Review: Rocky

System: Playstation 2
Genre: Boxing
Publisher: Rage/UBI Soft
Release Date: 11/20/2002

The first Rocky movie was released to an unsuspecting movie audience in late 1976. Its depiction of a down-on-his-luck boxer, Rocky Balboa, who gets the chance to shock the world was a masterpiece and earned the “Best Picture” award for its efforts. Rocky spanned four more sequels, with Rocky V in 1990 being the most recent to hit box offices.

However, in today’s era of “whatever was cool twenty years ago is cool again”, Rocky is just as big as it was in its heyday. A boxed set of DVD’s was released to much fanfare last year, and a game was announced shortly after. The game was finally released in November of 2002. A month later, it was announced that Sylvester Stallone would enter the ring as Rocky Balboa again in Rocky VI.

Would the video game version of Rocky live up to the legacy of the movies? Or would it drag down the franchise even more than Rocky V did? Find out here.

Note from the Reviewer: The only true way to review a game like this is to base it on its own merits. That is, the quality of the game apart from any movie. Therefore, this review will deal solely with how good the game itself is, not how well it relates to the franchise. I’ll be writing a column on how the game compares to the movie that will cover the “Rocky” aspect of it in far greater detail than you’d probably like.

After playing a few rounds of Rocky, one can’t help but think of how great an arcade game this could have been. It’s a game you can pick up pretty easily, but has enough intricacies to keep you entertained for quite some time. That’s one of the hallmarks of a great game.

Is Rocky “great”? Well, it’s got a lot going for it. It’s got a Sparring mode to teach you the basics. It’s got the standard Exhibition mode, as well as the excellent Movie Mode, which takes you through all of the fights that Rocky Balboa himself endured. In Movie Mode, you play as Rocky and start out in Rocky I. In each “movie”, you fight three smaller characters, all of whom make bit appearances in the films. After this, you’re treated to a re-creation of a scene from whichever movie you’re playing. Then, you fight the so-called “boss” of the movie. This is totally surreal if you’re a fan of the films, and those who have never even seen a Rocky movie will probably get a kick out of seeing those characters that they’ve heard of for so long.

A very significant aspect of Movie Mode is the training. No boxer can perform without undergoing rigorous training, and the Italian Stallion is no different. Rocky does five different exercises which gain him points in five categories: Punch Mitts (strength), Speed Bag (speed), Jump Rope (stamina), Sit-Ups (determination), and the Heavy Bag (movement). Be assured that your movement rating is absolutely useless, so focus on the other four. There’s the option to auto-train, but only a total sissy would resist the urge to train as Rocky. Also, when you auto-train, you get five points no matter what, but you can earn up to ten if you do it yourself (and, of course, do it well).

Tournament Mode is another strong point of Rocky. It’s a 16-fighter tournament that you and any number of buddies can compete in. There are three different tournaments, Bronze, Silver, and Gold, with the quality of the competitors getting progressively more difficult in each one. Only thing is, you have to beat Bronze to unlock Silver, and beat Silver to unlock Gold. In any event, Tournament Mode is just okay playing by yourself, but is a great multiplayer feature. Pick your favorite fighter from the series and show your friends who has the Eye of the Tiger!

The actual gameplay of Rocky is surprisingly good. You could call it a button-masher, but that wouldn’t really be doing the game justice. There is some strategy involved. You can’t just go in there throwing uppercuts with reckless abandon. Instead, you’ve got the work the jab for a bit, get his guard down, and then throw the big punch. Then, get the hell out of there and do it again. There are tons of combination punches to learn in Rocky; however, you probably won’t memorize all of them. You can work on them in Training and Sparring modes, but they’re useless unless they become instinct to you and you can use them without even thinking about it. Defense is also a very important part of the game, so don’t take it lightly. As the game progresses, your offense alone just doesn’t get it done anymore. You need to be able to, as a great trainer once said, “Dodge his punch, then counter-punch!”

Graphics are another strong point for Rocky. The characters look a little cartoonish, but that adds to the arcade feel to the game. They are, however, very accurate. Even the cornermen of the boxers are identical to those who appear in the films. The venues where you fight are highly detailed beyond even the most rabid Rocky fan’s dreams. Hardcore watchers of the movies will drool over some of these. The cut-scenes aren’t full-motion videos directly taken from the film, but are “animated” so that the characters look the same as they do in the ring.

If “Gonna Fly Now” gets your juices going, this game just might make you burst. You hear this song at just about every juncture in the game – at every menu, during the intro, and when Rocky enters the ring. Thank God it’s a great song. The other boxers have somewhat generic music, but each piece suits its particular character well. The sound effects are just what you’d expect them to be – when a big punch is landed, you’ll hear it. Also, the crowd plays a pretty big part, chanting “Rocky” when appropriate and contributing some unique hand-clap patterns.

Fun Factor
As stated earlier, this would have been a great arcade game. It’s easy to imagine pumping quarters into the machine and using one of those fist controllers like in that old Sega boxing arcade game. However, playing it in the comfort of your own home is no slouch, either. You’ll enjoy the Movie Mode if you’re a Rocky buff, or even if you’ve never heard of these movies (shame on you), you’ll get something out of it. The training modes are a blast and they don’t really get old, either. To really get the maximum amount of enjoyment, though, you need to call up some friends and have an all-night Rocky tournament and see if you’ve got the goods or if you’re just a paper champion.

Gameplay: 9
Graphics: 8
Sound: 8.5
Fun Factor: 9

Short Attention Span Summary
A surprisingly realistic boxing game that will please newcomers and hardcore movie fans alike, Rocky is one game that everyone should give a try. There’s certainly enough here to warrant a purchase, especially if multi-player is your thing. So go out and give Rocky a shot, you bum.



, ,