I love the Rocky films and I mean a deep-rooted love. For me, Rocky Balboa is one of the most endearing characters in cinematic history, by far Sylvester Stallone’s greatest role. There have been a few Rocky based games over the years… with varying degrees of success. But overall the Rocky films have not been represented all that well in terms of video games. Can developer and publisher, Survios give us a worthy title? Let’s find out.
Big Rumble Boxing: Creed Champions is a sequel/spin-off from Survios’ other boxing game, Creed Rise to Glory where you played as Adonis Creed from the films. Oh, it was VR too. Of course, VR is limiting as not everyone (or every console) has it. Big Rumble Boxing: Creed Champions is basically a non-VR version of the previous game, now available for everything and with a few bells and whistles thrown in to ring.
Okay, right off the bat, this game has the official Rocky and Creed licenses. As you can tell from the main pic (or trailer) for this article, they’re all there (pretty much). Both Apollo and Adonis Creed, Ivan Drago, Clubber Lang and yes Rocky Balboa too. All using the likenesses of their respective actors too. But the license doesn’t just end there, there’s the music. Gonna Fly Now, Eye Of The Tiger and more. Big Rumble Boxing certainly looks and sounds the part. Even the locales used in the game are authentic, from huge boxing stadiums to Mighty Mick’s gym. Honestly, just from being on the main menu for this game, I had a huge smile on my face because… well it was authentic Rocky.
Speaking of the menu, there’s not a lot here to get your teeth into. Aside from what you’d expect in terms of options, etc there’s not much in terms of actual gameplay options. There’s a training mode where you can practise your fighting, combos and so on. A versus mode for some local one-on-one fisticuffs (no online play). Then there’s the main meat of the game, the arcade mode.
The arcade mode plays pretty much like any arcade beat ’em up. One fighter vs another, first to KO wins. Oh yeah, this is a pure arcade fighter here. You won’t find realistic boxing mechanics, no fighters tiring due to a lack of stamina, zero World Boxing Association rules and regulations. This is exaggerated, pure arcade beat ’em up action from start to finish. You have a light, a hard and a grapple attack (one button for each). You can block and dodge. Then there’s the special meter, it fills up the more you land hits then, at the press of a button, you can unleash a haymaker of an attack.
You can counter an attack if you time the block just right. Stagger/stun your opponent with a well timed-combo. You can even bounce them off the ropes or slump them against the turnbuckle with a well-placed powerful hit. Really, there can be a few layers to the boxing and while button mashers will do okay, you will need to learn the various moves to get the most out of a fight. Even so, those layers to the fighting never do feel quite deep enough. How the arcade mode works is that you pick a fighter and you get to play through their own mini-story. As an example, play as Rocky Balboa and you’ll relieve moments from his career shown in the films. The second fight against Apollo from Rocky II. The battle against Clubber Lang from Rocky III. The awesome slice of the eighties that was the Ivan Drago brawl from Rocky IV… no Rocky V or Rocky Balboa fights though.
There are also fantasy fights. You can play as Rocky in his prime vs Adonis Creed or even have Apollo actually beat Drago instead of getting killed in the ring, etc. Anyway, you pick your fighter and take them through their own mini-story. Finish that fighter’s story and you’ll unlock a new fighter. Play as Rocky and unlock Apollo. Play through Viktor Drago’s story and unlock his father, Ivan. You’ll also unlock alternate costumes for the fighters when you complete their story’s too. To break up the fights, there’s a training mini-game. The training doesn’t actually affect your fighter in any way. Plus the training is nothing more than just simple QTEs. Quickly tap the trigger buttons when running on a treadmill, press the correct button in time on the heavy bag, etc. They are a mild distraction that I really don’t think wouldn’t have been missed if they weren’t here.
Time for some niggles, these really are very personal niggles too. You can’t KO an opponent in the way you may think. Every single fight really is a battle to knock down your opponent four times before they do the same to you. This plays very much like any arcade beat ’em up where it’s a best of three (sometimes five) rounds. But because this is boxing based, for me, it just felt ‘off’ that you can’t KO anyone, no matter how well you fight. It’s four knockdowns (the fourth leads to a KO no matter what) to win. Once you get your head around the fact that this is how the game works and ‘proper’ KOs are just not possible, it works.
