Reviewed: January 26, 2003
Released: November 19, 2002
As a long time fan of Sylvester Stallone and his series of Rocky movies I was eagerly anticipating the arrival of my latest assignment. This assignment was of course Rocky for the GameCube by Rage and Ubisoft. I tossed the game in the machine and I was treated to a montage of Rocky clips and the unmistakable theme music from the original movie. By the time the opening sequence was over with I was pumped up and foaming at the mouth to get my shot at Apollo Creed, Clubber Lang and the rest of the Rocky baddies. I could barely contain myself as I selected movie mode and began my quest to vanquish all of my opponents. At last the game started and I began to play. It was approximately one minute into my first fight when my heart sank and I settled reluctantly into a mild state of depression. I knew almost from the get go that I had hyped this game into something it could not possibly live up to.
I know this sounds harsh but I canít help it. The concept of the game and the ability to actually live out the Rocky story, in a way, was like a dream. Unfortunately this dream became a disturbing nightmare. The unresponsive controls and below average graphics and animation left me yearning for more. I figured that if the powers that be allowed the licensing of the greatest series of boxing movies in history that they would inspect the final product to protect their assets. I am not sure this happened.
Rocky does have its plusses but they are not enough to save this game. The negatives of Rocky, namely the gameplay, bring the title down and ultimately damage it. All of this will be explored further in the sections below, so if you havenít lost all interest at this point please read on. Remember that itís not all bad and this game is not a complete waste of time.
Unfortunately the gameplay is the one glaring problem with Rocky. Instead of just blasting this title I would like to point out some of the good aspects of the game here as well as tell you about the bad points. I feel bad when doing a review like this because I know how hard people have worked to put out a game, but I am only trying to protect you, the loyal Game Chronicles Magazine reader, from spending your hard-earned dough on a poor game. It even bothers me more because Ubisoft and Rage have produced many quality titles that I have enjoyed in the past. All of that aside, letís go to the good aspects of the game.
As far as boxing games go, Rocky has enough modes and options for the boxing fan to customize their boxing experience. There are sparring, training, exhibition, movie modes and a knockout tournament that will give the boxing aficionado a fairly good boxing experience. The knockout tournament is fun because you and up to 15 of your friends can participate in the tournament and beat the heck out of each other. The flaws with the knockout tournament are that you first of all might find it difficult to round up 15 friends to participate and it would also be difficult to cram 15 people around your TV unless it is a seven-foot diagonal screen. That was an attempt at humor in case you were unaware.
Since the movie mode is the main gameplay mode in Rocky and the other modes are self-explanatory I will focus on just the movie mode. In the movie mode you will take on the life of the fictional Rocky Balboa. You start the movie mode by fighting in the dirty gyms of Philadelphia and work your way up to your first title shot against Apollo Creed. The characters you fight along the way have all been taken from the movies themselves but some are obscure and may have only been mentioned in passing. While continuing on in your quest you will face other famous opponents such as Apollo Creed II, Clubber Lang, Ivan Drago and the street brawler Tommy Gunn. Like I said before, the concept of the game is an excellent one. Being able to play out the storylines of all the Rocky movies combined is a dream come true for diehard fans of the series.
While you are working your way through the story you will be able to train and build up Rockyís skills and strengths. With your trusty manager Mickey by your side you will work the speed bag and heavy bag, do situps, skip rope and hit the punch mitts. Completing any of the tasks successfully will improve Rockyís stats in such categories like strength, determination, speed, stamina and movement abilities. There are options during training so that you can choose to do the training manually or have the computer do it for you in the auto-train mode.
All of these modes and options lead you to the ultimate site for Rocky Balboa, the ring. In the ring is where the real problems begin. The controls are simple to learn and easy to master, but unfortunately, while you can master them easy enough it doesnít necessarily mean that they will respond well. There were numerous times, too many to count, when I attempted to either strike or evade my opponent only to have no response from the game. This lack of response from the controls left me open to some brutal beatings. Once a boxer gets on a roll it is hard for you or the opponent to counter these attacks. This is very bad for a boxing game, as strategy should win out over might in most cases. Nothing is more frustrating when playing a game than knowing what to do and not being afforded the opportunity to do it.
There are some other minor glitches that detract from the enjoyment of the game. It seems that the boxers get stunned very easily. This is another point in the game where you can either take advantage of the situation or become the victim of it. I donít mind having opportunities like this once in a while but when they happen too frequently they become a nuisance. Another element of the game I find disturbing is controlling your boxers positioning. It seems that every time you aggressively move towards your opponent you ultimately end up facing the wrong way. One second you will be facing him and attacking him and the next second you will be staring out into the crowd. This little glitch caused me to turn off the game in disgust several times. It is only because of our loyal readers that I went back to the game and played on.
The graphics in Rocky leave something to be desired. There is a slight resemblance to the characters in the movie, but it isnít enough. The figures look jagged and crude. With the power of the GameCube it is hard to imagine a game has to look like this. The arenas are well done but they really arenít the focal point of the game. More attention needed to be paid to the characters that the whole story actually revolves around. Taking this even further are the sub par animations.
This game looked more like a B movie and less like the Oscar Award winning movie on which it was based. The punches donít always land correctly and the animations are about 10 frames short of being smooth. I usually am able to overlook small problems like these when the gameplay makes up for it but in this case these glaring problems detracted from both the graphics and gameplay categories.
The only saving grace in the game was the movie footage. The movie clips and accompanying music brought back great memories. Unfortunately for the game, it seems to have followed the movies too closely. What I mean is Rocky was a great movie but each one was worse than the previous and this game is worse than Rocky V. I was dismayed recently when I heard talk of possibly making a Rocky VI because the series has been exploited as much as it possibly could be. This game is just another chapter in trying to cash in on the surprise success of the original movie.
There is not much to say about the sounds of the Rocky game. Other than the theme music, which you will hear a lot, and the occasional sound bytes from the movies the sound is lackluster and forgettable. Even the actual in-game sounds are forgettable. There really is nothing here to make this game stand out from the crowd. I find this regrettable because I would have enjoyed a good boxing title for the GameCube. A title with this much potential should have done a much better job done with the music and sound effects.
There is little replay value associated with this game. In fact there is little overall value associated with this game. While it is true that Rocky doesnít meet my standards or expectations it doesnít mean you shouldnít try it if you are interested. I am sure that some diehard fans of the Rocky movies would like this game more than I did, but I loved the movies and I cannot see many redeeming qualities in this game.
The biggest problem in the value category is that there isnít enough content to keep you coming back for more. I mean you already know the whole plot of the game if you saw the movies. If you didnít see the movies you probably wouldnít purchase the game to begin with. When you finish the movie mode the only thing you can do is spar or play a knockout tournament. This isnít even fun as the controls make it a poor game anyway.
Rocky is marred with many problems and poor quality. Though the concept of the game and material hold great potential there was little done to produce a quality title. The mechanics of the game, coupled with the below average graphics make this a disappointing attempt at bringing a classic movie to life. If there is ever a follow-up to this title I hope that it is just an upgraded version of this game. With some more time and a little more effort I am sure that this could have been a great game. I feel sad when a game has to cash in on either name recognition or the popularity of something else. In this era of movie-based games Rocky is just another in a long list of failed interpretations of movie hits.
If you are a boxing fan or just a fan of the Rocky movies you might want to reconsider buying this game at full price. I have a feeling that it will end up in the bargain bin before too long.