While HBO Boxing looked promising early in its development, the final product is a terribly disappointing game that has tons of problems, including unresponsive control and horrible animation. The few redeeming qualities the game offers are a lineup of big-name fighters, flashy menus, and a fairly in-depth career mode. However, no amount of options, features, or Roy Jones Jr. himself can justify playing what is ultimately a poor boxing game.
The game has more than 30 boxers from just about every weight division, including stars from the past and present, like Roy Jones Jr., George Foreman, Michael Grant, Sugar Ray Robinson, Hector "Macho" Camacho, Jake LaMotta, Marvin Hagler, Rocky Marciano, David Tua, Floyd Patterson, Larry Holmes, Fernando Vargas, Mia St. John, and Bridgett Riley. You can play as any one of these boxers in the game's exhibition, tournament, and quickbout modes of play. The exhibition mode lets you pick any of the fighters and either take on a computer opponent of your choice or fight it out with a second player. The tournament mode lets you set up a single-elimination-style tournament where 16 fighters are matched up with one another. Quickbout, as it sounds, picks two fighters at random and puts them in the ring. The game also has a fairly robust career mode that lets you create your own fighter, hire different managers, and cut men, all for a shot at the title. In this mode you begin fighting in local gyms, and if you consistently do well, you will eventually fight against big-name opponents. Once you start to climb the ranks you'll begin making appearances on HBO boxing telecasts starting with KO Nation and continuing up the ranks though HBO's Boxing After Dark, HBO World Championship Boxing, and finally onto TVKO Pay-Per-View, HBO's premier boxing telecast. The game also has a create-a-Pay-Per-View feature that lets you choose the fighters, venues, and championship belts involved.
The control is extremely unique and might have actually worked well if it weren't for the game's overall sloppy and unresponsive nature. The buttons on the face of the PlayStation controller are used to throw various punches such as jabs, hooks, and uppercuts, while the shoulder buttons are used to modify whether those punches are head, body, or left- and right-handed punches. This control setup, while rather confusing at first, becomes somewhat manageable after time. However, once you get accustomed to the game's control setup, it's painfully apparent that a great deal of the learning curve is accounting for the game's unresponsiveness to controller commands, specifically in how the fighters move around the ring. It takes your fighter too long to move once you press the D-pad in a direction, which makes it almost impossible to slip around your opponent's punches.
Graphically, HBO Boxing has some good features, such as decent polygonal models. Unfortunately the models and all the other visual elements are completely undermined by the game's horrible animation. Almost everything about the way the fighters move, punch, and react to one another is terrible. The fighters, when close to one another, literally look as though they are hopping instead of shuffling or even walking.
In the audio department, the actual HBO boxing commentators Jim Lampley, Larry Merchant, and Harold Lederman call the action during the fight. This commentary sounds totally disjointed at times, especially when the commentators try to give you specific information. For instance, when Harold Lederman is laying out the rules for the bout, he'll pause for a while before giving any specifics, like the number of rounds, and then when he does, it's usually in an entirely different tone of voice. The sound effects are unrealistic, and the game's constantly repeating HBO theme that plays in between fights in the career mode will drive you and anyone else nearby insane.
In the end, HBO Boxing is another disappointing boxing game that fails to even come close to re-creating the look and feel of the sport in the ring. The game has the worst combination of problems a boxing game could possibly have: sloppy controls, horrid animation, and poor collision detection. These detrimental factors ultimately make HBO boxing a bigger waste of money than the Tyson vs. Galotta fight. If you're looking for a realistic boxing game to play, the latest Knockout Kings is a much better choice.