The Rocky movies are some of the most popular films in America and for good reason. They chronicle the life of Rocky Balboa, a man who, by sheer determination, constantly overcomes seemingly insurmountable odds to become the world’s greatest boxer. It’s hard not to be inspired by his amazing comebacks and unbreakable will. Ubi Soft’s goal with the game was to capture the essence of the Rocky movies while providing gameplay that keep gamers coming back for more. So did they succeed? Well, sort of.
The presentation certainly lives up to the task of putting you in the movies. You’ll see video clips, pictures and songs that come straight from the films and give the game some great atmosphere. You’ll hear Rocky’s theme over and over before fights, and while this is great the first few times, you may eventually find yourself worn out and reaching for the mute button. Surprisingly, there are a few glaring omissions from the game’s soundtrack. ”Eye of the Tiger” and Apollo’s ”Living in America” are mysteriously missing. For a game that is trying hard to recreate the ambiance of the movies it is strange that Ubi Soft would not secure the rights (or were just too lazy) to use these songs. The load times in the game are a bit lengthy by Xbox standards, but better than the PS2 and GC versions of the game.
The graphics suffer from multiplatformitis (I love making up new words), but they don’t detract from the game in any major way. Some well-done effects like real-time facial damage, and bloodstains staying on the ring/fighters are nice touches. The animations are fluid and the fighters look very similar to their on-screen counterparts. There is a bit of clipping that occurs during the fights, but no more than in any other boxing game (or 3D game for that matter). The rings are straight from the movies and are well rendered, but a bit light in the texture department. The good thing about the slightly dated graphics is the framerate stays rock solid during the entire game.
Boxing in Rocky is a breeze to learn. You have a decent array of punches at your disposal including: uppercuts, hooks, jabs and special punches. The special punches are fighter-specific and are usually just stronger versions of regular punches. Don’t expect any outrageous Flaming Dragon Punches or the like to found here. Because the number of punches available to each boxer is relatively small, the game can get repetitive during fights. Most matches play out similar to those found in the Rocky movies, with both opponents completely disregarding defense and charging forward with fists flying. This is fun, especially against a friend, but after a time the lack of realism and depth becomes apparent. You’ll most likely find yourself asking why some little details, like grabbing your opponent to recover energy, are missing.
Now for the main issue I have with Rocky: the lack of depth. After playing through the Story mode a few times and unlocking the two secret boxers there is absolutely no reason to go through it again. There is the Knockout Tournament mode, but for some strange reason the game does not allow you to set up your own brackets. Depending on which tournament you choose the boxers are preselected. I have no idea why the developers would do it this way. It only limits your options. The number of boxers available is good, but most of them are no-name bozos who you never want to fight with. Who the heck wants to fight with Dipper Brown or Burt Judge? Not me that’s for sure. People usually just select Rocky, Apollo, Drago, Gunn or Clubber. A few more options and game modes would have went a long way in improving the longevity of this title.
Despite its shortcomings, Rocky is still a solid game that will probably please fans of the movies and arcade-style boxing gameplay. If only the developers would have added more options, modes and unlockables this game could have been one of the best boxing games around. Oh well, it’s still more entertaining than Electronic Arts’ recent Knockout Kings efforts, but that’s not saying too much. If you can deal with the lack of longevity and absolutely love the movies then Rocky is most certainly for you. If not, then shell out a few bucks for a rental and try before you buy.