When it comes to boxing as a sport there is definitely a bit of flair and showmanship. However this kind of spectacle has been overshadowed recently by the popularity and flamboyance of modern wrestling. In the game world, however, the line between sport and show is getting more and more out of focus. Now with the introduction of Ready 2 Rumble the line becomes even blurrier as a good boxing engine combines with funny characters and showiness.
Modern boxing games started with EA's Knockout Kings, which was a perfect simulation complete with real boxers, real rules, and realistic play. This turned out to be too slow and unexciting for many gamers. The more arcade-like alternative was released by Sony and was known as Contender. The sad truth was that a contender it wasn't. Many felt that the game was not nearly enough of a simulation and had no depth or personality. Basically it was a mediocre fighting game designed with boxers. Now Midway steps into the ring with its fighter and comes out swinging. Midway is most famous in the sports world for taking real sports and making them easy and fun to play. Since most of their games are designed for the arcade their games are plug and play without needing or having much depth. Recently they have expanded their games to appeal more to the home market that wants their games to last.
Ready 2 Rumble features two different modes in order to combine the ease of an arcade style fighter with the depth of a simulation. Ready 2 Rumble is in essence NBA Jam or Blitz for boxing. The are four buttons to control the left and right hands for head and body shots, and there are two more buttons for high and low blocks. The control is very easy to get the hang of and the combos are easy to pull off. Easy control means that most of the emphasis relies on skill and strategy. Stick and move, go in for the kill, or back off and catch your breath. All the typical boxing strategy is present in the game even though the boxers are performing all kinds of wacky punches and maneuvers. The characters themselves are full of personality and very diverse. From the Afro-wearing squirrelly guy to the big fat southerner to the girl from Brazil with the lethal right hook, there are plenty of different fighting styles to choose from.
Ready 2 Rumble's equivalent of Blitz's and Jam's "On Fire" power up is the "Rumble Flurry". Inflict enough damage on your opponent, and you will begin to spell the word "Rumble" on the bottom of the screen. Spell it out and you can begin a "Rumble Flurry" which allows for mad combos that are really difficult for your opponent to block. Hey the whole game can't be a simulation right? We are talking about Midway here.
If this seems like it could get old quickly, you;ll be happy to know that there is also a Championship Mode that allows you to start a gym and train various boxers to move up in the ranks. There are three boxers to start, but every time you get one to a champion level another boxer unlocks. The training consists of typical exercises like timing, speed bag, and weight lifting. Each training mode is its own mini-game that is fun to play in and of itself. Once you have trained, you may enter your boxers in the title bouts or make some dough on the side by signing up for a prizefight. You can even make side bets for some extra cash. However if you lose then you could lose it all.
What makes the game nice are the little details. For example the crowd is determined by the importance of the fight. If you are ranked 10th in some lower class you will fight in a small arena with a crowd of 10 or 20. Get to the big time and you will be in a packed house in a Vegas style ring. Another feature is the fact that the crowd is made up of individual people, not just a crowd pattern. Each person does their own thing and you will have to look hard to find two that are exactly alike. The boxers are loaded with different animations including taunts and special moves. They also get visibly beaten up with unmistakable black eyes and lost teeth. Still, the characters are cartoony enough to keep violence-wary parents happy. Sorry violence lovers.
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