Don King Presents: Prizefighter Review (Xbox 360)
On the one hand, the game offers an innovative and rewarding documentary style career mode, which makes it worth playing through the game once.
On the other hand, jerky animations and unresponsive controls plague the game inside the ring.
It was inevitable that Prizefighter would take many hints from its competitor, Fight Night Round 3, and the similarities are undeniable. When it comes down to it, however, Fight Night is still more fun to play today, despite coming out several years ago.
The gameplay in Prizefighter is where it really suffers. To be blunt, it’s just not that good.
First off, the button-based controls don’t feel as intuitive as Fight Night’s Total Control Punching – which utilizes movements of the right stick. It’s much harder to throw combos in Prizefighter, and the punches always feel like individual animations instead of transitioning smoothly from one to another.
There are three bars on the screen: health, stamina, and adrenaline. The health meter is standard; when its empty you fall down. The stamina meter is different in that instead of slowly dwindling over the course of the fight, it dwindles very rapidly after a few punches, but regenerates equally fast. This leads to a nice pace which requires you to move in for a few punches, and then get out to let your stamina regenerate.
Unfortunately, the meter always regenerates the same amount no matter how late into the fight it is, so your punches have full effect even in the later rounds of the fight. This keeps the pace quite hectic, even when both fighters should be tired.
The adrenaline meter is another different element to Prizefighter. You build it by successfully landing or blocking multiple punches in a row, until you have enough to unleash a signature punch. These punches are much more powerful than the normal punches, but thankfully they don’t look too ridiculous.
Instead, they look like slightly exaggerated equivalents of whatever punch corresponds to the button you press. If you use them carefully, they can change the fight dramatically, but they are easy to block or punch into, which still causes your boxer to lose the adrenaline without the benefit of landing the big punch.
If you build your adrenaline all the way, you can activate focus mode, which gives your fighter unlimited stamina for a short period of time, and allows you to throw lots of punches which are slightly more powerful than normal.
However, it isn't really worth waiting for your adrenaline to build up all the way, as you are more effective just using the individual punches as you earn them. Ultimately, this feature feels arcadey, and takes away from the otherwise realistic realistic feel of the gameplay.
Without Adrenaline, the pace of the game is actually pretty good. You have to block frequently – done by pressing the right stick up to block high, or down to block low – and your guard will break after a few punches causing you to mix up your defense and attack.
This combined with the stamina system leads to lots of in and out gameplay. It feels pretty satisfying to sit back and defend while waiting for your spot, before throwing a few punches and staggering your opponent.
Another probelm is the collision detection for both fighters and their punches is an absolute joke. Too many punches registering without ever actually hitting their target. The gameplay also gives way to button mashing too often as a result, since its easier to just stand in and trade punch after punch and just hope they land.
If your opponent has less health than you, you can just trade punches with them and watch both fighters health diminish until they fall down. The computer does little to counter this strategy, and as a result despite allowing for smart gameplay, the games AI does not encourage it.
Characters are also staggered too easily by punches, disrupting the flow of the game, and the power of straights is way over-exaggerated.
The graphics in Prizefighter are solid, but not extraordinary.
The game is more colorful than Fight Night, but not as smooth in character models or animations. The environment around the ring is done well, with lots of activity outside of the fight, but the actual fighters themselves are just mediocre.
Again, the animations are choppy, and the collision detection very poor - negatively impacting the graphics.
Injuries are done pretty well, with swelling and bruising building up on fighter’s faces over the course of the fight, but the patterns in which they develop are repeated. Boxers tend to look the same as they get beat up, with little variation in how or where they are injured. Still, some of the punches look really good, especially the leaning ones, and other animations are done pretty well.
Again, nothing extraordinary here.
The commentary is pretty bland and very repetitive, and the training exercises are almost identical to Fight Night’s in that your coach says the exact same things over and over every time.
The punch sounds are solid, but also quite arcadey. The background noise in the gyms is done very well, and adds a nice feel to the fight, but doesn’t make up for the other shortcomings in this department.
The voice overs in the career mode are for the most part pretty good, but we’ll cover those in the career mode section. The soundtrack, on the other hand, is extraordinary.
This is one thing 2k does really well. There are over 40 fighters in the game, with unlockable classics like Joe Louis and Max Baer. The included manual is extremely well-done, being both long and visually very impressive.
There's tons of included information, and 2k should be commended for putting so much effort into this department while other games are content to just give us 2 or 3 pages of information.
The soundtrack, as I mentioned earlier, is great, and it just goes to show that 2k puts a lot of effort into this area. The menus are easy to use, and everything is explained internally quite well. No real complaints with the presentation in Prizefighter.
Prizefighter is all about its new documentary style career mode and it doesn’t disappoint.
Although you can only play through as a heavyweight, and your boxer must be nicknamed “The Kid,” the rest of the create a fighter options are extensive.
You will be able to create fighters that look like anyone you could ever want to recreate, from yourself to Mike Tyson.
For the most part Prizefighters Career Mode is set up like Fight Night’s, in that you select a fight, train for it to build specific attributes, before participating in the fight.
However, the narrative interludes that advance the story are what really set the game apart. You’ll hear legend like Ken Norton and Larry Holmes talk about your character’s legend, and Don King features prominently here as well.
You’ll be introduced to rivals, who will speak retroactively about fights you have not yet done, thus leading into said fights. You’ll also be forced into scenarios like “survive a round against Joe Louis with Max Baer,” or “win the fight with a broken hand.” The game then accommodates for these scenarios.
For example in the Baer Louis fight, you have to play defense the whole time and just not let Louis hit you. In the broken hand fight, every punch you throw with your right hand drains a significant amount of your health. These interludes are good for both mixing up the pace of the career mode, and forcing you to work on certain things.
The training modes are fun, but repetitive. There are only four attributes to build - strength, dexterity, agility, and stamina – but they seem to suffice in the context of developing your fighter.
You can make a heavy hitter with lots of power but little speed, or a quick guy with lots of endurance who wins on the cards. You also have to balance training with other things like doing commercials, which build your media profile but cost attributes. The choice is yours.
Unfortunately, the career mode unravels the same way every time, so there is little replay value, and that is perhaps the biggest drawback to the only redeeming feature of the title.
There is online but I haven’t dealt with it extensively. Still, multiplayer is solid, but not distinctly more rewarding than Fight Night.
I really wanted to like this game. I have a tremendous amount of respect for 2k’s sports titles, and I was thrilled to hear they were trying their hand at boxing.
Sadly, I was ultimately disappointed. The bad collision detection and otherwise choppy gameplay overshadows the solid career mode.
Although the potential is there for fights to have a really natural and realistic pace, its too easy to just let them devolve into button mashing fests which look ridiculous and aren’t much fun in the end. The multiplayer is decent, and the career mode, although for the most part great, has no replay value, so its hard to advocate a purchase for anyone but the most hardcore of virtual pugilists.
Maybe if 2k tries again they could tighten a few screws and present a great boxing title; until then just dust off your copy of Fight Night Round 3 and save yourself sixty bucks.