Voice Module








In Memory
Sean Pettibone

Ubi Soft's Rocky brings the films vividly to life with the famous fighter's first appearance PS2. The game features  actual locations and more than 20 fighters from the films. Players take the role of the champ and can fight using a deep system allows you to punch, uppercut, dodge and move around the ring. There are several modes included that offer variety for solo or competitive play. Visually, the game is impressive and features authentic moves and appearances for all the fighters, plus the famous theme music. So, is this a cheap knock-off, or does Rocky capture the spirit of the films? We get in the ring and find out.

Developed by Rage Software, this licensed title puts you in the role of the legendary prize-fighter Rocky Balboa as he tries to win the championship. It follows the plot of the films faithfully and you begin at the bottom. You win a few early matches against easy opponents and can then train and move up the ranks by winning matches against tougher fighters. The game includes 4 single and multi-player modes including the aforementioned Movie Mode. Fans of the series will enjoy this the most it's the most accurate representation of the films. In Movie mode, Rocky battles opponents in the same order as the movies. You have to fight all of Rocky's opponents from the five films in the same order. Even minor character are included and these fighters have the same moves and look very close to the actors in the films. As he wins rounds and completes the training sequences, Rocky slowly builds up his strength and stamina with each round, getting better as he gains experience. As you make your way through each round, you'll have to overcome the same obstacles that Rocky did in the films, which adds drama to the single player. The training mode will feature an extensive series of exercises that will let you spar and develop your boxing skills by punching Speed Bags and Heavy Bags. Players can go through the training manually or automatically. Some of the training tasks include sit-ups and skipping rope. Going through the training improves Rocky's ring performance. This will enhance his speed, stamina, power and strength. This feature is really cool and adds to the game's realism.

Other options include an Exhibition Mode, where you can choose from any unlocked boxers from Movie mode and compete in against a friend or the computer. In this mode, you can also select which arena you want to fight. In Knockout Tournament Mode, 16 boxers duke it out against one another to find out who's the king of the hill. While the controls are relatively simple to learn, you can enter the Sparring mode to polish your boxing skills. You fight against an AI opponent, and you can program which moves that they perform. This allows you to train and familiarize yourself with the controls painlessly in a pressure-free way. These modes give the game plenty of variety and depth and allow you to perfect your boxing skills to make you the undisputed world champion.

Even though this is a licensed film game, Rocky is faithful to real-world boxing rules. Each boxer earns points for each punch thrown and while a series of light punches is good, they won't win you as many points as a single strong jab. This scoring system is complicated but recreates the real world system. This is the ten-point system, where one boxer has to score ten points, and the other can receive no less than 8. Points are deducted and added depending on how many punches and knock-downs are thrown. This gives the matches in Rocky a realistic feel that accurately recreates the pace and excitement of an actual boxing match. Adding to the realism the game offers a surprisingly deep array of moves and strategy. Knowing when to use these moves and mastering their timing is key to your success. Understanding that there are different types of punches for each boxer, and knowing which ones deliver the most force is essential. Unlike many other boxing games, the subtlety here is excellent. Throwing different punches at different areas of the opponents body can also cause different damage, and you can still damage a blocking opponent slightly by connecting to their gloves.

Each boxer has their own physical profile and their power can also vary depending on whether you use their left or right fists. This is very different from most of the other arcade-style button mashers on the market and there are more than 256 different moves offered between the fighters. Chaining the punches together makes different combos to increase the pain you inflict. Rocky's defensive moves are also faithful to boxing strategy and you can block and move around the ring to avoid punches. This is a good strategy if you're facing someone like Clubber Lang who's got devastating power but moves relatively slowly. As you fight, stars will appear over the heads of dazed fighters once you connect with enough punches. This means they are vulnerable and easy targets. This is a perfect opportunity to deliver a crushing blow. It's also important to keep an eye on the health and stamina indicators because they give you an idea of how much strength and power you have left. For example, if you're low on stamina punches won't deliver as much power. Your stamina regenerates if you don't take blows for awhile, so it's important to get out of the way of a powerful opponent and not allow them to get momentum.

After your training and practice sparring is complete, you enter the ring to fight your way through the different opponents including famous fighters like Apollo Creed and Clubber Lang. Lesser known opponents such as Ivan Drago and Tommy "Machine" Gunn will make appearances in the game. Each of these fighters will have their own strengths and weaknesses with different fighting and sparring styles for each. The game is impressive in it's realism and uses advanced technology to recreate the fighters. The look of the fighters is enhanced by using motion captured moves taken from real boxers that makes their movements all the more convincing. This is actually quite impressive because the fighters don't just look accurate, they also act like they did in the movies. Additionally, Rocky will also implement a realistic damage system. As you fight, you'll inflict a lot of pain with bruises, facial swellings, and grunts that will help you see and hear how much damage has been done. The game's engine is quite accurate and players will be able to see sweat and blood pouring out of the fighters during the matches. Rocky's realistic facial animation system will also allow players to see the fighter's emotional reactions to the fights and events. Rocky also lets the boxers' personalities to shine through. For example, the motion capture and lip-syncing techniques will show Clubber "Mr. T" Lang's short temper and power, while also allowing Apollo to taunt you by dancing around the ring. This is very cool if you're a fan of the movies and allows you to feel like you're literally in the ring with these opponents.

Rocky's production values are excellent with a great polish throughout. This is definitely a cimematic game and fans of the movies will enjoy the clips from the movie that are interspersed between rounds and in the opening montage. Rocky's graphics engine is quite impressive with smooth polygons and beautifully designed arenas making for a highly polished engine that moves at a smooth frame-rate throughout. The fighter's movements are realistic and smooth with good animation and excellent character models that give the game a convincing appearance. Rocky furthers it's cinematic feel by including authentic locations from the movies. These include such Rocky Landmarks as Mighty Mick's gym, Philadelphia Arena, Titan Beach Florida, Big Rock Nevada, Queensburys' Fighting Club, plus bouts in Washington and Moscow. These are faithfully recreated from the films and add a lot to Rocky's atmosphere. The voice acting is excellent as well, especially the actor who's taken over from Burgess Merideth as Mickey and these between round pep-talks add a lot of atmosphere to the game. You can also listen to the film's famous theme song which is a nice touch.

Contrary to expectations, Rocky is a surprisingly deep boxing title with a lot of depth. The game system is excellent with accurate real-world rules and conventions. The game's graphics are sharp and impressive with an excellent look throughout. Fans of the films should enjoy the accurate reproductions of the film's locations, atmosphere, and the boxers themselves. The famous music and excellent voice acting adds to the cinematic feel of the game. Rocky's excellent controls allow for plenty of versatility yet are easy to learn thanks to the extensive training and sparring modes. Rocky does an excellent job of recreating the feel of the film but even without the license, Rocky's gameplay is solid and entertaining. The strategy and nuances of real boxing are faithfully reproduced giving the game a lot of depth. Rocky is a solid game and comes highly recommended for fans of boxing or the films. 

- Michael Palisano

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