reviews\ Dec 8, 2002 at 7:00 pm

Rocky - PS2 - Review

Anyone who knows movies no doubt knows what the fantastic Sylvester Stallone film series “Rocky” is all about. Not only did the story portray a great message about determination, following your dreams, and realizing that hard work can help you overcome any challenge, but it provided a deep plot and some awesome boxing action to boot. Well, Ubi Soft and Rage made the decision to finally create a next-gen console game for PS2 based on those fantastic flicks, and pulled off one heck of a great game.


Rocky puts you in control of … well, Rocky … as if you didn’t guess that one already. You get to go through all of the movies to an extent, fighting your way through over 20 contenders including some made up ones, like Dipper Brown and Tony Snow, but also movie fighters like Spider Rico, Apollo Creed, and even the man who predicted tons of pain for Rocky and now predicts it for anyone who doesn’t use 1-800-COLLECT … Mr. T as Clubber Lang. The controls are easy to get into since square and triangle throw upper body shots while X and circle wear down the body. Hitting up on the control stick will switch them to harder hooks or haymakers, and holding R1 will unleash uppercuts. There is also a strong one hit knockdown punch that can be used, but it’s recommended only when an opponent is winded or beat badly since it can leave you wide open for a severe thrashing.


Now, going through Rocky’s career isn’t just hopping in and out of rings and fighting over and over again. Part of it also revolves around training, and in between matches you will need to work on the speed bag, the jump rope, punch mitts, and even the meat locker knocking the heck out of a side of beef. Each one has a button pressing and timing skill that has to be done and will determine the increase of the particular skill stat it represents. The first time you try them, you may not be very good at it … but just like real boxing you will get better as the game progresses and build your stats up even more. One nice feature that they threw in was an “auto train” feature, which will build the stat up without you having to do the work. So if there are one or two that you just aren’t good at, don’t worry too much about it.


Another nice feature of the game is a unique blend of boxing and fighting game controls and gameplay. The boxing is really accurate and the animation looks great, but Rocky and each boxer that you unlock have the ability to throw a various assortment of multiple hit combos which look awesome, but aren’t anywhere near as hard to pull off as some other games. For example, hitting triangle then square, then holding up and following the same two button pattern two more times unleashes a couple of jabs followed by two hooks, an uppercut, and a roundhouse finisher which will knock some decent energy out of your opponent. In addition, you can sidestep swings by pressing up, like in MK Deadly Alliance, or block if you get too close to a corner.


Game modes? Oh there’s a couple. You can play through the “Movie Mode”, which has you go from Rocky I – V fighting opponents in bars, gyms, and other arenas both from the films and made up and is the main meat of the game. If you want to play as one of the boxers that you have beaten … like a match between Ivan Drago and Tommy “The Gunn” Morrison … you can do that either on your own or in a two player game which is a blast. There is a Knockout mode as well after you have beaten the Movie Mode for you and up to 15 other players that has a ladder style progression to it where the winner advances and the loser drops out. Lastly, Sparring Mode allows you to practice your combos and hitting skills so you won’t be unprepared walking into the next “challenge of a rival” … as Glass Tiger sings about in Eye of the Tiger (Which sadly didn’t make it to the game).


There are only a couple of things gameplay wise that I can say could have been done a little better, and both are reaching a tad bit. The first one is the lack of a “create your own boxer” mode, which would have been the icing on the cake for this game. It’s not that the game suffers without it; however, it just would have added an awesome twist to playing through the movie mode and being your own Rocky. Secondly, the computer difficulty can get a little nasty as you get past the first film … so make sure to practice your “sticking and moving” and side stepping on the easier opponents prior to getting to that point. Trust me … moving straight in and throwing punches is a good way to get knocked on your Italian Stallion behind quickly, and can get super frustrating if you aren’t skilled at pulling it off. On the more positive side, it adds a lot more strategy to the game and tends to make it a heck of a lot more realistic, which is something lacking from a lot of boxing titles these days.


