- Probably the best boxing game available on any console that doesn't have a Fight Night title
- Graphics are impressive for a mobile game
- Repetitive, grindy gameplay
- Skill-independent, mash-heavy
- Poor multiplayer implementation
- Shallow career mode
- Numerous bugs
When it comes to boxing games for the PC (or for that matter, any of the platforms it’s been released on), we’re not exactly spoiled for choice are we? Sadly, for the PC boxing pundits across the world, the much-beloved (heh) Electronic Arts just hasn’t ported its Fight Night series over to PC master race just yet. Until that happens, Vivid Games’ Real Boxing is probably the best boxing title we’re going to get.
The unfortunate thing is that even the best we’re going to get just isn’t that good.
The game plays very similarly to a dumbed-down version of… You guessed it – Fight Night. Fighter movement is controlled with the left stick whilst the punches are mapped to directions on the right stick, or alternatively the face buttons. Holding down the left and right trigger buttons on the shoulder are used for the high-low modifier and block, respectively, whilst tapping the right shoulder button allows for a dodge.
Both you and your opponent have a health and a stamina bar. Big punches such as uppercuts do more damage but drain more stamina, whilst jabs … You get the drift. Dodging a punch successfully results in a Matrix-like slowdown that allows you to get a solid counter-hit in for extra damage and less stamina. The fight goes on until one person knows the other person down and they stay down for a full 10 seconds, or a decision is reached at the end of however many rounds you set it to. Being knocked down yourself results in a RSI-inducing button-mashing affair.
It’s practically the bare minimum for any game that tries to call itself a boxing simulator, but the game feels like a shell of something that could’ve been so much better… Or should I say, has been so much better.
You see, Vivid Games owes good ol’ Electronic Arts a great deal of gratitude, not only because every single gameplay and design element of Real Boxing is directly ripped from the Fight Night series, but also because Real Boxing could only ever succeed in an environment where Fight Night doesn’t exist.
Now, let me run you through all the issues one by one.
For starters, let’s talk about the the dodging system. Fight Night has a very reflex-sensitive and skill-intensive dodging system that requires you to hold a “lean” button and move in a direction to dodge. It’s a risk-reward system that rewards the player’s ability to correctly react and/or predict a hit. Real Boxing forgoes the complex feature for a much more dumbed-down version, whereby all dodging is relegated to a single tap of a shoulder button. This would be forgiveable if the dodging was dependent on reflexes, but the dodge comes out so slowly (literally a second after hitting the button) that it’s all but impossible to dodge an attack you see coming. What this means is that in order to dodge an attack, you either have to guess when the opponent is about to throw a punch or work out a well to look into the future. The function is completely useless, and takes one of the more skill-testing and satisfying aspects of Fight Night and turns it into a glorified game of Rock-Paper-Scissors.
Now, onto the high-low system. Holding the left shoulder whilst throwing a punch causes the punch to go to the body instead of the head. Real Boxing implements this poorly for two reasons. The first reason is that holding block appears to block all attacks, regardless of whether they hit the head or the body, which makes the blocking system in the game stupidly simple. Compare this to Fight Night, which rightfully forces you to block head shots high and body shots low. The second reason relates to the real-life purpose of body shots to begin with. I’m no boxing expert by any means, but even I’ve heard of the “money in the bank” rule in boxing, where punching an opponent in the body usually does less damage than a punch to the head, but tends to cause the victim to tire more easily later in the round. In Fight Night, punches to the body drains the opponent’s stamina (as well as doing some damage). This makes sense, as it gives body punches some purpose in the game. Real Fighting implements none of this – body punches appear to do nothing to the opponent’s stamina. It’s almost redundant that the game gives you the option of punching to the body to begin with.
Then there’s the skill-curve, or really the lack thereof. This is a button-mashers paradise. At no point in the game did I ever feel that throwing one punch was the more correct choice over throwing another. As a result, I just hit any random direction on the right stick whenever I wanted and honestly, it never seemed to make the slightest difference. Throughout the entire career mode, I literally beat the first opponent the exact same way I beat the final opponent – by mashing the right stick in a random direction whenever I felt like it.
