“Only in America!” Don King is one of the most recognizable figures in the history of professional sports, and for good reason. His personality and eye for talent have made him possibly the most successful boxing promoter of all time. 2K Sports is hoping that his name will work its magic on Don King Presents: Prizefighter, their new competitor to the current king of the ring, Fight Night Round 3. Unfortunately, poor controls and terrible collision detection ensure that even Don King can’t lift this Prizefighter out of the gym and into the spotlight
Visually Prizefighter is a mixed bag. The character models look pretty decent at a stand still, although not as impressive as the ones in Fight Night Round 3. There is some facial deformation which looks pretty good, although it doesn’t seem to have an effect on your boxer’s performance. The arenas are also varied and realistic. It’s when the boxers start…well….boxing that it all fails apart. Collision detection is incredibly important for a boxing game, and Prizefighter gets it all wrong. One of the most satisfying parts of Fight Night was the fact that all of your punches landed clearly.
Sloth’s boxing career ended when he didn’t get his Baby Ruth sponsor.
If you through a punch to the face, you could see and feel the impact on the jaw. Not so in Prizefighter, where your punches will go through your opponent, shots that look like they should get blocked directly will register as a clean hit, and there’s a constant guessing game about whether your body shot will actually land to the body or the face. Boxing up close amplifies these problems, and for a game that promised to “keep it real” it really takes away from the impact and realism of the fight when none of your punches actually appear to land cleanly.
In terms of in ring gameplay, the shoddy collision detection is only the beginning of Prizefighter’s downfall. The actual boxing controls are mapped to the face buttons, with the Right analog stick functioning as your block controls and the L trigger used for leaning. The controls take a bit to get used to, and left me wishing for the much more natural analog controls of FN. The core gameplay basically boils down to button mashing, as the combo’s aren’t as fluid as you would expect and the collision detection makes blocking a hit or miss proposition (no pun intended). The controls are also incredibly unresponsive, there’s generally a second delay between actually pushing the button and throwing the punch, which takes counterpunching almost completely out of the equation.
The left button allows you to throw a specialty punch when your adrenaline meter (which you raise by connecting with punches and successfully blocking) is high enough, and they do substantial damage. However they don’t feel like they have any more “crunch” to them than regular punches. Any thoughts of “floating like a butterfly” will quickly be dashed as well once you try and work your boxer (who moves with all the grace and speed of a pregnant yak) around the ring. Very little of the real strategy of boxing makes its way into the game because of these flaws. Overall the gameplay is a huge letdown, and a big step back for the boxing genre.
If he dies…he dies.
The gameplay flaws in Prizefighter are even more disappointing because of the strong career mode. This “mockumentary” follows your created boxer through the different stages of his career through the use of live action interviews with people such as Mario Van Peebles and Don King himself. You’ll progress your boxer through different fights, pushing him up the ladder. Eventually, you’ll come up against unique challenges in big fights which add a little variety to the mix. In between fights, you’ll have the opportunity to train your boxer in some pretty fun and unique training minigames. You’ll also occasionally get special offers which will raise your media profile, in turn increasing how frequently you’ll be able to throw specialty punches. This uniquely in depth take on a boxing career mode can become addicting, and I found that it pulled me into the game more than the shoddy boxing controls should allow.
On the audio front, the game benefits from a strong licensed soundtrack. The in game sound, however, is somewhat lacking. The crowd noise is decent, however the punches don’t sound as brutal as they should. The FMW cutscenes are a mixed bag of decent to subpar acting, and the corner men are nothing more than annoying parrots.
Prizefighter features the standard stable of online multiplayer modes, consisting of ranked online matches and round robin style tournaments. While I didn’t notice any severe latency issues, the button lag that is present in the singleplayer gameplay is even more noticeable in the multiplayer portion of the game.
In the end, the positives surrounding the career mode of Prizefighter just aren’t enough to make up for the numerous negatives in control, collision detection, and overall gameplay. If I was the type of guy to write a cheesy boxing metaphor into my review, I’d say that Prizefighter went up against the champ, and ended up staring at the lights in the first round….but I’m not that guy, so I’ll just say that I’m very disappointed in the execution of a game that had quite a bit of potential. Looks like fans of the sweet science will have to hold out for EA’s Fight Night Round 4 for their pugilistic gratification.