Game Review - by Jeremiah Pratt
There has not been a slew of boxing titles around. KnockOut Kings tried to simulate boxing. And from what I read failed miserably. Here Sony tries to answer the woes and cries of boxing fans. Some of the issues were answered, but now we're left with an arcade thriller. More knockouts, faster punches, easier layout. What more could a boxing fan ask for, well there's always something.
With over 40 world class boxers, Contender puts you up against the best of the best in the boxing world. Take your character on the long and grueling journey from the seedy back street venues, sweaty gyms of the non-professional pugilist, all the way up to the dizzying heights of world fights, where battles for the glory of victory are fought. Contender is not just about fancy special moves, this game is packed with strategy. You must decide what your fighter's weaknesses are and train him/her to overcome them. As you progress through the game, you'll be offered handy hints and tips from your trainer Jackal-spar with him at the gym and learn invaluable moves that will set you on the road to stardom.
For starters, Contender features the traditional arcade-boxing staple, a super punch. The super punch, indicated by a special icon on the screen, allows a weakened fighter to land a punch that is two to three times more powerful than a regular shot. Its power is enough to let a pummeled boxer regain control of the fight. While such a punch adds a sense of unpredictability, it detracts from the true hard-nosed feel a boxing game should deliver. All of this is treated with the Vibration Control letting you feel every shot laid upon yourself. I always enjoy the training modes, where you can fight it out to your hearts content, in exhibition, or take yourself to the limit in tournament style. When you believe you're finally ready to get it on. Take your bad self to the Main Event and win that World Title.
Furthering the arcade experience is Contender's choice of boxers. The cast of characters, which includes everything from 300-pound bruisers to 120-pound women, more closely resembles the gang from the game Street Fighter than pay-per-view champions. In addition, the game has no weight or gender restrictions, so it's not uncommon to see the bruiser facing the woman in the ring. The game's controls are easy enough to learn that you'll be throwing like a champ in no time. Defense takes longer to learn and is a key ingredient to winning any fight. Without strong defensive skills you'll find yourself in a fist flying battle where boxers hit the canvas early and often. Multiple camera angles add some flare to the game, though it won't take you long to discover that the default camera angle is the best for actual gameplay. But don't overlook the ability to change the view, if anything it's worth a laugh or two as you watch punches coming at you in the first person perspective.
Visually, Contenders is not that bad. Although the characters are large and blocky ala 'Street Fighter". I don't mind it, the speed of the game is fluid throughout the match. The ring is large and in charge, and the animations work nicely. Other than that there really isn't much more to the graphics.
Whoever was in charge of the sound for Contender should be beaten up and thrown into a deep pit. There is a total of 4 irritating and repetitive music tracks, the kind of music that makes you want to ram pencils in your ears. Sound effects range from bad to lame. I'd rather listen to a garbage truck at six in the morning. I think you get the drift.
In the end, however, Contender offers little to the gaming world. It is a bland and contrived title, and certainly a far cry from what we really need. "What do we really need?" you ask? Simple, we need a game that does for boxing what the FIFA, NBA Live, or MLB games do for their respective sports: recreate a sports experience as thoroughly as possible. We've seen games with managing components, drafts, detailed player creation, histories, licensing, and enough depth to drown in. Why do developers continue to ignore realistic boxing, a sport that has strong ties to success in the video game world, in favor of crummy, half-baked arcade games like the two for the PSX. One thing that can't go unsaid, this game is certainly difficult for a so-called arcade boxing title. What was Sony thinking, I don't have a clue folks.