise the hardcore boxing fans to avoid this game altogether. Real Boxing may deliver a good looking game, but overall there is far too much left to be desired. More than enough to merit a sequel.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here. The PlayStation Vita version of the game was used for this review.
What I Like:
What I Dislike:
Release Date:September 2013
Players:1, 1-2 (Adhoc), 1-2 (Online)