Mike Tyson Heavyweight Boxing (PS2) - Jason Julier - 6/10

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Source: http://web.archive.org/web/20040128033145/http://www.gamestyle.net:80/playstation2.php?action=review&id=82

Mike Tyson Heavyweight Boxing [game information] Version Tested: PAL Genre: Sports Publisher: Codemasters Developer: Codemasters

History will view Mike Tyson as a sad figure, someone that rose from nothing to conquer and dominate the world for several years, then watched as his world fell apart. Just like Diego Maradona, who also had a rare talent, most of us will have a love hate relationship with the ex-champion. So the legend may have worn thin, but what about the game?

Previous boxing games have taken the arcade approach and proved to be highly enjoyable if limited, Ready 2 Rumble for instance, whereas EA’s Knockout Kings has tried a different approach but after several attempts is still trying to get the formula right. For Codemasters this is another stab at a boxing title, instead of taking the full arcade approach, I suspect Codemasters have learnt from the successful WWF series, which combines visuals with cheap arcade thrills and hidden depth for those willing to delve underground.

The need for a playable boxing game is quite clear for me, the normal beat ‘em route as trodden by Dead or Alive and Tekken is well worn and extremely predictable. Boxing on the other hand can offer just as much tactical prowess, violence and challenge with a hint of the real world, it should be a viable alternative but so far has flattered to deceive. If you approach Mike Tyson Heavyweight Boxing like Ready 2 Rumble then you will find yourself on a record breaking losing streak. The key is to learn your punches and develop a style of boxing; the typewriter approach won’t see you through the first round.

On paper the handful of game modes flatter to deceive but when you become involved you soon realise the fun you can have. The Exhibition mode is a one off fight against a selected opponent, which is a quick way to earn cash. Speed boxing is an excellent addition, in a single round fight, the quicker you knock down your opponent the more items will become unlocked. There are plenty of fighters, combination punches and extras hidden away inside the game, waiting for the ultimate boxer to unlock. A versus mode maybe your only initial taste of victory. The Belt mode is the most challenging, work your way up from the Bronze in series of competitions across the world, to reach the ultimate fight against the world number one; I wonder who that could be?

Mike Tyson Heavyweight Boxing offers you the opportunity to create your own boxer or select an established real life fighter. There are over fifteen famous boxers included within the game, but you won’t have the chance to go up against, or select one of them until you have an impressive record. This can be achieved by winning exhibition bouts, or trying to reach the latter stages of the Bronze Belt Championship but neither is easy to achieve. When you start the game, you start at the bottom, a rookie fighter with no experience, skills or impressive statistics. Luckily enough the gym mode allows you to purchase new skills as well as create your own custom boxer. The range of options from which you can customise your own boxer is very impressive, every area of the face can be altered, physical attributes changed and clothing chosen. In other games such a feature may be superficial but here there is more meaning, larger boxers may have more power but will lack speed in getting around the ring. Smaller boxers may have a quicker punch but lack increased power, thereby not sticking around to slug it out inside. It is essential that you create a boxer to fit your own boxing style and this only comes through experience, which can be painful.

Skill points, signature punches and combinations can be bought, but cash prices start at a cool million, meaning that creating a mean fighting machine is a multi-million pound investment. Luckily cash awards are not only given on the basis of victories but performance and entertainment value. You may lose but put up a good fighting display and you’ll come out with a decent pay packet. Then head back to the gym to purchase your reward.

The PAIN (Polymorphic And Interpolative Nodemapping) damage engine ensures that you will see the results of punches landed and plays an important part in the game. Just like the real thing, if your face becomes critical, then the referee can end the fight, therefore defence becomes as important as offence. Unlike the other boxing games I’ve played, blocking isn’t achieved by pressing one button, instead you have several blocking, deflecting, bobbing and weaving manoeuvres which you can call upon. The range of punches including low blows is similarly impressive and shows how much research has gone into this release. Pain is what you feel when you real from the latest blow, the use of vibration is excellent and the blood and bruising is realistic.

The fights themselves are quality and every button on the controller is used, but this never feels daunting. At times it can prove a cramp arrangement, as you often have to adjust to use the right analogue stick, which is the main blocking tool. The fights are well presented, fighters arrive in style and the commentary from Ian Darke is well implemented. The crowds in many releases are evidently flat and lifeless, not here and combined with the sounds and background events this is perhaps the nearest we have come to getting into the ring itself. The only drawback is the constant saving and asking for confirmation, as you bounce from each mode, trying to build up enough cash to create the ultimate fighting machine.

The only drawback to Mike Tyson Heavyweight Boxing is the fact that it is firstly a boxing game, and secondly that the learning curve will prove too steep and long for many. Those looking for a refreshing change to beat ‘em ups or are already fans of the sport, won’t feel let down by what Iron Mike has to offer here.

Game Score: 6/10 Reviewed By: Jason Julier