Who says you have to grow up? Here at SI.com's Game Room, our staffers review the latest sports video game titles to hit the market and welcome your feedback.
1/25/2008 11:16:00 AM
Sneak Preview: Don King Presents: Prizefighter
By Jacob Luft
Depending on whom you ask, the sport of boxing is either fading, on life support or flat-lining completely. The proliferation of pay-per-view bouts, the lack of bankable stars, the alphabet soup of champions ... it's not hard to come up with the major reasons for the sport's perceived decline.
Don King has his own opinion on what ails the sport of kings, and it doesn't lack for irony: greed.
"There are no heroes right now," King said. "The fighters lately have been businessman, they aren't fighting for glory and pride. For a fighter, it is incidental that he should be paid. If you're good, then you're going to have the money and it's going to come. Honor, integrity, fighting for pride and glory will do so much more for you than when you fight for money."
King opined on the state of the sport a few hours before last week's Roy Jones Jr.-Felix Trinidad bout at Madison Square Garden (won by Jones in a 12-round decision) while unveiling his newest vehicle to promote, a boxing videogame titled Don King Presents: Prizefighter due for release this spring by 2K Sports on the XBOX 360, Nintendo Wii and Nintendo DS.
The main theme of Prizefighter's single-player career mode plays off of King's statement: It's about the choice you have to make between glory and money. Would you rather hit the gym to train for your next fight or work on enhancing your notoriety? The former can help get you a win, but the latter will line your pockets with fatter purses. You'll have to decide what's more important to you. As you progress through the game, your story will be told in a SportsCentury-style documentary, with real video clips from King (see picture, below) and other famous names from the fight scene.
Aside from the standard create-a-fighter option, Prizefighter offers up to 30 active boxers and 10 classic pugilists, including Larry Holmes, Ken Norton and the Cinderella Man, James Braddock. HBO announcers Emmanuel Stewart and Jim Lampley provide the play-by-play. The online play offers the unique twist of allowing players to set up their own gym where they can fight with up to eight of their own created boxers or any of the legendary fighters from the game.
The goal isn't just to create a good fighting game -- it's to create the total package of an immersive story framed around a fight career.
"You can't find a better reality show than boxing, the trials and tribulations a fighter goes through," King said.
King and 2K Sports can only hope that it's that same excitement that transfers to Prizefighter and makes it a worthy contender for EA's Fight Night franchise.
Take A Look Around: For the first time in Burnout franchise history, the game takes place in a open world environment. Paradise boasts over 30 square kilometers of driving space to explore. Tackle everything from the crowded streets of downtown Paradise City to the endless stretches of unpaved mountainous terrain. You can even bust into Paradise Field and rip off doughnuts on the pitcher's mound.
Calling All Challengers: The more you drive, the more events you encounter. (There are 120 total events and 75 cars to win.) Pull up to any major intersection, simultaneously hit the L2 and R2 (on the PS3), and you're off. Traditional races offer multiple routes, including hidden short cuts, to the finish line; Marked Man and Road Rage test your battle-driving skills; and as you get deeper into the game, "Burning Route" time challenges pop up when you're in the designated car.
You Da Man:Paradise's new Marked Man challenge dishes out the game's biggest adrenaline rush. Once that light turns green, get the pedal to the metal -- and fast. A string of cars will come flying in from your blind spots trying to ram you into a divider, off a bridge, or into on-coming traffic. Survive the allotted time without totaling your ride and you win. Get rammed into scrap metal and head back to the chop shop with your tailpipe between your legs.
Help Is On The Way: High-speed pit stops are never far, so neither are miraculous comebacks. When you need a quick burst of speed late in a race, fly through a gas station for a Boost refill. If your doors and hood are flapping in the wind during a battle, swing past an auto repair shop for a quick fix.
On Again, Off Again: The transition between offline and online gaming is seamless. One toggle of your controller alternates between driving alone and being surrounded by gamers. Team up with friends to take over the streets or challenge other drivers to one-on-one races. The features themselves aren't revolutionary, but the ability to effortlessly switch modes makes online play much more inviting.
Smashing Success: The crash graphics are amazing. Slow-motion wrecks include imploding windshields, flying paint chips, and demolished chassis. As your demise begins to unfold, the treble is dropped from the soundtrack music and the background goes black-and-white to ensure you concentrate solely on how badly you just screwed up.
Picture Perfect: Unlike in real life, if you're not happy with your license picture in Paradise, just re-snap it. Using either the PlayStation Eye or the Xbox Live Vision cameras, you can keep posing until you get the right shot. Break through enough challenges and you earn the Burnout Elite Driver's License, which the game calls "the ultimate accolade for any safety-unconscious motorist." (No word yet on whether LeBron James already has one of these.)
But Wait, There's More! If the 120 events don't hold you over, every street comes equipped with it's own two challenges: best time and best crash. You can set records for each both offline and online. If you're still craving more action after all of this, we suggest you slowly step away from the TV and get some fresh air.
Check out Burnout Paradise in action:
Things We'd Change
Crash and Burn: Showtime Mode is a new twist on the traditional Crash Mode. And we wish they'd twist it back. At any point in the game, press the L1 and R1 buttons to trigger a crash through traffic. The more cars you smash through and flip over, the more points you earn. Unfortunately, the lack of speed and flexibility in this event render it stale after only a couple pile ups.
