While the PlayStation Vita certainly has its fair share of fighting games, Sony's handheld has been decidedly lacking in anything representing the sweet science of boxing. Until now, that is, as Vivid Games' Real Boxing finally makes its way to the ring. *Cue Eye of the Tiger*
Right off the bat, many are going to count a couple of strikes against Real Boxing without ever having actually played it. For starters, the game began life as a mobile title, which many wrongfully assume means it automatically has to be an inferior product. Secondly, it only cost 10 bucks. Again, some might think that, because it comes in at a bargain price, it must not be providing a full gaming experience.
While you're certainly not getting anything on par with, say, the Fight Night franchise in the palm of your hands, Real Boxing tends to hit more than miss, making it a fun boxing distraction that's easy to pick up and play in short bursts or tuck in for a full run through a tournament.
Upon first booting up Real Boxing, the player will be tasked with creating their own fighter from a very basic set of options. Most of the customizations need to be purchased with the in-game currency, so once you decide on some hair, maybe a goatee and some tribal tattoos, you're ready to get into the action.
The main game is broken up into four main modes including a quick match, online play, tournaments and training. There's also a robust settings menu that lets you look at a nice selection of stats for your personalized fighter. Quick match is exactly what it sounds like and, on the rare occasion I could get an online opponent, everything ran nice and smooth. Tournaments and training, though, are where you're going to be spending most of your time.
There are three tournaments available in the game, each consisting of seven preliminary matches, a semi and final round. You'll likely breeze your way through the first tournament, but you'll need to put in some time to strengthen your fighter if you hope to stand a chance in the later bouts.
That's actually one of Real Boxing's strong suits. You can spend in-game currency to beef up your stats, or you can use points earned through winning matches. Each tournament fight also offers a bonus reward for achieving additional goals, such as “knock out your opponent with an uppercut.” You can drop these points into strength, speed and endurance, slowly crafting your fighter into the king of the ring.
As an additional boost, you can also spend some time in the game's training mode, which allows you to play a selection of mini-games in order to unlock additional perks. More perks unlock as you play through the tourneys, and your player can equip any two you've unlocked before stepping into the ring. These do everything from making it a little easier to stand up after being knocked down, to making your punches more ferocious or making it easier to maintain a clench.
You'll also earn money as you play which, along with being utilized to beef up your fighter, can also buy you new trunks, gloves, tats, hairstyles, etc.
But a fighting game is only as good as its controls and, thankfully, Real Boxing offers a decent mix of options. You can use touch controls if you like, or you can mix and match the analog and physical buttons. Sliding the right analog stick in one of six directions activates a jab, cross and uppercut for the left or right hand. Or, you could just use the D-Pad and face buttons if the stick doesn't suit. You can hold down the left bumper to turn any punch into a body shot, or use the right bumper to block and dodge. Finally, if you're starting to see stars, you can risk getting close enough to your opponent to hit L and R at the same time to go into a clench, where you'll play a quick (and extremely difficult to get right) balancing mini-game to determine if you get some health back.
There isn't a huge amount of depth in that formula, but there's enough tools to work with to keep the fights interesting. The best bit of strategy comes in the form of a perfectly timed dodge which, if executed correctly, opens your opponent up for a slow-mo counter-punch that does a heap more damage.
I'd prefer a few more options both in and out of the ring but, for a pick up and play boxing game that actually looks pretty dang nice to boot, it's hard not to recommend this to Vita boxing fans looking for a fix. It won't blow your mind with depth, but at least what's available is well executed and, most importantly, fun to play.
Platforms: iOS, PlayStation Vita (reviewed), Android
Developer: Vivid Games
Publisher: Vivid Games