Compared: January 29, 2003
Rocky has been in the works for quite some time and now that it has finally released it will undoubtedly become the most talked about boxing game of 2002 and maybe even 2003. The biggest draw of this title is the much touted movie mode that allows you to relive the entire series of movies, training, and fighting your way through more than 20 boxers taken right from those very films. This is a great hook and refreshing replacement to the traditional career mode we find in other boxing, wrestling, and sports games. You are probably asking how they got 29 boxers from five movies that only had a couple of bouts each flick. Only the truest fans of the films will recognize many of the men you will fight in the game. Every minor character that was even mentioned in the movies is now a contender.
As with any multi-platform release there are always a few variances that manage to make some versions stand out above the rest. Rocky is no different and it manages to play to the strengths of some systems while falling victim to the limitations of others.
Round 1: Control
Rocky does a great job of bringing the sport of boxing to the console. Both the Xbox and the PS2 feature very precise and responsive command over your boxer. You have independent control for left and right punches and you can also block, do head jabs, uppercuts, hooks, and even perform some fancy evasive moves. It’s a simple control scheme that you will pick up quickly in the sparring mode and perfect in the training.
The GameCube doesn't fare as well in this round. There are noticeable delays between the time you press a button and the time your boxer makes his move. This can often lead to some devastating and unfair beatins through no fault of your own. Movement control was also much more problematic with several instance of your boxer getting caught looking in the wrong direction.
Round 2: Visuals
The graphics on the Xbox are all over the place in this title, but it still manages to win this round. You have some amazing environment and accurately reproduced rings and landmarks that you will surely recognize from the films, but the boxers themselves are a bit simplistic. They have great textures but seem to lack the necessary polygons to smooth them out. They are a bit blocky and move with some stilted animation that makes them look more like next-gen “Rock’em Sock’em Robots”. Even so, the textures more than make up for the animation and construction of the boxers. You can easily recognize every boxer and supporting character from the movies and there is an amazing facial damage system in place that will sure to be replicated in every fighting game after this. You will see cuts, bruises, black eyes will swell, and there is more blood than the latest Mortal Kombat game.
The PS2 version looks remarkably similiar to the Xbox but does exhibit some noteworthy slowdown during the more intense scenes, especially those with heavy particles flying around. It’s not only noticeable but can interfere with your timing and ultimately the gameplay. There are also a few occasions where the screen would appear to freeze then thaw a few seconds later. This seemed to happen the most when a player hit the mat. The PS2 version come in second place for graphics.
The GameCube brings up a distant third with graphics that definitely leave something to be desired. There is a slight resemblance to the characters in the movie, but it isn’t 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 aren’t 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.
Round 3: Music & Sound
The music is all of the great classical hits you can probably still hum if you've seen the movies. Sound effects are pretty standard stuff for a boxing game and while the Xbox manages to win this round there is nothing here to make this a truly memorable experience.
There was a noticeable lack of quality in the voices during the cutscenes on the PS2. The recording level was either too low or was artificially enhanced with some odd reverb that made them difficult to hear at times. It's still better than the uninspired and compressed sounds found on the GameCube that put that version in last place once again.
Round 4: Other Deciding Factors
Aside from the aforementioned variances in quality there are no other substantial features or improvements for any version to make it stand out above the rest. All three games feature the exact same content and features list.
The big draw for Rocky is a love for the movies. If you are simply looking for a killer boxing title then you may want to keep looking. Rocky does offer some challenging gameplay within the limited scope of the films. The mini-games, training, and two-player modes are excellent and the new facial damage model has to be seen to be believed.
The Xbox is the clear winner in this battle with the PS2 slipping into second place and the GameCube bringing up a distance third.