Heavyweight champion or featherweight punching bag?
- Developer: Survios
- Publisher: Survios
- Release date: 3rd September 2021
- Genre: Fighting game, Brawler, Beat ‘em Up
- Platforms: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Switch, Windows PC
- Reviewed on: Xbox Series S
- Game Supplied by: Publisher
Big Rumble Boxing: Creed Champions Review
It has been a LONG time since a decent boxing game hit the console market. I still have my Xbox 360 hooked up, mainly because Fight Night Champion is the last, and still one of the best boxing games to play. Boxing games seemed to take an early retirement during the last console generation (with the exception of a few PSVR titles) which was perplexing, especially when the actual sport is having a massive surge in popularity. Tyson Fury, Anthony Joshuha, heck, even famous Youtubers KSI and Jake Paul are getting in on the sweet science that is the thrill of boxing, alongside packed out stadiums!
With the arrival of Big Rumble Boxing: Creed Champions, thematically based upon the Creed and Rocky films, is the wait over for a new engrossing boxing game?
Visually, the game sparkles – maybe a little too much. It won’t take you long to realize that the developers weren’t going for realism with this game, rather a much more visually stunning and exciting if slightly cartoony look. The trailers also don’t do the game justice, as the character models, alongside the venues they fight in, were at times very sharp, defined, and moved very smoothly. Visual cues for power punches, or the ropes flopping when a fighter was staggered against them, wow the eye with excitement and energy. The game is visually intoxicating.
Where the game goes off the rails somewhat is in the actual gameplay. It’s not that the game isn’t eminently pick up and playable, it’s just that beneath what appears to be a simple fighting mechanic, lies a fairly nuanced fighting game that isn’t actually about boxing. That’s great for those that will like what the game has to offer, but unfortunately, the game, and the way it wants you to play it, is actually more of a fighting game in the vein of Tekken or Mortal Kombat than it is a boxing sim like the Fight Night series.
Each match consists of you needing to knock down the opponent four times to win (Occasionally three times would do it, but 90% of the time during testing it required four). When you are knocked down yourself, you have to mash a button before the timer runs out. The first couple of times this happened it was easy to get up; The third was close, but getting up a fourth time was impossible. In all the fights I’ve taken part in, not only have I never been able to get up from my fourth knockdown, none of them ever finished in a draw or a points decision, because frankly, I don’t know if they can! It appears you have to keep fighting until one of you can’t get up. The fact that you have to bank on knocking your opponent down four times to your three affects the enjoyment of the difficulty level you play the game on, as it means you have to wear down one more health bar than your opponent.
The actual fighting, with each particular fighter having their own set of combos, was not quite what I was expecting. There is no direct ability to jab, hook, uppercut, etc. These moves can be pulled off, but only as part of a combo. This was disappointing, as I was looking at this game with the mindset of a boxing fan. While I was looking for a way to wait for an opening from my opponent, for exposed ribs to pummel, and to take my time to try and wear the opponent down, that “pure boxing” approach got me nowhere apart from flat on my back on the canvas fast. What the game wants you to learn instead is combos of normal attacks and power attacks and how to string them together. The other actions available, blocking, dodging and grappling, would give me space to do so. The effects of the punches weren’t realistic, but certainly conveyed weight and force behind them each time they landed, especially the power moves.
Unleashing a power move was always a great moment, as there is a short cinematic, followed by mighty hard punches landing with extra damage. Even here there was an issue though. If you triggered your power move while the opponent was just starting to dodge, your power move whiffed. It’s designed to be an unblockable hit, not something that can be avoided. The worst and most frustrating time was just as I triggered my power move, the AI triggered theirs, which then negated mine. I had to suffer the ignominy of watching my character getting pummeled and not the other way around.
It’s possible to pull off these super-move counters yourself, but the window of activation is so narrow that it is often more luck than judgement. With such fine margins of error to beat the AI on Pro level or above, and even some of the easier fights, moments like this can lose you a hard-earned win. I don’t recall ever managing to avoid an AI’s power move, but they have certainly cheated their way to avoid many of mine!
So with all these gripes, it would appear I hated the game, but I didn’t. The presentation of the game is fantastic. In Arcade mode, each character has their own story to follow, which consists of around six fights and some text reading; They weren’t anything special but were still interesting enough to play through. Alongside this, the audio of the game is superb. It NEVER gets old playing as Rocky while “Eye of the Tiger” plays in the background, but there are many more soundtracks that were just as enjoyable.
The area where I feel the game lacks the most, though, is that it has no online features at all. When you are fighting against a suspect AI that just waits for you to make the first move so it can counter its way to victory, playing against another human opponent would have provided welcomed relief. Couch co-op is available, which is always fun, but considering the price tag you would have expected the game to have online matchmaking capabilities. Without a substantial multiplayer offering, the meat of the game then falls back onto its single-player capabilities and then we are back to the troublesome AI and the game’s balancing issues.
The saving grace of the single-player experience is that the game is very enjoyable on the easier settings. This is because each character has their own set of moves, and it was fun to learn how to fight differently with each one. Some fighters were quick but weak, some slow but powerful, others balanced. The story modes also highlighted how the difficulty ramped up from defeating opponents. Playing the story mode on easy will have you finishing the first fight within one round, whereas the last end of game fight often ended with you becoming victorious with just a sliver of health and by the skin of your teeth.
If you go into this game thinking it’s going to be a true boxing game in the vein of the Fight Night series, you will be sorely disappointed. However, if you just want to have a fun, simple to pick up but very entertaining blast for a while, then this fits the bill. Many times I’ve felt disappointed with the game as it missed the mark of what would be expected of the boxing genre, but as a general fighting game, it’s a lot of fun. That fun would have been exponentially increased if there had been an online multiplayer aspect, but without it, it feels overpriced and lacking in content.