EA has had somewhat of a monopoly on all things boxing for the last little while. Both with their excellent Fight Night series of games and the upcoming “greatest game name ever” Facebreaker, EA’s reign as heavyweight boxing video game champion of the world looked relatively safe. Now a new contender to the crown has stepped up in the shape of 2K Sports Don King’s Prizefighter, bringing along some of the legends of the sport to go toe-to-toe with the champ.
Outside of actual boxers, Don King is hands down the biggest name in boxing. The lightening-struck haircut and the over-the-top presentation in his everyday life make one wonder why no one has approached him to be the face of a boxing sim before.
Any fan of Fight Night will be somewhat comfortable with both the presentation and control schemes present in Prizefighter, which borrows the best features of the older titles and adds a few twists to keep things interesting. The biggest difference being the punch controls. Fight Night uses the right analog stick to mix combinations in an attempt to make the style of boxing a little more fluid, Prizefighter, on the other hand, goes old school.
To put the controls into perspective it’s a little like the switch in control schemes between SSX 3 and SSX On Tour, where SSX 3 used the shoulder and face buttons to control uber-tricks, SSX On Tour went for the right analog stick to execute the same moves. While swapping a potential eight buttons onto one stick makes the game a little simpler, it took away some of the awe-inspiring challenge that made the game great. Prizefighter is appily sticking with using buttons to allow advance players the freedom of choice and more strategic play.
The fights themselves are equal parts timing and strategy. By keeping your opponents’ punches out and slowly landing yours, you build up an adrenaline meter which when full, will allow you a short amount of “super” mode where your punches are faster and more powerful and you take less damage. On top of the “super” mode, the adrenaline bar also allows you to unload some signature punches which can change the course of a fight in one foul swoop.
The main crux of time spent in Don King’s Prizefighter is the career mode which mimics a meteoric rise of an upcoming fighter all the way to the top. This mode is told in a somewhat documentary style that oddly reminds gamers of a Rock Band style progression from small time prizefighter all the way to megastar champion.
Within the career mode you’ll face some of the 40 odd boxers and 25 venues scattered throughout the game and use innovative training techniques’ to sharpen your created boxer to be competent enough to take on the best. The training mini-games are varied enough to provide enough challenge for even the most veteran of Fight Night players and while the graphics may not look as sharp as EA’s upcoming Facebreaker (and those look damn sharp), they seem grittier and more fitting to the sport itself.
After you’ve built up enough skills with your training you get the opportunity to take part in actual fights, winning these fights opens up more avenues of competition and a path to stardom. The documentary style is used in such a way that it makes your fights seem important from the get-go and encourages that one-more-game feeling that is crucial for the long term prospects of Don King’s Prizefighter.
The career mode also lets you fight in some famous historic fights as you live flashback told to you by your grizzled old trainer. These fights see you jump into the ring with (or as) fighters like Joe Louis or Larry Holmes in some the most memorable boxing matches ever. It’s a great little inclusion within career mode and one which will allow gamers to unlock even more content and live a part of history.
The game also promises the use of Xbox Live to challenge other fighters across the world and showcase your skills on a global level. Combine this with a fantastic soundtrack of over 70 different songs, including the ridiculous “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor and Run DMC’s classic “It’s Tricky,” it’s good to see 2K Sports have kept their eye on the ball.