Graphically, Rocky stands out and looks great. The close ups of Stallone and the boxers he goes up against look really good (even if the heads are a little disproportioned), and during the fight their faces will contort and grimace in pain as they get hammered. In addition they will show some really detailed damage like bloody noses, reddened features, and their eyes will even swell up and look pretty ugly. The blood that flies from mouths and noses when someone gets hit hard looks a little square, but leaves some pretty realistic stains on the mat which can be seen really well during knockdowns or while dancing around the ring. The animation is fluid, the backgrounds look awesome, and even the crowd … even if a tad pixeled … will hop around during the match or even throw trash in the ring if they get a little wild.


The sound to Rocky is also top notch, and contains the original title song that is famous worldwide. The sounds of gloves hitting faces gives off a satisfying smack, and body blows have a painful thudding sound to them. On a surround sound system, boxers that fall and hit the mat hit hard enough to set the subwoofer off, and add to the painful visual that goes along with it. The voiceovers during matches or during the computer generated movie cutscenes sound great and will bring you back to the first time you watched the film. The crowd cheers, chants, boos, and will even make comments during the match while you fight, and everything really adds to the atmosphere of the game.


As you can probably tell, I really enjoyed Rocky and was amazed at how great a movie to game translation it turned out to be. Also, I was impressed at how good a boxing game it was … famous movie license or no … and I have to say that it gives a serious knockout blow to a lot of other games out there (Knockout Kings 2003 on GameCube included). Whether you’re a fan or not, but love boxing or fighting games, pick this one up … you won’t be disappointed.            


Gameplay: 9.0
There are a bunch of game modes to select from, including the movie mode to play through the career of the most famous boxing movie legend of all time. The crossing of fighting game and boxing game worked out surprisingly well, and will definitely attract a lot of different fans. There are a bunch of combos to use and learn, but each one is satisfyingly nasty but surprisingly simple to utilize. There are a bunch of unlockable boxers to find as you progress through the movie mode, and the training is a lot of fun, but can be skipped if you just don’t feel like messing with it. A create your own boxer mode would have been nice, but it isn’t going to take away from the fun.    


Graphics: 9.1
The characters look great, even with some slightly oversized heads, and the real time damage of the fighters was really impressive. The animations are fluid, and even with some fast paced action I didn’t notice any slowdown or collision problems. The backgrounds used in the movie are surprisingly realistic looking, and the crowd itself will jump around and react as the matches are in progress. One of the better PS2 games I’ve seen.


Sound: 9.1
When you first start playing, you hear the original Rocky theme song going all the way back to the first film. During the game, there are some neat intros accompanied by decent music tracks, and the fighting sounds were well done and right on time with the swings. The crowd also plays a good part in the overall experience here and will cheer, boo, and actually seem to get involved in the matches. The game misses a 10 from me due to no “Eye of the Tiger” being included.


Difficulty: Medium
Simple to learn controls and a ton of combos that aren’t hard to pull off. The difficulty can be adjusted, but regardless can get near impossible of you don’t learn the importance of blocking, weaving, moving, and ducking while you fight through the easier contenders. Even so, it has a good learning curve to help you get good before it gets hard.  


Concept: 9.2
This was a great movie series, and the game definitely does it justice. UbiSoft and Rage really made sure that this game lived up to the standards of one of the best-loved films of all time. All of that stuff aside, this would have been a spectacular game even without Sly Stallone’s character attached to it.


Multiplayer: 9.1
This game is a blast to play with two people, and you can even set up some “dream matches” with a buddy that a lot of us would like to see. Put Apollo up against Clubber to get some revenge for the mouthing he got in Rocky III, or see who’s really better between Tommy Morrison vs. Ivan Drago. There is also a ladder style tournament mode to compete in with up to 16 people.


Overall: 9.1
I was really impressed at how well everything in this game from gameplay to graphics came together and created one heck of a fun gaming and boxing experience for me. I have had people who wouldn’t let me have my PS2 back when they started playing, I have seen kids and adults alike pick it up at the local retailer and sing the theme song all the way to the car, and this just really turned out to be a fantastic game for adults and kids both. This definitely was worth a $50 price tag all around, and knocks all other boxing games down for the 10 count.   


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