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February 16, 2007
Rocky Balboa - PSP Review
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Rocky vs his latest opponent.
On February 22nd I will be doing one of two things. Either I will be in Sydney at the Playstation 3 launch or, should I not get time off work, will be at the local cinema watching Rocky Balboa. Sylvester Stallone has resurrected his near-dead career with this latest movie. Not only has this $US24 million movie grossed over $125 million worldwide to date (with many territories still to receive the movie), but more importantly this is Sly's second best rated movie out of fifty in his lengthy career to date according to IMDB.

The release of this title is quite interesting. While cashing in on the Rocky Balboa movie as a PSP exclusive the game is really more of an overall look at the entire Rocky franchise with all the major fights recreated for this title including those against Apollo Creed, Ivan Drago and Clubber Lang.

There are several game modes in this title - a couple of which will keep you playing for quite some time. First up is Mickey's Corner which is basically a tutorial mode with over 30 information cards to learn how to improve your skills. The Exhibition mode allows you to play an exhibition fight while the Historical Fight allows you to play through all the big fights in the Rocky movies. When you win the bout you can then play it again as the opponent. The other main single player mode is Fast Lane which contains 90 fights of varying length (1 minute, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, 5 minutes or 10 minutes) with a series of different scenarios to complete such as knocking out your opponent, or managing to last the fight without being KO'd. Finally Rocky Balboa also has multi-player which allows 2-players to fight in a wireless mode.

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Mr T played Clubber Lang.
In terms of the actual gameplay this is a pretty deep simulation of boxing. The range of punches is absolutely insane with not only the face buttons performing different punches, but also combinations of face buttons, plus the shoulder buttons, plus pressing a direction will also affect the punch being thrown. Actually one could actually go so far as to say this game becomes too complicated for its own good. Having a wide range of punches is important, but when there's so many to remember it becomes more of a chore then an enjoyment. I would be happy with a dozen or so punches but there's many times more then that here. I also felt that the blocking mechanic (that being pressing the directional button up or down) was a bit limiting.

Also important is the mood of your boxer. Should you string together a series of effective punches then you'll enter a power mode where your boxer becomes much more powerful for a period of time. If your opponent enters a power mode then it's time to watch out as it won't take too long before you could be hitting the canvas.

There are some disappointments with Rocky Balboa. The biggest of these is simply that there is no career mode. Sure this is a game with quite a bit of content, and you can relive all the historic fights, but there is no way to follow Rocky though the entire process of training or entering sparring sessions before entering the fights. I also found the way in which you recover from being knocked down as annoying to say the least. Basically you have to stabilize the fighter using the analogue sliding stick, but it's so hard to time everything that you'll more times then not be KO'd far too easily.

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Ivan Drago, one of my favourite opponents.
Also annoying are the load times which occur when you exit out of a match and back to the main menu. There's also major delays after you've turned the PSP back on, but fortunately you can restart bouts without the major delay. We all know that the PSP has slow load times, but as other companies have demonstrated they can be dramatically reduced with some good programming.

Graphically Rocky Balboa is a bit of a mixed bag. Importantly the fighters all look quite wonderful with some solid enough animations, but besides that there's little else. Crowds are rather sparse and besides the ring there's little else to look at. Each of the fights does include a clip introducing the event which is nice.

Audio is, of course highlighted by the wonderful Bill Conti score used in the movies. It's always great to hear the Rocky theme song and it is frequently used in this title. Less impressive are the sound effects which are limited and the commentary which does become repetitive rather quickly.

Overall Rocky Balboa is a solid title with some fun boxing, but ultimately a title that also fails to capture the potential of the license. Not including a career mode is criminal given the long movie linage to draw from and the way you recover from being knocked down is quite terrible.

Review By: Dave Warner

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GRAPHICSThe two fighters are nice enough, not much else to get excited about.
SOUNDRocky theme music, some commentary, ok sound effects. Average.
GAMEPLAYFights can be entertaining, plenty of punch types, KO recovery sucks.
VALUEPlenty of fights, but a lack of career mode really hurts these days.
OVERALLRocky Balboa is a passable boxing game but lacks some key features such as career mode, and includes an annoying knockdown recovery. Worth a look for fans of the movies and sport.

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