Platform: PS Vita (PSN, £7.99)
Developer: Vivid Games
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Real Boxing became an overnight success on iOS and Android. Despite a few aggravating bugs, Vivid Games delivered an immediately accessible and brutally fun take on boxing with surprisingly deep character progression, all for a inexpensive price.
A few months on and Real Boxing has found its way to the PlayStation Vita with support from Sony's indie headhunters, boasting markedly improved visuals and extra content. This is great news for boxing fans, but the question remains, why should you spend £7.99 on the PlayStation Network rather than £2.99 on your tablet or smartphone?
Luckily this question has a simple answer: because this is the definitive version. Real Boxing Vita is unquestionably a game as opposed to a time-wasting app, due in no small part to an entirely rebuilt control scheme that lets you freely move around the ring and line up that perfect punch. It feels like an entirely new title.
The premise is immediately engaging and simple. You are a boxer. You must box. That deep character arc sorted out, you'll create an avatar using an enormous customisation suite, right down to majestic moustaches and tattoos, then take them through a boxing tournament against progressively tougher opponents. As you emerge victorious, you'll earn currency to spend on new cosmetic flourishes or perks (there's no premium currency or microtransactions, don't worry), and train up perks in your gym by participating in some fun minigames. The constant flow of winning, powering up and earning upgrades is as fiercely addictive as it ever was.
In terms of genuinely new features, Real Boxing features a new arena, rebuilt gym minigames and a massive graphical overhaul. Vivid Games have squeezed a surprising amount of grunt out of UDK and the Vita hardware, resulting in one of the most visually impressive games on the system to date. Whether you're admiring the shimmering sweat on your motion-captured boxer's back or the animated crowds baying for blood, there's no denying that the Vita version offers some serious eye candy and markedly improves on the already-impressive first attempt. Better yet, there's nary a glitch or bug in sight this time around.
So Real Boxing Vita offers addictive progression and looks the business. What we're primarily concerned about, though, is the all-important gameplay.
The original mobile version saw you tapping and swiping the screen like a glorified Unreal powered Punch-Out. This original setup is included with the Vita version as standard in its entirety, but pales into insignificance next to the brand new analogue setup. Mapping punches to the D-Pad, face buttons and right thumbstick gives you greater precision control about exactly which arm to use and in what direction, making for a much more technical and tactical experience. The powerful counterattack move also makes a return, allowing you to dodge incoming punches and retaliate with a brutal slow-motion riposte of your own, but risk a skilled opponent repaying the favour. Knowing when to counter, when to block and when to clinch (a simple matter of pressing both triggers and rotating the Vita to keep a cursor within a safe zone) makes for some deceptively deep decisions without compromising fun factor and accessibility.
Once you master the learning curve, there's a lot to like about the reworked control scheme. However, the left thumbstick brings Real Boxing Vita's single greatest innovation to the table. You can... move.
Your boxer was rooted to the spot in the Android or iOS original, but now you can stalk around the ring, move to engage your opponent and dart back out of range to recover your stamina. This might sound like a throwaway addition, but in practice, it completely revitalises and refreshes the experience, making it feel like a true boxing game rather than a mobile distraction. Combined with the new graphical update and extra content, Real Boxing Vita nails the sweet spot between simulation and fun factory, both brutal and immediately enjoyable. Critically: it's fun.
For a time, at least. With little variation between opponents saving the length of their health bar, Real Boxing Vita quickly becomes repetitious if played intensely as opposed to snatching a few minutes here and there. Without any sponsorship deals or sense of real progression, later fights just become an exercise in completion for the sake of it, rather than feeling invested in a true boxing tournament. We hope that Vivid Games will flesh out the campaign when it comes to any future sequels.
Vita's wireless and networking features are all crammed into the £7.99 asking price. Both online and ad-hoc local multiplayer options are available, making for much more tense and technical matches against opponents who can reverse your counters and cleverly dodge out of normally devastating right hooks, and will doubtlessly add plenty of longevity to the experience. Vivid Games even included a Near mode that lets you trade cosmetic items, a neat touch that reminds us that this oft-ignored functionality still exists.
Real Boxing Vita isn't the most authentic or deep boxing game out there, but it isn't supposed to be. As a perfect fit for a mobile platform, good for obsessive play or a quick bout on the bus, it finally feels like a complete package. If you're a fan of the sport or just fancy blowing off steam, you'll find little buyer's remorse here.
- Precise new control scheme and newfound freedom of movement balances depth and fun
- Detailed Unreal-powered Vita visuals and brutal bouts
- Impressive amount of quantity and polish for the inexpensive asking price
- Not as deep as (much more expensive) boxing sim
- Repetitious, little sense of progression or participating in a real tournament
- Erm, not much fun if you don't like boxing at all?
The Short Version: Real Boxing feels like an entirely new and full-fat game on PS Vita, hitting the sweet spot between authenticity and brutal pick-up-and-play fun. Which is somewhere towards the latter. Though repetitious, it's difficult to argue with the amount and the quality on offer here.