reviews\ Dec 8, 2002 at 7:00 pm

Rocky - GC - Review

“Yo, Adrienne! I did it!”

Little did Apollo Creed know, way back in the mid-70s, that when he gave an underdog fighter the chance to compete for the biggest title in the world of boxing that he would be opening a can of mythological proportions.

The story of Rocky Balboa, the southpaw from Philly, has been chronicled through five movies. From his rise as a collector for a loan shark and hack fighter working for peanuts to the pinnacle of the boxing world and back to the beginning, Sylvester Stallone’s series has been a feel-good cinematic ride.

Ubi Soft and Rage have partnered to bring the story of Rocky to the GameCube with wonderful results. This is a boxing game, pure and simple, but players can chart Rocky’s progression from street fighter to the upper echelons of the international boxing community.

Apollo, Clubber Lang, Ivan Drago and Tommy Gunn are all here, all wonderfully captured and animated for the game. The game even uses dialogue, though voiced by other actors. With the possible exception of the voice work for Mick (portrayed by Burgess Meredith in the film), the voice work is excellent. And of course, powered by Bill Conti’s memorable theme, and other tracks, the musical score works quite well.

If there is a setback to the game, it is the lack of venues early on. Rocky, even after beating Apollo (if you are good enough you don’t have to wait until Rocky II comes along to accomplish the task), there seems about three sites that Rocky fights at. Although much better than the high school gyms (they must be fieldhouses but look like gyms) and backstreet boxing forums that he begins in, they still aren’t quite what is expected for the heavyweight boxing champion of the world.

The game has several modes of play. There are the exhibition mode (as you fight and unlock boxers, they show up in this venue and you can have any matchup you wish), the movie mode (track Rocky’s career through the five films), a knockout tourney (you have to complete the movie mode in order to unlock this feature), and sparring mode (learn the controls while tagging an opponent who is there for precisely that reason). There is also a gallery that is progressively unlocked as you move through the movie mode. While not featuring movie clips (well, there are a few), it does feature the animated characters re-enacting the critical scenes from the films.

The movie mode is by far the most enjoyable feature of this game. Rocky, the game, begins the same way that Rocky, the film, began – with the battle against Spider Rico. There are several fights that take place before Apollo picks Rocky for the big fight.

“You wanna fight the fight? Yeah, I’ll fight the fight. Get my brains kicked in …”

Between fights, Rocky has to train. You can auto-train, in which points are added to one of five critical areas (strength, speed, stamina, determination and movement), twice between bouts. In fact, you have to train twice. If you don’t select auto-train, you can train yourself, with the opportunity to do better than in auto-train mode. You can also do worse. At the end of each fight, two categories are docked points.

Every fighter mentioned in the movies is represented in the game. As you progress, regardless of the difficulty setting, the fights get progressively harder. You can take a monster like Clubber Lang (who is highly rated in each category) and go in against a pug like Spider Rico, and if you are playing at the contender or champion setting, you will have a real battle on your hands.

The control elements have been kept relatively simple and are easy to use. If you get knocked down, you have to vigorously tap the A button to generate enough energy to heave your bloodied body off the canvas. This is a reflexive game. See an opening, know what controls trigger which punch and fire away.

The graphical elements are very good. Even though you can score a knockout by pounding a guy’s shoulder (guess that is it supposed to be his head), you can’t just flail away. Hooks to the body and head can be devastating; a well-timed upper cut will lift the opponent off the mat and into the ropes; ducking, bobbing and weaving will open up sections of the body for a quick combination. Rocky’s looks change as the game progresses.

This is an exceptionally well-done game that does a remarkable job of mimicking the movies. With solid sound effects, terrific graphics and challenging fights (how can they say, in Rocky III, that he is fighting a bunch of nobodies? – those guys have power and speed and can rock your world), this is a game that is certain to score well on the cards of fight fans, as well as fans of the films. Ubi Soft and Rage touched gloves, came out fighting and delivered an entertaining title.

This game is rated Teen for violence.

Gameplay: 9
You do have the opportunity to select the length of each round, which can be a good thing or a bad thing. There is nothing worse that finally getting your opponent off his feet only to have him saved by the bell. Once the fight starts, the action is seamless. The camera angles all work very well, the crowd, though somewhat generic in movement, responds well and the bouts are spectacular.

Graphics: 8.9
The animation and progressive damage is very well done. The venues are repetitious, and though the fans do throw things into the ring (early in the movie mode) they don’t seem to have any effect. One fighter was lying on the mat when a beer bottle thrown into the ring hit him and shattered. A bottle thrown with that much force, and striking someone on the head would have knocked him out, especially in the woozy condition he was already in.

Sound: 8.8
The sound effects are well done and the music is excellent. The vocal characterizations aren’t quite on target, especially in the case of Mick.

Difficulty: Medium
The control elements have been kept somewhat simple, and there are three difficulty settings. But even at the easiest setting, the fights get progressively harder and you do know that you will have to power up the right areas in order to succeed. If you can remember how Rocky won his fights, you have an idea about that already.

Concept: 9.2
The game is very well conceived and delivered. Rage has been able to translate the intensity of the fights to this platform while keeping the feel of the film series.

Multiplayer: 8.5
The matchups are wonderful and the intensity is terrific in a head-to-head format. Sure, this is just one-on-one straight-ahead boxing, but it is fun.

Overall: 9
This is a game that has kept the feel and progression of the movie series while delivering top-notch boxing action for those who like fight games but don’t care for the films. The game does have a few tiny setbacks, but nothing that really interferes with the flow and enjoyment.


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