http://xbox.gamezone.com/gamesell/p19477.htm Sounds like a fun game to play. Due out on Nov. 12th ! Rocky The first thing that was apparent when I elected to review Rocky was that it was the second game by UK devco. Rage I had reviewed for Xbox Game Zone in as many months - it would be interesting finding out whether Rage had managed to present a double-whammy of quality software to the Xbox in such a short period of time. Therefore, it was with some trepidation that I opened the box and placed Rocky into the DVD-drive for the first time... Anyone who knows the Rocky films will likely be able to guess what kind of a game this is: it's a boxing game. However, it's nothing like the other boxing titles currently available on the Xbox (Mike Tyson Heavyweight Boxing and Knockout Kings 2002) in that, rather than trying to simulate the whole boxing experience - thus leading to a very dry and, dare I say it, boring experience - Rage have elected to go for a much more arcadey experience which stays true to the spirit of the films. Featuring over 30 boxers and a range of fighting arenas, Rocky offers a boxing experience like no other. Fast, frenetic and fun, but still requiring thought on the part of the player in order for them to prevail, Rocky is the single most exciting game to come out of the boxing genre since Punch Out all those years ago. I'm not going to leave you in suspense, so before we go on I'm going to tell you the honest truth: Rocky is a great game. Graphics With most games graphics are a fairly important feature to help sell the product, but do little to enhance the game as a whole. With Rocky being a licensed game however, they have to do more than you might give credit for: they must help to recreate the atmosphere of the film. No matter how good the game was, if the virtual Rocky had looked like a badly rendered appropriation of some boxer, somewhere, then the whole point of licensing the game would have been squandered. Thankfully, Rare have pulled out the stops with the game, and all the characters look like their original counterparts. Each character wears their signature boxing attire, they act the way they did in the films, they punch, fall and taunt in a suitably dramatic way, and they all look as though they really feel the punches you throw their way. The arenas you fight in really do make a mockery of past examples, with the crowds not only being fully animated, but also being proper three-dimensional polygonal models. While they may not be the most advanced examples of modelisation in the game, they certainly do the job far better than any other boxing-game crowd that I can recall. Not only do they change animation according to how the fight is going, they also interact with you far more than most crowds: in the larger venues you see the flashes of people taking photographs all around the ring, and in the smaller, seedier venues they will throw cans and bottles onto the stage if they aren't enjoying the fight, even going so far as to throw them at a downed player if they think the fight is too one-sided. All of this attention to detail is made more evident by the visual cues you are given showing an opponents status: rather than having a "block-meter" to show you how close to breaking an opponents block you are, you can tell by how they react to your punches: at full strength their gloves will hardly move with your punches, but as you batter them more and more their gloves will start moving with your blows as they lose the strength to block any more, before they finally stop being of any use at all and your punches start smashing through. Every landed punch results in painful expressions from your opponent, and smashes to the face will generally result in sprays of sweat flying off everywhere. Eventually, even sprays of blood will start flying as you pound them more and more with punishing smashes - indeed, the mat will gradually get spatters of blood from both you and your opponent over time: with lengthier fights the mat can become quite a grisly sight. This isn't gratuitous however; we aren't in Mortal Kombat territory here, we're simply in the realm of a choreographed boxing match, as seen in the films. Unsurprisingly your opponents get visibly damaged over time, and depending on your punches they will end up with battered torsos, split lips, bloody noses and black eyes. Again, this is simply staying true to the film, and it's not uncommon to finish a match as the victor, but with a completely battered face, half-closed eye and shattered nose. This potentially over-the-top display of violence does much to enhance the whole "Rocky" feeling, one which is evident in every part of the game. After all this praise, it is of testament to the graphical quality of the game that the only glitch I've noticed is occasional clipping, mainly apparent in the replays, with a boxers arm sometimes appearing to pass through an opponent - this usually occurs when a punch is made at such close range that the opponent reels too slowly from the blow, and the punch passes through him. This glitch is so minor that it truly makes no dent to