reviews\ Oct 14, 2011 at 8:12 am

Real Steel XBLA Review


So after seeing last weekend’s blockbuster Real Steel, I went into the Xbox Live Arcade title of the same name with some extremely high hopes. For the most part, these hopes were met, aside from some glaring imbalances in the game’s micro transaction market.

Real Steel movie poster

Upon booting up the game, you’re immediately tasked with building your first robot. You get to choose between three different frame types. These all have different attributes and effect the way your robot moves and fights. I chose a Speed type and proceeded – the customization feature is deep, but to my horror, I found out that coloring the robot and choosing different part types requires a micro-transaction to unlock. As I delved further into the game’s shop, I realized that many of the best parts have to be unlocked using Microsoft Points. The parts in the game’s currency shop are serviceable, just not quite as overpowered as the ones referenced above.  (This will be important again later, so take note.)

Real Steel XBLA robot creation

Combat in Real Steel progresses in much the same way you’d expect. Two giant robots are in a ring pummeling on each other in an arcade fashion, with the four face buttons controlling right and left punches, strong and heavy attacks, but with special attacks that are activated by holding down the shoulder buttons to modify your normal punches. One thing I will say about combat is that you really feel every hit as the camera shakes with every metal grinding blow.

There is some strategy to be had in battles as well, as you cannot simply flail your arms and hope to break through your opponent’s defenses – there’s also a power meter that you need to observe, otherwise your robot fighter will become fatigued, becoming much slower and easier to knockout. After you are knocked out, the game switches to a minigame in which you must rotate your analog stick and press a button to refill gauges; this encourages your fighter to get back up and in working order. This can get frustrating at times, especially if you are not running high end parts, as it becomes harder to do against better machines. The harder you are knocked out, the harder it is to refill those gauges, and no matter how fast you are on the control stick, it seems nearly impossible to refill all four meters before 10 seconds is up if you have been brutally knocked down.

Real Steel XBLA game screenshot

The presentation of the game is about what you would expect for a movie tie-in. There are some great-looking models, but the environments leave a lot to be desired, despite being simple fighting rings. They do the job, but I was expecting a lot more.

The single player has you progressing up the ranks in much the same way the movie did for the main characters – starting off in trashy, urban areas, and working your way up through opponents to qualify for the Robot Boxing Association matches. You get cash for winning matches that you use to repair your fighter in-between matches and perform upgrades, as well as have the opportunity to repaint any new parts you purchase.

As for the multiplayer, if you expect to succeed in online multiplayer, be prepared to drop a few dollars in the game’s store. Most players I went up against seemed to have all of the DLC equipment for their contenders. Not only that, but the game’s base gear for your custom robots will not even remotely stack up against the licensed robots from the movie, if someone doesn’t want to use custom. For example, my custom ‘bot had a battle score of 680. Where as Atom, the movie’s main protagonist, had a battle score of over 2100. That’s quite the difference.  So either buy the DLC, or be prepared to stick to the generic robots.

The game’s matchmaking service also seemed to have a hard time finding a match. I’m not sure if this is the fault of the software, or because relatively few people are playing this game.

Overall, Real Steel is a fun little diversion, especially if you’re a fan of things like Battlebots, Custom Robo, or boxing games, but its nothing I would recommend sinking any serious investment of time into. For 800 points (1040 if you want to build your own robots), it’s a relative bargain. Despite some flaws, the game is fun, flashy, and definitely worth a look.


About The Author
Dustin Steiner Former GameZone's eSports Correspondent.
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