Quick Take: Boxing comes to the PS Vita and plays surprisingly well without falling into a gimmicky control scheme.
There has been a long and gloried history of boxing video games. From the weird top-down battling “Es” from Activision’s Atari 2600 Boxing game, to the arcade classic Punch Out!!, and subsequent NES versions with Mike Tyson and Mr. Dream lending their names, respectively. SEGA did wonders with Ready To Rumble, and more recently EA Sports owned the ring with the Fight Night franchise. Boxing games take the art of mano-a-mano fighting and bring it home.
In developer Vivid Games’ Real Boxing, the sports goes mobile for the PS Vita and the results are surprisingly positive. Instead of relying on the touch screen as a gimmicky, tap-tap, swipe-swipe cheap boxing sim, Vivid utilizes multiple control options, including control pad/face buttons, and left stick/right stick for the player to find the control scheme that fits them best. I personal enjoy the two sticks, as it very reminiscent of EA’s Fight Night series. The two trigger/shoulder buttons work for blocking, dodging, body shots, and when both are pressed, grappling.
Grappling works to regain energy and hugging your opponent turns into a mini-game involving the Vita’s built in gyroscope as the player must keep the pendulum in the green to get energy back.
In fact, the touch screen is only used for essentially menu support, which is a welcome reprieve from what I fully expected to be a touch-only game.
Real Boxing allows players to create a boxer and earned fight purses can lead to better equipment, tattoos, gloves, etc. It’s a pretty stout fighter creator, though some of the physical choices are lacking. Most fighters have the same face/head, and only tweaks to hair, facial hair and actual skin color can be adjusted.
Once created, the player can take the character through online multiplayer matches, and a nice career mode that has three different circuits to fight through to obtain the championship belts.
There is a gym feature that allows the player to play fun little mini-games to obtain perks to make the fighter a true King of the Ring.
Graphically, Real Boxing looks gorgeous. The lighting effects and shading look great on the Vita’s 5″ OLED screen, and fighters faces deteriorate during the course of a fight. To be honest, I did not expect this game to look this good. It’s definitely on the same level as, say, Fight Night. That says a bunch.
Real Boxing is not without faults. The announcer and ring guy are both incredibly terrible. The announcer is so generic that what he says is cringe-worthy. And there may only be five recorded lines for the announcer to say. There’s nothing like landing the first punch of a fight and to hear the announcer, doing his best to replicate a 1940’s ringside radio guy, say something to the effect “Another punch landed.” THE FIRST PUNCH!?
And as bad as the announcer is, the corner man is worse. Here, the voice (possibly by the same actor) tries to sound like Mickey from the Rocky films, but obviously doesn’t have the acting chops to pull it off. This whole game would actually benefit greatly from having ZERO commentary. It adds nothing to the experience, and as I said, it makes me cringe more often than not–especially in the end fight’s decision screen.
Lastly, the onscreen burst of blood looks as terrible here as it did in early Fight Night games. A red splotch just kind of appears and then floats in the air for a second before it falls to the mat and disappears completely. I mention it, only because a much more powerful game like Fight Night also had this problem. In fact, sometimes I forget I’m playing this on a Vita and not on a console…well, then the announcer opens his mouth, ruining the illusion altogether.
Real Boxing is surprisingly a very good game with decent visuals and gameplay polish. It is fully featured and has enough modes to keep gamers busy. It is also arguably the best handheld boxing game I’ve ever played. I can’t help but to think how good the game could have been if it had real boxers and licenses and arenas and so forth. Vivid Games should keep their phone lines clear in case one of the big boys wants to try and tackle a boxing game again. They could definitely pull it off.
Real Boxing was reviewed on PS Vita using a code provide by publisher Vivid Games. It was released exclusively for PS Vita on September 18, 2013.