Mike Tyson Heavyweight Boxing Preview
Codemasters has completely revamped its Mike Tyson Heavyweight Boxing franchise for the PlayStation 2, making it a game that is fun and full of depth.
Iron Mike Tyson's video game debut in Punch-Out!! for the NES was so good that games starring the ear-biting heavyweight have been trying to live up to it ever since. Codemasters released its first Mike Tyson game for the PlayStation last year, but it ultimately failed to live up to expectations. With an entirely new development team on the case, Codemasters has dedicated itself to making sure that this year's game for the PlayStation 2 is a vast improvement upon every front.
Last year's Mike Tyson for the PlayStation included generic boxers, and not many of them, but the franchise's first release on the PS2 will have 16 licensed heavyweights, including Larry Holmes, Tim Witherspoon, Francois Botha, Hasim Rahman, and many more. Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis have not been included in the game due to licensing issues, but virtually every other heavyweight contender has made the cut. In addition to the authentic boxers, there will be 20 official venues included in the final version of the game.
Codemasters realizes that its last Mike Tyson game lacked gameplay depth, and it's doing everything possible to remedy the situation for this year's game. The development team has taken what it calls the Nintendo approach to designing the game--making it easy to pick up and play but including plenty of advanced gameplay techniques to appease the more skilled player. There are four belts to be claimed in the game, including the bronze, silver, gold, and platinum classes. You begin by choosing from one of the six initially unlocked boxers or creating your own. The create-a-boxer tool is fairly extensive--it allows you to set your boxer's physical characteristics, trunks, shoes, and more. Created boxers have ratings based upon physical characteristics in 10 different categories, such as chin, guard, stamina, ring speed, and inside punching power. As you win each belt, you are rewarded with new attribute points to distribute to your boxer's profile. If you'd like an analysis of your created boxer, you can spar with Iron Mike and he'll grace you with a critique.
What gives Mike Tyson's Heavyweight Boxing its replay value is its many unlockable features and its surprisingly deep fighting engine. Prize money is awarded for winning fights, and you can receive bonus payments for knockouts, winning a fight outside of your class ranking or giving the crowd an especially good show. The money can then be used to purchase items, combos, and gameplay modes that have been unlocked in the career mode. Each boxer has four different combos in addition to the game's 12 basic punches. Once you've defeated a boxer, his combos can be purchased and added to your boxer's punching arsenal. Additionally, tattoos, trunks, and shoes can also be purchased and added to your created boxer as symbols of conquest. Once in the ring, the control scheme resembles those found in fighting games. Combos are thrown with three-button inputs but are governed by a coin system. As you inflict punishment on the competition or evade attacks, you are awarded coins. The coins can then be used to throw combinations or signature punches, with each one requiring a specific number of coins. If you throw too many punches and your stamina meter is depleted, your punches will have little effect and you'll be more susceptible to damage. This makes balancing your offensive and defensive techniques essential to success. Aside from the extensive and deep career mode, there's a speed boxing mode that can be unlocked, as well as a head-to-head tournament mode for up to eight players.
Mike Tyson's Heavyweight Boxing is rather early in development, but it was still possible to see the direction that the game is headed from a visual perspective. Codemasters is going for a presentation that mimics televised sports broadcasts to keep the excitement high. All the boxers have an elaborate entrance--each one is shown walking down the tunnel to an arena full of flash bulbs. Codemasters hopes to include each boxer's entourage, but it has yet to be implemented into the game. So far, the animation routines in the game are strictly placeholder, but Larry Holmes' patented jab from the hip is already in the game and looks rather convincing. The fights primarily take place from a side angle, though there's an interesting first-person perspective that can be used to get up close and personal. The character models are adequately modeled but include some visible joints in the elbows and shoulders. Facial expressions and eye movements are also included in the game, as well as real-time facial damage complete with blood. The licensed arenas look real enough, with accurate seating sections and a ring canvas that includes the appropriate venue logos.
The audio is still very early in development as well, but Codemasters tells us that licensed tracks will accompany many of the fighters' ring entrances. The soundtrack will comprise gritty street hip-hop that Codemasters hopes will give the game a street edge. More than 20 taunts that can be triggered at any time are included in the game and are unlocked as you defeat boxers in the career mode.
Mike Tyson's Heavyweight Boxing is an ambitious game that should appeal to a broad audience if the ideas behind it are well executed. With a deep career mode, a fun multiplayer mode, and a complete roster of authentic boxers and punches, fans of boxing video games will have a lot to sink their teeth into. Though too early in development to pass any judgments on, Codemasters' upcoming boxing game for the PlayStation 2 is one to keep an eye on as its April 2002 release date closes in.
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