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