You know, a pre-conceived notion can be a powerful thing. Take the case of Real Boxing, for example. I went into it expecting at best a shallow, mediocre game that wouldn’t hold my attention for long. I got instead a title that’s surprisingly satisfying and technical, and overall a darn good fit for the PlayStation Vita. It’s not the best game on the market, and certainly not the best boxing simulation around, but what it is is a load of fun, and something that is really good at what it does.
Don’t expect Real Boxing to be the next Fight Night or anything. It lacks all of the official licenses and likenesses that EA Sports’ massive backing would net it, and it certainly isn’t as deep or technical. But don’t expect it to be something like Punch-Out either. Think of it, instead, like a beginner’s version of the former instead of the latter, and you’ll get the picture.
The single player modes include a quick fight mode, a training mode, and a career mode; there is also an online multiplayer mode, to square off against other players and see where you stand. But the real meat of the game lies in the short but surprisingly compelling single player career mode, which sees you fighting through the ranks with a boxer you made using some limited customization tools you get at the beginning.
Your skill is directly linked to various stats, such as stamina, and you need to train to increase them, in order to get more advantages in fights. However, you also gain upgrade fights when you win fights, which lets you buff up your fighter without ever doing any extensive training. This has the curious effect of making the career mode feel strangely disconnected from the training mode, when they should feel integrated.
But that doesn’t matter once you get down to the meat of it, which is fighting: you’ll be pulling off all sorts of boxing moves, offensive and defensive, basic and advanced. While it is certainly satisfying to see them be executed on the screen, it is even more satisfying to actually pull off the maneuvers. This is because, in a shocking twist for what was originally a phone game, the controls of Real Boxing are probably the best part of the package.
The game can be controlled using the touch screen or the more conventional analog sticks/buttons. You’re not even limited to one control scheme or the other, as you can literally switch on the fly, following up a button press with a touch screen swipe, should you feel like it. This makes the controls seem wonderfully organic and free flowing, and it means you spend less time thinking about how you want to do what you want to do, and just do what you want to do.
And you’ll need full mastery of those controls if you want to progress through the career mode- though ostensibly short, the difficulty curve here is insane, and the jump in difficulty between the first and the second tournaments especially can be staggering. In fact, it is an almost fully transparent attempt to pad the length out of the campaign mode by forcing you to replay the first tournament again and again until you have enough upgrade points to buff up your fighter to the point that you can take on the second tournament. This is probably a leftover from the game’s free to play days, where such a spike in difficulty would have been compensated by paid options that would have made the game easier.
Real Boxing looks great too- using Unreal Engine 3, the game is a pretty impressive title in motion. While no where near the best looking PS Vita game, it gets the brutality of the sport it is depicting across very well.
When you get down to it, Real Boxing is a pretty good game, suited to pick up and play sessions, which makes it right at home on the Vita. It has its issues, and it might be lacking in substance a bit all around, but it’s fun, it’s satisfying, surprisingly compelling, and honestly, at $10, you really can’t go wrong. Give it a shot for yourself and see what you think.
This title was reviewed on the PlayStation Vita.