There are some sports that have struggled to make the transition from real life to the video game, and boxing is one of them. Despite countless efforts being launched into the market, few have provided any real semblance of the sport, with some of the best being hyper unrealistic arcade games, such as Nintendo’s legendary Super Punch Out and later releases like Ready to Rumble. Those that do attempt to simulate the sport invariably fail. EA’s Fight Night is a rare exception to this rule, and most would agree it’s the de facto standard in boxing games at the moment. But can this Don King-endorsed offering change things?
With perhaps the most famous boxing promoter around backing the proceedings, the game is off to a good start, and first impressions are very promising. This is a highly polished title, and from the stylish menus and pumping soundtrack to the impressive in-game visuals, things all fall into place nicely, at least at first…
You can play the game in a number of ways, from quick exhibition fights and online Xbox Live bouts to the main event that is the career mode. Here you can create your very own pugilist (right down to individual facial features and eye colour) and take him through the rather clichéd rags to riches story. Dotted with video interviews of real life boxing movers and shakers, and some rudimentary character management, this mode lets you train your boxer and then arrange fights as you see fit. At first you’re limited to taking on the local talent in your run down gym, but as you win fights and gain a better reputation, you’ll be able to set up bigger meets and earn more money, until you reach the ultimate goal of being the greatest boxer around.
When you’re not in the ring, you’ll be able to read text messages from friends and trainers and take part in one of the training mini games. These include the punching bag, where you have to hit the bag as many times as possible, targeting the highlighted areas, and the skipping rope, which is a kind of fast-paced rhythm game. You have limited time to train between fights, so you have to plan your schedule carefully as each training game boosts different stats. But, once you’ve done with your training, it’s time to fight.
This is where Prizefighter hits some problems. The game is obviously an attempt to reproduce real fights, and everything has a rather old school feel to it. There are few glitzy OTT moves, and combat is all about timing and tactics. That’s not to say it can’t be enjoyable. Successfully landing a multiple punch combo is certainly satisfying, and using your adrenaline meter (which fills up as you land punches) to launch powerful ‘signature’ moves produces some bone-crunching hits. But, this just doesn’t have the same appeal or impact as the Fight Night series. EA’s title managed to nail the control system very well, and produced a responsive and fluid system. Prizefighter on the other hand, while certainly not terrible, can be very clunky and unresponsive at times.
The challenge offered up by your opponents in usually good though, and later fighters can be very difficult to topple, but I can’t help but feel that interest in the game will have dissipated long before you get to the heady heights of Las Vegas matchups, mainly due to the occasionally irritating controls.
In the end, Prizefighter is a decent enough game for boxing fans looking for another fix, and while not perfect, the fighting mechanics can offer plenty of entertaining scraps. But, if you’re a fan of EA’s fist fest, then you’ll be very disappointed.