Tag Archive: boxing

Originally Published: November 15, 2010, on ClassicGameRoom.com

As a part of CGR Undertow, I reviewed Kinect Sports for the Xbox 360 and its Kinect peripheral.

It Must Be The Greatest

Originally Published: July 7, 2009, on 1050ESPN.com (now ESPNNewYork.com), Lundberg.me, and Examiner.com

With its unprecedented dominance in most sports games, EA Sports felt it was a good time to continue another one of its majestic, untouchable franchises. Fight Night Round 4 was green lit and, after months of hype, was being touted as one of the most anticipated games of the year (it even had a sticker on the cover saying so) with two of the all-time great heavyweight champions serving as the game’s cover boys in Mike Tyson and Muhammad Ali. Could such a highly publicized title live up to its positive press, though?

One of the major appeals for the game churned out by EA’s hype machine was the “what if?” premise. Upon your first time selecting Exhibition mode you’re provided a roster that features some of the greatest fighters of all time combined with the greats from today as you mix and match to answer those questions fight fans have always had like, “Who’s better: Ali or Tyson?” or “What would Frazier or Foreman do to Lennox Lewis’s weak chin?”

Disappointingly, there could only be so many boxers included in the game and so some of the other all-time greats, like Rocky Marciano and Floyd Mayweather, had to be excluded. Fortunately for die-hard fans though, there are rumors that they could be available via downloadable content at a later date over Xbox’s or Sony’s respective store systems.

After living out your boxing fantasies in Exhibition mode, you can jump into the create-a-boxer feature and try your hand at the impressive “Legacy Mode” to see if you could work your legend up to somewhere near that of the two athletes that grace the game’s cover. With hundreds of customizable features for your boxer, ranging from blocking styles to the color of your trunks, you’ll feel as if you’re actually living the dream as you begin to work your way up from dingy gyms to some of the most spectacular arenas in all of boxing in an attempt to become the “Greatest Of All Time” (or G.O.A.T. as the game prefers).

The legacy mode isn’t difficult once you’ve figure out the patterns for the mini-games, which constitute the fighter’s training, to raise his stats to near unbeatable levels. On the first go-around, I received the max reward on half the mini-games and began maxing out my stats to the point that “Legacy Mode” just didn’t have the luster to bring me, a more casual boxing fan, back for more after I was 12-0 with 11 KO’s.

Continually, it is once you step into the ring as your created fighter where the game’s hype starts to show a few openings in its airtight defense. If you build up your stats enough (so you turn that chin of yours from glass to granite), you can just button-mash (or analog-stick mash, either way I averaged 1200 punches per 10 round bout, that’s about a punch every 1.5 seconds) your way to victory over almost any opponent. You might not always get a knockout, but unless you’ve imported someone like Ali (whose stats are off the chart) as an opponent you can just keep dropping haymakers and straight rights until the match is over and you have your hand raised.

Aside from the lackluster A.I., the game does deliver on most other fronts. Instead of the system used in previous versions of the franchise (where you would physically apply ice to different parts of your boxer’s face to keep the swelling down and allow him to fight longer) a new, three-level system has been implemented that measures your boxer’s health, stamina, and damage.

Depending how your well your boxer performs, points are awarded to your corner, allowing you to heal and prepare your player as the fight continues. A high punching-accuracy will net you a lot of points. Stunning or knocking down your opponent is worth even more. These points can then be applied to healing your fighter’s damage, restoring health, or rejuvenating his stamina. Obviously, the longer you keep these bars filled up, the better your boxer will be as the fight goes on. A low stamina will mean your punches will have less bite and can be thrown less often. Having high amounts of damage inflicted on your boxer, along with a low health bar, will mean he is more likely to be knocked out. This new system makes it much easier to gauge how well your boxer is doing as the fight progresses and where you might need to make some in-between round adjustments.

Along with the Exhibition and Legacy modes, there is also a strong multiplayer mode where you can fight other boxers, either online or off, and use either imported boxers that you create yourself or boxers from the roster.

Overall, considering that EA Sports lacks any real competition in most sports franchises, it was nice to see the improvements they made on this more distinguished one. It might not have the long-lasting appeal for more casual boxing fans, but hardcore fans will keep thinking they have a puncher’s chance for a long time.

Ratings are based on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the highest.

Graphics: 8.0: The boxers themselves look great, but the backgrounds and in-between round animations lack the polish I would expect from an EA Sports game, considering the time they usually pour into their hit franchises. However, it is still a very strong game visually to the point you can see sweat flying off of your opponents after landing a devastating haymaker.

Audio: 9.0: Joe Tessitore and Teddy Atlas do a great job with authentic ringside commentary and the soundtrack provides you with a beat to get your blood pumping before you step into the ring. Joe and Teddy do get a little repetitive after a while, but that is just expected with sports games nowadays if you play them long enough. The punching sound effects are solid, but not special.