Stunted Growth: The roaming environment and random challenges all have the feel of a Tony Hawk game, especially Stunt Run. Unfortunately, this mode lacks the wide array of tricks that make Hawk's games so addictive. Adding stunts to the action was a bold idea, and EA gets points for creativity, but it doesn't jive with a driving game.
To Hill And Back: While we applaud the vast environment, Paradise goes overboard in the mountains. You can get lost up there for hours, and while the off-road racing and jumping are inviting, there isn't a new challenge around every corner like there is in the city. While it adds hours of gameplay, it's not like the action available downtown, and after a while you'll find yourself trying to win a virtual GPS system to escape the hills.
A Time to Reflect: The lack of a rearview mirror is a major oversight, especially in Marked Man. Instead of having a constant look at what's behind you, you have to press a button for your rear view, at which point, the view takes over the entire screen. Swapping between disorienting camera angles breaks up the flow of the driving.
Talking Heads:Paradise's in-game host, DJ Automica, has many helpful tips for you to start the game. But as with all looped video game audio, and radio DJ's in general, he grows irritating and repetitive as the game wears on. Unfortunately, unlike in your real car, you can't change the station.
By incorporating an open, sprawling environment, Burnout Paradise will keep you busy whether you're power parking or barrel rolling. You pick the race or challenge, you decide where it takes place, and you choose when it goes down. This type of freedom is rare in racing games. We suggest you buckle up and enjoy the ride.
Football On A Diet: With this new title, EA sets about trying to recast the NFL Street and NFL Blitz franchises into something even more simple and more arcade-like. In that aspect, EA succeeds, because this title is nothing if not simple. The first thing you notice is that NFL Tour is more about what isn't included. There are seven players on each side instead of 11. There are no uprights and no kickers or punters of any kind; kickoffs are handled with deep throws, schoolyard-style. There are no helmets. Audibles are not allowed. There are only about 10 percent of the plays available to choose from compared to Madden. There is no 50-yard line; the field is only 80 yards long.
Speed Dating: The games move much quicker than Madden. You can be in and out of one in 10 minutes real time flat if you play under the "standard rule" two-minute halves -- the clock only runs during the plays. In fact, the games are more like the Kansas Tiebreaker college football overtimes that hinge on the conversions (1 point from the 5-yard line, 2 points from the 10). Speaking of the college game, the option play and the "Wildcat" formation (the tailback lines up as the quarterback in the shotgun) is available in Tour and can be quite effective. Also, you can customize the rules (First and 20, Make It Take It, points for big plays, etc.) to change things up.
Be A Climber Though it can be tough to pull off, the Arena Football-like padded walls on the sidelines make for some creative moves. Hit the B button when near the wall and watch your runner hurdle a defender by running up the wall sideways. There is a "secret" achievement for scoring a touchdown after bouncing off both walls.
Pick A Play: The fact that you can't audible makes your play calling more important than ever. Think back to Tecmo Bowl when you called the same play as your opponent did, and you ended up getting sacked instantly. The limited number of plays and inability to audible brings back some of that element of random chance into the equation.
Do The Mash: The contests turn on the result of one-on-one button mashing battles. If you initiate the contact and hit the A button right before meeting your opponent, you'll have the upper hand and most likely win the battle. Often it comes down to who can mash faster, a skill that isn't utilized enough in modern gaming.
Check out NFL Tour in action:
Things We'd Change
Jersey Gets Shafted: It's hard not to feel like this title is EA's answer to 2K's baseball hit, The Bigs. There is a career mode where you have to create a player and then play every team, division by division. Unfortunately, you don't get added skill points to your character as you progress through the game; you are stuck with the guy you create at the outset. The stadiums are placed in the middle of exaggerated city landmarks. For instance, New York has a stadium in Central Park with the skyline looming over it, even though the Jets and Giants really play in New Jersey. Maybe they didn't think the Palisades would make a proper backdrop for a football game.
Who's Man Is That? Like most football titles, defense often can be a mystery to play. As far as I can tell, you have to blitz every down to have a prayer. Even if you get the CPU stuck in a third and long, though, chances are one of your cornerbacks will blow a coverage. The Smash Meter (think Gamebreakers) only works on defense, but even then it takes forever to fill up your meter and activate it. That's too bad because it's the best way to force a turnover. Being a down lineman, even a star like Miami's Jason Taylor, is futile because you can't move around before snap and will always be blocked for a few seconds at the beginning of every play.
Mute Trey Wingo: The play-by-play is nothing short of tragic. Turn down the volume on his mic the first chance you get. (Suzy Kolber must have been busy.) Junk the default "Tour Passing" mode while you're at it. Switch to "Classic" passing in the options menu. That assigns buttons to each receiver the same way as Madden and every other football game ever made does.
Wrong Foot: Whether your quarterback is on the run or not, you almost always throw off your back foot, falling backward. It's more than a little weird but the upside is your accuracy doesn't suffer when you throw on the run. Of course, that's more like a downside if you want any realism at all in your football titles. Pretty much any quarterback is mobile enough to make some big plays in the running game, especially if you send your receivers deep and roll out. You'll notice the enemy AI won't pick you up until you are 10 yards downfield.
Achievements Note: For the 360 version, there are only 14 achievements, which hurts replay value quite a bit. Moreover, the allocation of the points is out of whack with what we've come to expect. Fifty points for winning a mini-game?
Kids will like it and parents will no doubt appreciate the low price. This also could appeal to students still living in the dorms or off-campus with a bunch of roommates and online junkies. Serious football gamers who like to audible and get into the cerebral aspects of the game may be disappointed though.