Next niggle. As I said, I’m a massive Rocky film fan and there are inconsistencies here when you relive events from the films. A few examples for you. You can live out the never seen fight between Rocky and Apollo from the end of Rocky III. In the film, it takes place in Mick’s gym and the two are alone, nobody witnessed the fight. But in this game, while it still takes place in Mick’s gym… there are dozens of people watching and cheering. It really takes away from the legendary fight that the film set up and the whole intimacy of it when you’re surrounded by cheering fans. Also, I was doing a fight playing as Apollo in the 1970s and at one of the venues was a banner for Adonis Creed. You know, Apollo’s son who wouldn’t have been alive at the time that the fight took place. There’s also a fight when playing as Rocky when you go back to his days as a debt collector for a local small-time gangster. The fight rightfully takes place in a dirty back alley… but both Rocky and his opponent are dressed in full boxing gear. So Rocky collected debts in his boxing shorts and gloves did he and from fellow boxers too? Little things like that just took me out of the game slightly. As I said, they were personal niggles.
On to more gameplay focused issues. Though there are a total of twenty characters to play as (ten unlocked from the start, ten you have to unlock by playing), they are all pretty much the same. Yes, boxers have various styles, Rocky is a brute and hits hard whereas Apollo’s punches are weaker, but he is faster. All the boxers still feel very much the same. I guess the best way to explain this is that it would be like playing Street Fighter II and all of the characters in the game were either Ryu or Ken. Aside from the special move, which varies depending on the style of the fighter, the boxers are all the same. Oh, and there is only one special move per fighter too and that really gets repetitive seeing the same animation over and over and over.
There are just not enough modes to keep you interested. Remove the training where you can practise and all you have is the versus and arcade modes… that’s it. No story mode or career, no online fights or anything. Big Rumble Boxing: Creed Champions is really bare minimal for a fighting game. This was a wonderful opportunity to really let the players live out the Rocky saga but you can’t. A fantastic chance to include a create a boxer and career mode, where you take a hungry fighter from the bottom to the top. The game is just a very bare basic arcade fighter and with all the boxers pretty much playing the same, the fights being so ‘structured’ and all, there’s not a great deal to drag you back into it once you have seen one or two of the character’s story’s play out.
Oh, and before I forget, Big Rumble Boxing also does that dirty, cheating final boss fight that all arcade beat ’em ups do. If you have ever played any one-on-one fighter in the past, then you’ll know what I mean. It doesn’t matter how well you fight to get to the boss, if you have managed to not lose a single round because you’re actually pretty damn good… the boss will flatten you. There’s a major difficulty spike when you reach the final opponent, no matter what fighter you play as. The boss will doge 90% of your attacks, while his blows will connect 100% of the time. He will successfully counter your moves nine out of ten times. His special meter fills quicker and he’ll never miss with a special attack either. Remember when you first got to M. Bison and Street Fighter II or Heihachi in Tekken… or worse, Seth in Street Fighter IV and they completely demolished you no matter what? Yup, that happens here too. I hate this faux difficulty shit. Like rubberbanding in racing games, if I’m winning via my own skill but the opponents need to cheat to claim victory.
I always end my reviews by asking myself if the game is worth buying. For that, I need to look a the price tag. Big Rumble Boxing: Creed Champions is available on all formats for around £31 – £35 (depending on the format) and for me, that is a very difficult price tag to swallow for the very limited game you do get. This is a £12 – £15 game at the most and seeing it go for double that really is disappointing. Yeah I know this is fully licensed and all… but that is still way too much to pay for what you are getting here. For £30-odd, I’d expect Sylvester Stallone himself to turn up at my door, sit there as I play and offer me training tips. Nope, this game is way too overpriced for what it is.
Hey, if there was a deeper story mode, a career that you could really get your teeth into, then just maybe a £30 price would be justified. But I honestly can’t sit here and pretend that you get a worthy game for your money… you don’t. Big Rumble Boxing: Creed Champions is fun in short bursts. The actual fighting is limited as the fighters themselves are just too similar to each other. There aren’t enough gameplay modes to keep you interested and everything is just too short-lived. If you can get it in a sale down the road, it might be worth a purchase.