Now about that career mode. Unfortunately, this is just as hollow as the rest of the game. After creating a boxer (who in my case, was named “Ethan Cartwrhight” by default, typo and all), you’re tasked with fighting one opponent after another with little to break the monotony. After each fight, you earn a measly sum of money which can be used to purchase increased stats, aesthetic items or perks. Stats include strength, stamina and speed and each do exactly as described. The perk system, like everything else, is disappointly unimaginative and includes shit like “get up easier after a knockdown” and “jabs cost less stamina”. Yawn. The only thing that really breaks up the monotony of the one-fight-after-another career mode is the training that you get to do every few fights.
… and of course the training in this game is tedious and poorly-implemented as well. The game offers 3 training mini-games, each improving a separate stat for your boxer. Unfortunately, all three are essentially glorified quick-time events, and very easy ones at that. A trained monkey could do this. It’s incredibly repetitive and completely unenjoyable. The only consolation is that the game only allows you to do the training once every 5-or-so fights.
Then there’s the multiplayer component of the game. No, of course there isn’t local multiplayer. Why would there be. Oh, you wanted to play with a friend over the internet? Nope. The only multiplayer available in the game is online matchmaking, which apparently matches you with someone of similar skill level to you. I tried to find a game online just to check how the netcode was, but apparently no one online can match my skill level of 0 fights and 0 wins. Either that, or there’s no one else stupid enough to try to play a game online that’s this sluggish and clunky. Can you guess which explanation I’m leaning towards?
Finally, there’s a few glitches. To be honest, I’m not actually terribly upset about these, because it’s a pretty ambitious game for such a small indie studio. Another reason I’m not terribly upset is because I found some of these glitches fucking hilarious. Look at this one for example:
So apparently the winner of Artur Kardacz and Finn Madox was… me. And before you ask, yes, I did have to fight myself to become champion.
Spoiler alert – I won.
A more annoying glitch occurred where I cleared one part of the game, but the part of the game that was meant to unlock after I completed it decided to stay locked. It meant I had to play one huge tedious segment of the game again.That’s just fucked up.
Then there’s another thing I found, and I’m not entirely certain whether it’s a bug or a feature. Every so often, if you stand still and do nothing, the AI opponents go into a weird daze, where they look like they’re about to collapse and lower their guard. It’s bizarre, but it’s hard to explain. Here’s some pictures that might help:
Overall, the issue is that the game boils down to a skill-independent, button-mashing affair. I’ve figured out the secret to the game. You ready for my secret to success?
If opponent has worse stats than you – Mash anything. You can’t lose.
If opponent has equal or better stats than you – Hold block. Wait for opponent to drain his stamina, then mash anything. Rinse, repeat.
There. There’s your walkthrough for Real Boxing.
I have to admit that the game does look quite pretty. Character models look realistic, although some of the facial expressions are a little derpy. Overall, it’s hard to complain too much about the visuals, as it’s a pretty impressive effort for an indie developer.
Sound effects are adequate – punches sound like punches for the most part. No complaints there either.. Sadly, the game lacks any real music outside of the nauseating entrance music that plays when your boxer walks towards the ring. A single commentator is present for the game, and whilst it’s a nice touch, he appears to only have approximately 10 lines and uses them all at the wrong time. Be prepared to hear him call every one of your uppercuts a jab and a complete one-sided pounding as the “Fight of the decade”.
It goes without saying that the graphics, sounds and .. everything else pale in comparison to Fight Night, but I’ve said that more than enough times already, haven’t I?
Captain obvious here reporting in – I love indie games. Oddly enough, this is the reason I hate games like this. I hate that games like this exist because it’s an example of an indie game making a strictly inferior version of a AAA game like Fight Night and dumbing down all the mechanics and depth whilst hiding behind the fact that it’s an “indie” game. Indie games should never, ever be strict downgrades of AAA games.
Unfortunately, as I said before, us Steam (and other platforms) gamers looking for a chance to practice the art of the sweet science aren’t exactly spoilt for choice. This is the best boxing game on Steam right now, and if that’s what you’re looking for then I would recommend you give it a shot. For everyone else though, stay away.
You can experience
shitty Fight Night Real Boxing on Steam for $9.99 USD here.