the graphical quality as a whole, and I can't bring myself to mark it down for such a mild problem. Sound Once again, the game remains true to its source material with sounds and music ripped directly from the film: the first thing you hear when you start up the game is the well-known Rocky theme-tune, and this just sets you up for what's in store. Each boxer has their own signature tune, each punch has the same meaty sound that anyone who's seen the films will know so well, there are soundbites for all the well-known characters and each cut-scene is voiced by the original actors from the Rocky series. The crowd always makes itself heard, with slow-clapping, cheering and booing as the matches wear on, and the announcers have just the right balance of seriousness and energy to make them sound believable. The only misgiving I have is that all the trainers sound similar: you have to ask yourself why boxers such as Billy Snow (British), Ivan Drago (Russian) and Joe Chan (Chinese) have American trainers. This is especially surprising given the fact that Rage are a British company, and therefore you'd expect them to understand the mild frustration to not have your own country properly represented, but overall it is only a fairly minor point. In general the sound quality is high, and atmosphere-wise it can't be touched: from the cries the characters make as they're hit to the way the crowd chant your boxer's name out as he gets the upper hand, the sound really pulls you in. The sounds truly make you feel as if you're actually in a real boxing match. Indeed, the sounds in Rocky, combined with the graphics, make for a game that truly captures the feel of the Rocky films. Very impressive work from Rage. Gameplay As mentioned earlier in this review, Rocky is more of an "arcadey" experience than most boxing game. In practice this means that while the boxers all use traditional boxing attacks (no fireballs here), the gameplay is a lot faster than real boxing, and a lot more exciting. Each player has two bars they have to keep in mind: the stamina bar - which drops every time you punch, but recharges constantly - and the health bar. The lower the stamina bar gets the weaker your punches get, so you can't constantly pound at the opponent, while the lower your health bar gets the closer to being floored you get (understandably). However, getting beaten up doesn't affect your stamina bar, and your health bar will start to recharge if you manage to avoid getting hit for a few seconds, so comebacks are possible from just about any situation. Thanks to this, multiplayer games are frenetic affairs with the wounded frantically dodging and blocking (and maybe throwing out a few quick jabs to keep the opponent at arms reach), while the attacker desperately tries to close in on them and finish them off. There really is nothing more satisfying than getting beaten to within an inch of your life and then making a spectacular comeback and smashing your opponent down to the mat. There are several different modes available to the player: first up is the obligatory sparring mode. Here you choose a trainer to fight against and learn the different combos in the game. Nothing new there then. Much more interesting is the single-player movie mode where you play as Rocky, taking him through the plot-lines of the five Rocky films. In this mode each fight is punctuated by a training section where you train Rocky up in two different areas by taking part in various mini-games. This is important to the game, and while you can automatically train him in all areas, you won't get as good results as if you do so yourself. The five stats you can increase are thus: Strength (self-explanatory), Speed (how fast Rocky punches), Determination (his ability to get up after being knocked down), Stamina (how much he can take before dropping) and Movement (how fast he moves around the ring). Each stat is increased by taking part in exercises seen in the films: punch-mitts for strength, speed bag for, er, speed, sit-ups for determination, skipping for stamina and the heavy bag (or meat carcass in Rocky I) for movement. With the punch-mitts your trainer (Mickey, Apollo Creed or a generic trainer depending which film you're up to) calls out a punch and you have to react in time, with the speed bag you have to button bash with A, B or both depending on your trainers commands, but you have to be careful not to punch too fast, sit-ups are pure button-bashing, with you having to hold X every three sit-ups to tense your muscles as your trainer throws a chop at your gut, skipping is a rhythm-action style exercise, having to press the right button at the right moment, while with the heavy bag you have to move around the bag to get into a green-lit area and throw punches and combos at it (the green area moves every so often, forcing you to stay on your feet). All of these are more fun than they sound, and are worthy additions to the game (and its atmosphere), rather than being simply tacked-on as an after-thought. Once you get tired of Movie Mode you can try your hand at the Knockout Tournament and Exhibition