Vivid Games' Real Boxing seeks to bring a console-quality boxing experience to the Vita's little widescreen. Is this game a contender of handheld boxing game of the year? Or does it get knocked out in the first round?
Upon starting your pugilistic adventures in Real Boxing, you're met with your custom boxer. You'll get to pick his look, his nationality, his dumb tribal tattoos and even what color shorts he's wearing. Once you're happy with how your warrior of the ring looks, you can take him to the gym to get acquainted with the game's controls. Being a boxing game, you'd expect there to be a wider range of attacks than simple "left punch" and "right punch" attacks, and Real Boxing definitely delivers on this front.
You'll have a choice between all of the face buttons and the control nubs for your punches. By hitting Up and Triangle, you can perform left and right jabs respectively. Left and Circle will let left and right hooks fly. Pressing Down and X will fire off some uppercuts to your opponent's jaw. Of course, all of these moves can be performed more easily by tilting the Right Control Nub in the appropriate direction.
You'll also be using the shoulder buttons in order to fuel your attacks or buff up your defenses. Hitting R will put up your gloves and cause your fighter to block. After three blocked attacks in a row, your guard will break and you'll be open for a world of hurt, so be sure to use blocks sparingly or rhythmically. If you simply tap R, you'll go into a dodge. Successfully dodging an attack puts you in slow-mo for a few seconds, giving you the opportunity to follow up with a counter-punch. Hitting L followed with an attack modifies your punches so that they aim for the body. Blows to the body are terribly underrated but are very useful. Remember that you gotta take out the foundation to bring down a house! And, if all else fails and you need respite, pressing L and R puts you in a clinch and activates a mini-game that tasks you with tilting the Vita to keep an arrow in the middle of a green meter. If you do this just right, you'll get a bit more health.
Once you get used to the controls by practicing in sparring matches, you'll be on the first steps to being able to dance around your opponents and rain down a flurry of furious fists upon them. Just remember that timing is everything, especially when it comes to blocking, dodging and delivering counter-punches. Once you master those, you can bring down even the mightiest of foes. Except if you go up against a gorilla. Those things are 400 lbs of pure, man-destroying muscle.
The main mode to focus on in Real Boxing is the Career Mode. This is where you'll earn the necessary upgrade points and credits to really beef up your stats and turn your boxer into a champion. You'll fight in tournaments and defeat boxers ranked higher than you in your journey to becoming a punching master. Each fight will present you with a challenge to complete during your bouts.
These challenges can be anything from "Win with a KO in Round 1" or, "Avoid the Clinch State and Win by Decision." If you can manage to complete these challenges, you'll be awarded with extra upgrade points and credits. Some of these challenges can be a bit difficult to meet, but careful playing and attentiveness can go a long way. Also, you can always quit the match and start the fight again, but you'll receive different challenges.
The actual matches themselves truly test your skill. You have to be light on your feet, always moving and very judicious of what punches you throw. After a while, you'll be able to recognize what kind of attack patterns or tactics your opponents use. For the most part, they can be pretty aggressive and launch a bunch of punches. If you're smart, you'll dance around and make sure they don't land many and follow up with punches you know will hit. That way, if you can't knock him out, you'll at least land more blows and wind up winning by decision.
If the Career Mode is too much of a commitment for you during limited play times, you could always just jump into a quick match and see how well you do. Multiplayer play is available for those who really want to prove your mettle. If you find that you feel too under-powered to be playing against living human beings, you can train up in the gym and augment your stats. Doing well in training can sometimes award you with perks that help you out in the ring, such as a perk that allows your jabs to cost less stamina, letting you throw jabs a lot more. With the proper training, combination of stats and the right perks, you'll be an unstoppable being in the ring.
Now, as solid a boxing game as Real Boxing is, it's not the true console-quality boxing game it claims to be. While the gameplay is enjoyable and the boxing mechanics are on point, it doesn't go above and beyond to deliver a truly deep boxing experience. It receives low marks especially for its audio, since the commentating during matches doesn't amount to anything more than "he threw a left" and, "look at that right uppercut!"
But, as a whole, it's a cool game that can be enjoyed by both neophytes and boxing aficionados. And, for under $10, you'll be getting a title with hours of fighting fun to be had. Does Real Boxing knock us out? No, but it keeps us hanging around until the bell is rung.
This review was based on a digital copy of Real Boxing for PlayStation Vita that was purchased for review.