Plot/Plot Development: N/A: It’s a sports simulation.

Gameplay: 7.0: A lackluster A.I. and repetitive motions keep this from being anything more than average. This game is too much of a button masher to make it great, but the new health bar system is one of those changes you didn’t realize you needed until you saw it.

Replay Value: 7.0: Unless EA Sports begins to have other great boxers added as downloadable content, there isn’t much to bring to bring the casual fan back for more. A strong multiplayer or the chance to be known as the G.O.A.T. will bring hardcore boxing fans back for more for a long time, though.

Overall: 8.5: Most of the improvements and changes that EA Sports made between rounds were welcome additions to this franchise that many would argue were needed to be fully rejuvenated. Hardcore boxing fans will be happy to pick this up since it is the best pure boxing game out there right now, but more casual fans will tire of it quickly.

Fight Night Round 4 is out now for the Xbox 360 and PS3.

-Ray Carsillo

Looking Like a Knockout

Originally Published: April 15, 2009, on 1050ESPN.com (now ESPNNewYork.com) and ESPNVideoGames.com

It’s getting close to summer and everyone wants to look their best. One of the recent big fads in gaming has been Nintendo’s releases of fitness games to help you burn calories and shed pounds and to continue lasting the vein of last summer’s sensation, Wii Fit. The best part of most of these games is they have proven that if you keep up the regimen dictated by the games, you will actually get into better shape and lose weight.

Of course, a lot of these exercises depend on the Wii’s Balance Board so it is almost like a gym membership since you’re dropping $90 for the board and Wii Fit and another $40-$50 on any supplemental games.

So, jumping on the fitness and working out at home bandwagons, a couple of recent releases for the Wii are trying their best to help you fit into that itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny yellow polka-dot bikini for the ladies or, for the guys, to look good to pick up that lady in the yellow bikini.
These two games are Ubisoft’s Gold’s Gym Cardio Workout and 2K Sports’ Don King Boxing.

Don King’s Boxing

Now, the Gold’s Gym game is an obvious title for a workout game, but Don King Boxing? In order to appeal to a larger audience, yes. One of the key features of this game is a workout mode that has you jumping rope, hitting a speed bag, shadow boxing, doing squats, or hammering a punching bag and the exercises work, especially the jumping rope. My calves were on fire after that. The problem is that the game awards you “fitness points” as you workout instead of just telling you how many calories you’re burning so you never know how effective your workout is going and what areas you need to work on more.

Another nice feature about the workout mode is that the Wii Balance Board also acts a scale before each workout so you can track your progress each day, but this feature comes standard with Wii Fit so it’s nothing spectacular.

If you can’t just get yourself up to working out, even with video games, the game has an interesting story mode to help you get moving and shedding pounds. The cinematic scenes for the story mode are great because they are live action and the story plays out like a documentary feature as you progress. The only problem with the story itself is it sounds like an adaptation of the first four Rocky movies.

You start off as a kid on the streets. You work your way up boxing in dilapidated gyms when the champion gives you a shot after he cannot find any decent competition. You beat the champion and become best friends with him. Then you beat some difficult heavyweight contenders coming after your belt. Then a behemoth boxer from overseas comes out of nowhere and challenges your friend in an exhibition. The behemoth knocks out your friend so hard that he dies in the ring. You then avenge your friend and retain your title by pummeling the behemoth in the ring for the entire world to see. All played out, of course, to “Eye of the Tiger” by Foreigner.

Add to the lack of originality, the fact that you can’t even customize your boxer and he has to be known as “The Kid” for the entirety of the game is frustrating.

The only real interesting aspect of the story mode was when you got the chance to get into the shoes of Archie Moore, Rocky Marciano, Joe Louis, and many other legends and replay some of the great matches of all time in order to teach your boxer a cliché lesson like “it ain’t over till it’s over”. Considering though the licensing rights that have already been snatched up by EA for Fight Night Round 4, the real legends you would want to see like Ali, Tyson, or Holyfield for the more casual fan, are nowhere to be seen.

You would hope from a boxing game for Wii that you would have better controls than Wii Sports’ boxing that launched with the system, but the ones in Don King’s Boxing might actually be worse. You never throw the punches you want to throw with your motions. Not that it matters since the A.I. is so sad that you can get away with just flailing your arms wildly and still walk away with a win. The entire story mode only takes a maximum of four hours to complete because of its simplicity. At least you’ll break a sweat if you play it through enough.

Combine the lack of an original story, awful motion controls, lack of boxer choices, and horrible A.I. and this game is easily my worst game of 2009 so far. Don King is a spectacular promoter so I’m sure he’ll find a way to sell a few copies of this, but he once said “You go for the quality of the performance, not the longevity of it.” Well, this has no longevity and the quality is even worse. Another bomb from 2KSports.