modes, where you can choose the boxers you've won in Movie Mode to fight against each other. These modes are playable in single-player, but really come into their own in multiplayer, especially tournament play. As long as you have friends this game will probably last years. The only problem I could foresee is that there's a limit to how much fun you can have by yourself... but then again that always seems to be the case, no? However, all these modes of play would be for naught if the controls were hard to use. Thankfully, this isn't the case. You move your boxer around the ring with the left analogue stick (or the D-pad), while the four main face buttons control your punches: X and Y control head punches (with the left and right arms, respectively), while A and B control body punches. All the punches can be modified by using the Analogue stick to modify them into hooks and the like, while the right shoulder button modifies them into uppercuts. The left trigger blocks, and when combined with the analogue stick allows you to move your torso back or sideways and to duck - holding the left and right triggers together allows you to quickly dodge completely out of the way of your opponent. In a very short while, these controls become second nature and you'll be dancing around and dodging blows like a pro. Of course, there's more to the game than simply dodging your opponents blows: you have to master the art of following up your dodges with attacks of your own. You can use one of the pre-set counters (holding the block button and one of the punch buttons causes you to do a certain dodge-punch manoeuvre, depending on which punch button you pressed, while holding both triggers and punching causes you to duck under your opponents punch before rising up with an uppercut or jab to the ribs), or make your own. Making your own is, obviously, the most fun choice, and swaying of the way of an opponents swipe only to smash a quick one-two to their gut followed by a hammering flurry of punches to their face as they reel back is certainly an exhilarating experience. This is also one of the reasons why Rocky is so playable in multiplayer: not only will you want to beat your friends, but you'll want to show off in front of them. This is one of the reasons why the tournament mode is so satisfying: offering up to 16 players the chance to enter, everyone chooses a character and then gets to the business of trying to win the tournament trophy. The matches are generally fast and furious, and with 16 people all watching one television screen there really is nothing to match it for atmosphere. A guaranteed party smash-hit - indeed, I'd say that it's probably even more fun than Halo when it comes to multiplayer, especially when you're playing against friends who haven't got an Xbox thanks to its easy-to-master nature, while the recognisable characters really help to make it enjoyable to even the least experienced gamesplayers - I mean, who wouldn't want to have a go of the game that lets you play as your favourite Rocky movie character? [People who don't like the Rocky series - Ed] Ah yes, the characters. All the boxers from the films are present, including Rocky (in all five incarnations), Apollo Creed (two incarnations), Clubber Lang, Ivan Drago and Tommy Gunn, as well as a whole bunch of boxers invented for the game. On top of this, there are two "secret" boxers, earned by beating the game in "Movie Mode" on the two higher difficulty levels (Contender and Champ levels). Rather than spoil the surprise for you, lets just say that one of the characters is getting on a bit...The well known characters really do add something to the game, and much fun can be had pitting your favourite fighters together in an exhibition match (Tommy Gunn Vs. Ivan Drago... mmm), and any fans of the movies will enjoy the game for its atmosphere - at the risk of overstating myself, I shall reiterate the fact that it has been ripped almost perfectly from the films - even if they don't have enough experience of games to fully appreciate the actual gameplay. In other words, this is a game you could give to either your game-obsessed brother or your film-loving uncle, knowing that both will get a huge amount of enjoyment out of the game. Quite simply Rage have achieved that rare thing: the ability to sell their game to both the "hardcore" gaming fraternity and the "casual" gamers out there. Overall then, what do I think of Rocky? Well, let me put it this way: Rocky is the ultimate film conversion. Not once have I seen a game that managed to capture the very essence of its source material as well as this one: not even Goldeneye comes close in terms of remaining true to the film it was based on. If you've ever seen any of the Rocky films you'll be able to enjoy the game simply because of this fact, and even if you haven't seen any of the films then you'll almost certainly enjoy this game. This game is a true classic: even if, like me, you aren't a fan of the genre it's in, you'll still love this game. It really is that good. Quite simply: get Rocky, get some friends over and let the good times roll.