When I saw Prizefighter earlier this year there was a lot to be impressed by. By using a documentary style 2K Sports and developer Venom Games had created something that looked pretty unique - a sports game with a proper story. We hadn't gone hands-on with the game though, which was worrying, but we were happy to give the game the benefit of the doubt. After finally slugging through a career with 'The Kid' we're sorry to report that Prizefighter hasn't managed to topple Fight Night Round 3 as the boxing champ, despite throwing a few unorthodox punches.
When the game begins you're instantly presented with a documentary on a boxer known as The Kid. Don King, boxing film maker Mario Van Peebles, supposed ex-girlfriends, trainers and promoters all speak on camera. These segments crop up throughout your career, with various people giving their thoughts on a particular moment in your career that you're about to play in the game. The effect is good even if it seems slightly staged at times, and it's always entertaining to see what Don King has to say about your fictitious boxer.
After a few opening comments from the documentary your asked to create your fighter. There are plenty of sliders and options for every part of your appearance, with the nickname of 'The Kid' being one of the only things you can't change. When you're done you're thrown into the ring for your first fight. A few fights later and you've got a promoter and you're able to schedule fights for cash. Win a few of those and you'll unlock a harder fight which will gain you access to a new batch of contenders - the cycle continues.
Between each fight you spend your time in the gym, checking messages on your PDA and training. In most cases you get two weeks to train between fights, which is two training sessions in game time. There are five mini-games in total, each used to work on a couple of your attributes. The heavy bag simply requires you to hit certain spots using combos, the shuttle run is a Track and Field style button mash, and the others require you to hit the correct buttons at the right time.
If you're not keen on these you can auto train, but you don't get nearly the same amount of reward. As an added incentive to train your high scores are recorded on a global leaderboard. If that still isn't enough you can often opt to ignore training, instead choosing to focus on raising your media profile (which helps your adrenaline bar, which we'll get to later). These events are never actually seen but you'll frequently receive phone messages asking if you want to go out to a club, go on a date or just be seen at an event, forfeiting a week of training in the process. As interesting as this divide between training and gaining a profile seemed, in practice it didn't seem to be such a hard decision to make, with extra training seeming like the most sensible and worthwhile choice on every occasion.
The boxing itself, the most important aspect of the game, is a very mixed bag. On one hand the game is fun to play, with a large shot selection and ample block and evade moves, but this simulation approach doesn't fit with the often ridiculous number of knockdowns and comebacks. You can have matches where both boxers are being knocked down a few times each round. At times it's simply ridiculous that your opponent is able to carry on and get right back into the fight.