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Rocky Legends
Review By: J. Michael Neal
 
Developer:  Venom Games
Publisher:  Ubisoft
# Of Players:  1-2
Genre:  Sports
ESRB:  Teen
Online:  No
Accessories:  Memory Card
Date Posted:  11-28-04

Itís amazing to think that, two years ago, Rocky was the best boxing game around. It had a solid engine, made good use of the film license, and hit the bargain bins pretty fast. For boxing fans, this was about as good a game as they were going to get, but that was before EA launched one hell of a hook with Fight Night 2004, the boxing game that simultaneously revived and revolutionized a genre that had grown as stale as a three-year old sandwich. So now, with Ubisoftís release of Rocky Legends, does the game have what it takes to reclaim itís former crown, or has this placeholder franchise been abandoned for the real main-event?

To begin with, Rocky Legends has a lot going for it. Aside from the fertile film license, which the game takes sizable advantage of, Legends boasts an enjoyable career mode, some pretty entertaining mini-games, and even a respectable fighting engine. If you are a fan of the films (and seriously, who isnít?) youíll appreciate the ability to follow Ivan Drago, Apollo Creed (also known as the man who single-handedly built a rocket to the moon, to all you Simpsons fans), Clubber Lang (better known as the eternally cool Mr. T), and Phillyís hometown hero, Rocky Balboa from their humble beginnings through to their appearances in the films. The mechanics of the Career mode arenít particularly earth-shattering - fight through the ranks, build up stats by training, earn money from victories, you know the drill, but itís engaging enough to carry the single player experience as far as the next game, and a host of unlockables will keep you fighting solo for at least a few weeks.

When you eventually exhaust the story, you can always keep busy with the Training mode. Believe it or not, one of the coolest selling points of Rocky Legends is the dedicated Training mode. While this is nothing new, the first Rocky did it as well, and even the sucktastic Ready 2 Rumble: Round 2 had a few mini-games, the ones in Legends are genuinely good. Iím serious. They arenít as many as in party game like Athens 2004, but they are a nice combination of skill, timing, and forearm-burning raw stamina. In all honesty, when you pull this one out for friends, youíll probably spend just as much time in the Training mode as in the ring.

The fighting engine itself, however, the meat of the game, so to speak, is probably the gameís weakest aspect. Itís not a bad engine, not by any means, but when compared to the reigning champ, EAís Fight Night 2004, thereís just no comparison. No game has captured the feel of boxing like Fight Night, and those of you already tuned to the gameís free-flowing combo system will find Rockyís UFC: Tapout-style, pre-scripted combo structure constricting. If you havenít been tainted, however, or arenít adverse to memorizing long button strings all over again, youíll find that Rocky Legends is a pretty damn good arcade-style boxing game. The fighting is fast, strategic but still edge-of-your-seat chaotic, and loaded with so many preprogrammed combos that button mashing alone will yield a far amount of six-hits. Itís just nowhere near as satisfying as Fight Night.

Also, donít anticipate a Create-a-Player mode like Fight Nightís either; or any Create-a-Player mode, for that fact, because there is none. A disappointment, for sure, but considering the visuals, itís no big loss. Youíd be stuck with some bigheaded, cartoonish caricature anyway, as Rocky Legends leans more towards the ďarcade boxing gameĒ style visuals of a Victorious Boxers rather than the hyperrealism of a Fight Night. No fluid animations, detailed models, or ragdoll physics here, folks. No online play for that matter, either. Yeah, by now Iím sure youíre thinking what Iím thinkingÖ

No online play, no cutting-edge visuals, no Create-a-Player, no engine as fun or revolutionary as Total Control PunchingÖ why should I get this game if I already own Fight Night 2004? Well, as much as I enjoyed Rocky Legends, particularly with friends over and during the training mini-games, I canít find a single reason why myself. EA has the boxing genre on lock-down right now. Even though itís months old, I still pick it up from time to time to beat the hell out of the CPU with my created heavyweight. I feel bad saying it, the first Rocky served us well, kept us warm during those cold, cold nights, and Venom Games put out a valiant effort with this one, but itís just too little waaaaaay too late. If they want to continue this franchise they are going to have to reinvent the wheel and bring their A-game, which they certainly did not here with Legends.

HIGHS:

  • Lots of unlockable fighters
  • You get to take Creed, Drago, Lang, and Balboa through a story mode thatíll be a kick for Rocky fans.
  • The Training mini-games are surprisingly fun.
  • The fighting engine isnít THAT bad for an arcade-style boxing gameÖ

LOWS:

  • Ö But it does get the crap beat out of it by Fight Night 2004.
  • The visuals are so-so.
  • Aside from the film tie-ins, the Career modeís pretty standard.
  • No online play.

FINAL VERDICT:

Decent game, yes, but itís no Fight Night, and thereís no runner-up prize in boxing, just the canvas.

Overall Score: 7.2

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