Ratings are based on a system of 1 to 10 with 10 being the highest.

Graphics: 5.0: Visually this game is barely worth your time. There are no real-time effects to the face or body of your adversary as you pummel him. The only saving graces are the live cinematic scenes in-between each bout in story mode.

Audio: 6.5: The audio is barely up to par. Jim Lampley from HBO Boxing does a nice job with the commentary, but his script is ridiculously short and he starts repeating himself by your second or third bout. The music is only great if you are an “Eye of the Tiger” fanatic.

Plot/Plot Development: 5.0: When a game steals its plot from the first four Rocky movies, I can’t even consider giving it a good score. There has to be a different plot out there for boxing fans.

Gameplay: 3.0: The controls never do what you want when you swing and the amount of haphazard punches is mind-boggling.

Replay Value: 6.0: The workout feature does help you break a sweat, but not being able to view how much you should work-out doesn’t help if you’re trying to use this as a workout tool, which is a shame considering Wii Fit has shown that, when properly applied, these games do work as a mild substitute for an actual gym. Add in a lack of boxing options from the lightweight, middleweight, and heavyweight divisions, and the limited “legends” roster and even the vs. mode is disgraceful.

Overall (not an average): 2.5: This is one of 2K’s saddest attempts at a license in their, rather extensive, history of badly-licensed drivel. Considering it is out 4-6 months before Fight Night Round 4, 2K could have established a strong position in the boxing genre, however, this game just falls down flat on the mat. This game isn’t even worth buying for the die-hard boxing fans. I would steer clear of this at all costs.

Gold’s Gym Cardio Workout

Now at least Gold’s Gym Cardio Workout doesn’t try to pretend it is something it isn’t. This is straight up a workout game. I played this game for only an hour and I ached for days after.

I’m going to get my two complaints about the game out of the way quickly. First, there is no feature that weighs you with the Wii Balance Board. This means you have to weigh yourself and enter it in for the game to calculate how many calories you burn off per exercise. It’s a little inconvenient, but not a big deal.

The second issue is a bit more personal. For a lot of people it is more a mental struggle than a physical struggle to lose weight, and this aspect got under my skin a little. When you enter your height and weight, your avatar’s body shape changes to accommodate what the game feels your BMI and general appearance should be. I admit that I am 5′ 9″ and 205 lbs, this is a little overweight, but I’ve kept myself in decent shape over the years so it’s not like I’m rolling down the halls here at ESPN. If you looked at my avatar, you might say something different though.

For people who are using these games as the legitimate weight loss tools that they are, this could discourage them right off the bat. You know who else was 5’9″ and between 200 and 205lbs.? Tiki Barber in his final year with the New York Giants (at least that’s what he was listed as). Muscle weighs more than fat so maybe next time Gold’s Gym should remember that, especially considering all the meatheads I’m sure they have in their employ.

Of course, one could argue the opposite: Some people could use this demeaning representation of themselves as a motivational tool; once they see the image the computer spits back out at them they will be more likely to work harder to rectify the insult. And if you’re relying on video games to get back in shape then it might be a fairly accurate image for most people.

I digress. The game is a great game for its purpose. Like I said earlier, after just an hour of shape boxing, squats, push-ups, crunches, leg lifts, jogging, and jumping rope, I was ready to collapse and was in serious pain for three days afterwards.

To help motivate the regular gamer, the more you workout, the more you can unlock for your avatar as well. Every gamer loves unlockables.

This game has a purpose and it delivers. It helps you get in shape with a variety of exercises and makes an awesome compliment to Wii Fit‘s Yoga and Strength Training exercises to help you take that next step in your video game workout (I cannot believe I just typed that).

Ratings are based on a system of 1 to 10 with 10 being the highest.

Graphics: 7.0: This is a visually average game. It’s got that cartoony Mii look going for it, but at the end of the day, the visuals aren’t going to sell you on this game if you’re looking for a workout.

Audio: 8.0: The audio is solid. It gives a variety of generic music choices and “Eye of the Tiger” because everyone loves working out to that cliché (I guess). A lot of the exercises rely on audio cues because it is hard to look at your TV and do push-ups and everything seems to work adequately.

Plot/Plot Development: N/A: It’s a workout game…

Gameplay: 8.0: The controls are accurate and respond properly to your motions and it gives you solid feedback.

Replay Value: 9.0:
In the end, the replay value is really going to depend on your will to want to keep working out, but the game helps nudge you along by offering unlockable content and a variety of exercises to keep it interesting enough for you to come back a half hour a day or more.

Overall (not an average): 8.0: I still think Wii Fit is the premiere exercise game out right now, but this makes a great complement, especially since it is only $29.99 in most stores. If you’re looking to get in shape quick before the weather really starts to warm up, pick up Gold’s Gym Cardio Workout, out now for the Nintendo Wii.

-Ray Carsillo