Gamestyle Archive Intro: one of the most memorable reviews on Gamestyle was a one-off review from a forum character known as the Marquis De Sade. After all these years I’ve forgotten his real name (maybe Steven?) however he was one of the hardcore supporters of Gamestyle and its forum, which was a great place to engage with. This unique review dates from November 2002.
“Laaaadies and Gentlemeeeeen, welcome to the clash of the titans. Tonight, we proudly present the contention for the heavyweight championship of the woooorld!!!!!!!” In the red corner, hailing from the northeast of England, and from the corridors of Rage Newcastle, wearing the blue shorts with red and white trim, is Roooccccckkkkkkyyyyy!!!!!!!!”
Crowd politely clap
“And in the brown/yellow corner, currently residing from the Bastille prison in France, and clearly needing a wash, is none other than the sick, the twisted, the boy-ass buyer, the Marrrrrrquis De Sade!!!!!!!!” Rapturous applause from the crowd
De Sade is initailly impressed by the opening sequnce of moves by the contender, displaying clips from the movie, with THAT music, and perfectly getting the gamer into the spirit of the proceedings. After a flurry of jabs and hooks from Rocky, De Sade delivers a strong uppercut when at the end of the intro, a shameless plug for the DVD boxset appears.
Seconds out, and the user is given the option for Exhibition, Sparring, Tournament (which has to be unlocked), and the ubiquitous Movie Mode, which is the meat and potatoes for the single player. Decent rendered cut-scenes permeate the action, with the sound sampled from the actual movies, which perfectly recreate the mood of the celluloid outings. A series of quick punches to the ribs, causes concern to the debauched one’s trainers.
Round three then, and the first impressions are good. The graphics are superbly realised, with each fighter looking as you’d expect them to be (special mention of course, to Clubber Lang’s infamous mohican), replete with sweat-soaked skin and bulging muscles. Each punch delivers a convincing connection, and you’ll wince as blood and sweat spray from the pores of the receiving face. The depiction of the boxers grow more bloody as the fight wears on, and you’ll often find blood strewn around the canvas. The arenas too, are worthy of mention, and grow as you move from backstreet gyms, to fully-fledged halls. Unlike most other sporting games, the crowds are polygonal, and far more realistic looking than the usual cardboard cutouts. De Sade is surprised at the movement of the ‘Italian Stallion’, as he ducks and weaves, pounding the libertine with blows to the side of his head.
As soon as the bell sounds, De Sade is straight out, with nothing to lose. He has been impressed by this young American, but having tried the game on default (Contender), and finding the game frustratingly difficult, he leads in with a barrage of punches to the ‘Stallions midriff. Initially, the game is found to be very unforgiving. These boxers are tough, and show no mercy. Furthermore, it helps to learn some combos to rattle in, but further play reveals quite a strategic game. Training (should you ignore the standard points added to speed, stamina etc, and gamble to try manually) is tough too, and you’ll stumble on each lesson until you’ve had a fair few goes. Unfortunately, you can’t practice any of these training lessons from the main menu. The bell sounds, and Rocky retreats to his corner, surprised at the deftness from De Sade, but wondering why his breeches should be undone.
Both fighters, eye-balling for the last time, meet once again. After a few hours play, it really clicks in. The buttons are mapped to your brain, and fighting each boxer reveals their weakness. And you exploit it. You see the opening, and try to lure your oppenent into the corner. And you get him there. And you realise that this is your chance. The uppercuts rain in, his mouth spurting blood, as you rain in a few combos. His energy bar rapidly dropping, as you unleash a volley of superbly timed punches. And in a spasmodic twist, his body impacts upon the canvas. The sensation is incredible, and in the Rocky context, you’ll want to topple the arrogant Creed, the ox-like Lang, the towering Drago, the upstart Gunn, alongside the other 20+ opponents.
In slow motion, De Sade, now tiring badly, swings with all his might to Rocky’s face. But his opponent is more powerful and agile than any other boxing game he has saw before, and he dodges. Dodges well enough to reply with a stunning counter-punch that sends De Sade reeling on his heels, and onto his stinking back. The crowd rise, and instead of jeering, they chant the new heir to the throne “ROCKY, ROCKY, ROCKY!!!!!” Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the best boxing game in the world.
Gamestyle Score: 8/10