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Jeremy Jastrzab
26 Feb, 2007

Rocky Balboa Review

PSP Review | Rocking a handheld near you.
This is the second time that this has happened and we must admit, we’re a little bit perplexed - yes, for the second time, a movie-to-game tie-in has landed exclusively on the PSP. What’s more, they’re not even the same publishers or movie studios. The culprit, err… movie to first try this was Miami Vice. Apparently, the game wasn't too bad, but wide speculation is abound that the inclusion of Colin Farrell didn’t help. Now we come to the second movie, Rocky Balboa. Ubisoft has decided to bring this game solely to the PSP.

While it's plainly obvious that the game is being released to coincide with the upcoming movie release, the actual content points to more of a commemoration for all six Rocky movies. Every fighter that made an appearance in the ring throughout any of the six films makes an appearance in the game. There are several different gameplay modes in Rocky Balboa. First off, it’s recommended that players attend Mickey’s Corner, to receive some training. Whereas console boxing games have been able to rely on the two analogue sticks for movement and fighting set-up, the PSP setup has meant that the boxing engine has some rather complex controls. However, the controls become clearer and easier to handle as you work through the several different tutorials. These manage to cover most of the game’s intricacies.

This is an appealing package for fans of the films; every character from the Rocky canon appears.

This is an appealing package for fans of the films; every character from the Rocky canon appears.
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On top of this, you can jump into an Exhibition match, pick your fighter, your opponent, set the rules on knockouts, rounds and limits and you’re on your way. However, half the fighters are locked when you start the game, and will only be gradually unlocked as you play through the Historical Fights section. As the name of this mode would suggest, you make your way through 20 of the fights that occurred throughout the Rocky canon, from the first to the last movie. In an impressive addition, each fight will be accompanied by the relevant movie clip beforehand. This further adds to the status of the game as a Rocky commemoration.

The Historical fights can last for quite a while, as there are a maximum of fifteen rounds, each three minutes in length. For those who are in bit more of a rush, you have a mode called the Fast Lane. Here, there are five timed scenarios, divided into 1, 2, 3, 5 and 10 minutes. That is, you have that amount of time to complete one of 20 or so various tasks and pre-set scenarios. So, you can play for 1 minute or up to 10. Some of these tasks can get quite challenging. Finally, for those who have two copies and two PSPs with them, there is two-player multiplayer over ad-hoc.

As mentioned previously, the decision to make this game an exclusive to the PSP is an odd one. Not just because it’s a movie title, but because the PSP is not exactly an ideal system for a boxing game. Still, the developers have actually done pretty well to make the game functional and playable on the handheld, even though this comes at a small price, with controls that are quite complex and take a while to learn properly. With the lack of an analogue stick, the developers have instead stuck all the punches onto the face buttons. Left punches are controlled by the X and Square, while right punches are controlled Circle and Triangle.

ADRIAAAAAAAN!

ADRIAAAAAAAN!
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At first, this seems quite odd, but once you get into the swing of things, you’ll find that this is actually a serviceable layout. To further enhance your capabilities, there are moves that involve pressing two face buttons at once, as well as movements from the analogue nub. Further combination comes from the L and R buttons to complete the majority of your combos, with the D-pad primarily being used for special actions, such as a lunge. Putting all this together can get quite complicated and it takes a while for the player to get used to it. Particularly because you need the higher end manouevres to win (button-mashing won’t get you anywhere).

There are a few other little features in the gameplay engine. The health meter is there merely as an indicator to show when the boxer is likely to be knocked out, and there's a Stamina and Breath bar that dictates how many punches you can throw before you need to step back and take a breather. Each boxer is also defined with a mood. This mood can be (for example) normal or aggressive, and defines the boxer's fighting style, and there's also an in-fight mood that ranges from energetic to tired. Often during a fight, players can trigger a Power mood, which makes them temporarily stronger and more likely to knock out an opponent. The fighting styles don’t differ too much from one another, which is a little disappointing, but you can definitely tell when the boxers are tired. When in a countdown, you go into a first-person perspective and need to position your fighter to stand up, though this feature didn’t work very well and resulted in a fair few unnecessary knockouts.

To the developer’s credit, they have managed to put together a reasonably good fighting engine. However, at times it may seem that the game is moving along at a faster speed than the engine can reasonably handle. This leads to a feeling of sloppiness and, at times, frustration. Furthermore, there isn’t actually that much to the game, as there's a lack of any real substantial single player mode. Sure, the historical fights are something else, but once they’re done, they’re done. Some players might actually find that by the time they’ve sorted out any control issues, they’ve run out of things to actually do.

The character models are all rather nicely constructed.

The character models are all rather nicely constructed.
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In terms of the graphics, the game does a pretty good job. All the characters have been recreated quite well (though all the Rockys look quite similar) and are detailed nicely. The animations are smooth and well made, but they all come off as quite similar in the end. Outside of the very good character models, injuries in-between rounds and the distinctive style, you won’t see much else that will be impressive and the load times are a bit on the lengthy side. Not overly long, but to the point where fingers start tapping. In terms of sound, you have a bunch of tunes that found their origins in the movies and some repetitive and often incorrect commentary. The delivery of the commentary is good, but often they’ll pick out the wrong fighter, or suggest that you’re being smashed about, when you’ve only been hit once. The sound effects manage to pack an effective wallop.

Despite a complex control scheme, Rocky Balboa manages to be a very decent commemoration to a very popular franchise. Unfortunately, by the time that a player actually gets a full grip on the controls, the chances are that most of the game will have been completed by then. There just isn’t quite enough meat in the game to really make it count. Given the surprising quality of this game, it may not be out of the question that it would find its way to other platforms in the near future. For now, if you’re a PSP owner and a Rocky fan, this one won’t leave a sour taste, but you won’t quite be fulfilled either.
The Score
Rocky Balboa is a good boxing game and a fitting commemoration for the franchise, but there just isn't quite enough here. 6
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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6 Comments
7 years ago
Besides the addition of Mason Dixon from the Rocky Balboa movie isn't this basically Rocky Legends but ported to the PSP? That's how it looked to me when I saw the packaging on the weekend.
7 years ago
The first game on the Xbox/PS2/GC was class, but it Fight Night easily surpassed it. This one does have an interesting style to it, though. Did any of the original soundtrack make the cut?
7 years ago
^If by original soundtrack, you mean from films, then yes
7 years ago
how does it compare to Fight Night on the PSP?
7 years ago
Can't someone make a game that combines Rocky Balboa and Crazy Frog?
7 years ago
Cookie wrote
Can't someone make a game that combines Rocky Balboa and Crazy Frog?
No but something involving a cricket game, crazy frog, a big (cricket) bat (that look likes it hurts) Shane Warne and txt messaging could make for interesting activity
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  Out Now
European Release Date:
  Out Now
Publisher:
  Ubisoft
Developer:
  Ubisoft
Players:
  1-2

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