Boxing games have been few and far between on Xbox 360 with only one real contender which released quite some time ago, Fight Night Round 3. Since then we’ve not really had an challengers to the graphical powerhouse of EA’s fighting game. However, graphics aside, the game did provide an experience more akin to the arcade side of gaming. Well, we’re here in 2008 and with the main event about to begin, we’ve got Don King’s Prizefighter entering the boxing arena.
Prize Fighter offers the choice to play a variety of modes that you would expect from a fighting game, so I won’t go into too many details here. What Prize Fighter offers, for me at least sets the game a cut and above the other boxing games in terms of involvement is the inclusion of a well presented story mode. This strikes you like a well placed right hook, because not only is the presentation top quality but the overall storyline is engaging to say the least. I’ll freely admit that I was a little confused at first, and thought the pre recorded scenes using real people involved in the sport was just a side documentary as bonus footage; until I realized they were referring to the trials and tribulations of my created character. The dialog is all authentic, and the characters, including the Don himself, are all larger than life and offer a more realistic portrayal of the behind the scenes goings on of the sport.
Aside from the well presented story scenes, you’ll have created a boxer using a fairly detailed character creation process. It’s certainly one that offers plentiful reward for those willing to spend the time recreating themselves or others accurately. Once a boxer has been created, then naturally you’ll start off your career at the bottom of the pile, with only one heading, to the very top. It’s at this stage that you’ll need to train hard each week prior to the fights that you book from a choice of four in each stage. Training allows you to play mini games to get you more involved, or again for those who just want to get stuck into to the fight, can skip the training and have stats leveled up semi-automatically.
Starting at the lower tier of fighters, and not in the greatest of shape, you’ll be fighting the lower tiered opponents as well. What’s neat is the fact that audience sizes and venue, reflect your lowly status. Winning and making a name for yourself is the name of the game, and so as each victory piles on, you’ll progress further into the upper reaches of the sport. You’ll find that at times during your training, you’ll be given the chance to skip training for a week and perform other endorsements of products, or just to get away and chill with your girlfriend. Naturally, you lose stats from taking time off from the gym, but on the other hand you’ll be more popular and command a bigger wage for your fights.
Onto the fighting itself, and from the offset I’ll say it’s pretty fluid for the most part, although very different from EA’s thumbstick control you might be used to. Throwing punches is handled using the face buttons on the controller, here you can perform standard jabs, swings and hook punches. What’s more, there’s a easy to use free combo system, where you can make up your own combo attacks, as long as you have enough stamina. You’re also able to perform body blows by pressing the trigger on the controller. Typically you are able to guard in high and low positions, but what’s more, you’re able to duck and weave on the spot as well.
The stamina system is quite punishing for those of you who are used to dishing out punches without fear of tiring out. In this game, you really have to keep an eye on your boxer’s stamina as not only will your punches be sluggish but the damage caused when connecting is minimal. Throwing right hooks constantly or darting around the ring depletes stamina, so a combination of jabs and a final heavy hit is something of a good strategy. In fact, during fights, you can adopt differing approaches depending on your opponent. As you’d expect, they come in all shapes and sizes, with each utilizing their own fighting preferences. Naturally if you can exploit weaknesses then you’ll be able to get an easier win. There’s also the option to perform super punches that can turn the tables on a fight in terms of scoring at least. These punches require built up adrenaline which you obtain by performing clean attacks. Once the bar is filled you can use your adrenaline to unleash these super attacks or go into a super attack mode where you’ll fight much harder for a few seconds without depleting your stamina. It’s worth noting, that as rounds progress and if fights go the whole distance, you’ll notice a more overall tiredness to the two combatants. This is a neat feature and places the game into a more realistic bracket in this regard.
Generally speaking, I felt that fights tended to get dragged out unnecessarily. Each round is two minutes and can go as high as 10 rounds. The problem for KO hungry gamers lies in the fact that other than dishing out consistent super punches or using the adrenaline power moves as often as possible, the game opts for a more technical approach. This means that scoring plays a big part in the early portion of the game, because opponents just refuse to stay down and get far too much health recovery in between bouts. I had no problems getting knock outs, but the limited two minute rounds and a save by the bell, meant that getting three knockdowns in one round was tricky. For me at least I found it a tad unrealistic and more akin to the old Rocky movies, where it’s more about drama than the actual fighting. As far as I’m aware in real life, in some fights boxers don’t get up 5 or 6 times after being knocked out, as the referees tend to stop the fights. Anyways, this is a video game, and not a 100 per cent accurate representation of the sport. I like the whole scoring method making an impact in the game early on in your career, but I assume some gamers aren’t going to be over joyed that they aren’t able to knock out and win fights in 3 rounds every fight.
As you work your way up the career ladder, the story heats up and naturally you’ll be vying for the top spot to become Heavy Weight Champion of the World. As mentioned, the intertwining recorded story scenes, really help to captivate you into the mindset of the people around you as the championship title moves into your sights.
The game really has to showcase very little in terms of the actual fighting, as you’ll have an audience, a ring and of course the two boxers and referee. In this regard the characters look pretty realistic as they get sweat on them and even battered and bruised faces. The arenas look authentic and you’ll be glad to see some rather cool entrance sequences, although sadly you can’t edit these for your character. Animation is pretty fluid for the two boxers, although as with all boxing games, there are some small instances of bad hit detection, where seemingly good punches don’t connect. I found the camera to be unfriendly at times, but for the most part this remained a minor complaint.
Generally the presentation outside of the ring is very good and those movie scenes are even better. However the in ring presentation isn’t quite so polished, but still good enough to put you into the occasion and of course, the fight.
Sound is great in terms of the movie sequences and of course the messages you get via your organizer between fights; everyone plays there part to a high standard.The build up to the fights is very good, and for once the audience seems to react to what’s happening in the fight, and create an authentic sounding experience as they scream, chant and make all sorts of other sounds to encourage you. The music is a mixture of classic tunes, that you would associate with boxing and you can select the tune you want to hear as your fighter’s ring entrance music.
The story mode is something that won’t take you too long to complete on default settings, but there are incentives to go back and try again. At times during the story you’ll be presented with some classic showdown fights which can unlock stuff in the extras menu. These bouts are often very challenging and put you into various bone crunching scenarios with the odds usually stacked against you. Naturally, there’s options for local versus play as well as taking the fight online and kicking some tail across the globe. The achievements are also pretty balanced as well, which means if you like challenges, then there’s enough on offer here.
I’ve enjoyed Prize Fighter, because for the most part I found the story mode presentation to be a welcome addition to the game. It would have been easy to just go for the standard story mode, but it’s great to see 2K Sports put the effort in and add a little drama to proceedings. I think for those gamers looking for a more realistic boxing experience, where you have to think as well as use your fists; they’ll find a decent game here that’s well worthy of having a solid play. For other gamers looking for a game that lets you keep on punching until the cows come home, might feel a little impatient with the game’s approach. If you like the sport of boxing and remember some of the not so old historic fights like Chris Eubanks vs Nigel Benn, then there’s a lot of nostalgia and reliving of memories here. As a game it’s solid enough, and offers a more realistic, yet Hollywood inspired take on the combat. If that’s your thing, then by all mean enjoy the game as it’s certainly a welcome addition to the Xbox 360 library.