Rocky Legends E3 2004 Preshow Hands-On Impressions

We got a chance to play an early build of the new Rocky boxing game from Ubisoft.

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In 2002, Ubisoft released its first boxing game under the Rocky brand name. While its boxing mechanics were competent, the game was marred by lackluster graphics and some pretty serious exploits. It was actually possible to take advantage of some obvious holes in the artificial intelligence, effectively breaking the game. Ubisoft has opted to go with a different developer for another Rocky boxing game, called Rocky Legends, and will be showing it off at this year's E3. Ubisoft promises improvements in both the graphics and the AI, and from what we saw and played at a recent pre-E3 press event, Rocky Legends looks like it is well on its way to making amends for the gaffes in the previous iteration.

The first thing we noticed was a vast improvement in the boxer models, crowds, and environments. Boxers in Rocky Legends are modeled with double the polygons used in the original Rocky, and the skin textures appear much improved as well. We also noticed nice particle effects with sweat and blood droplets coming off the boxers' faces after a punch. The game will feature 20 venues to box in, most of which should be familiar to fans of the Rocky movies. They include the Russian training camp from Rocky IV, the Philadelphia Art Museum, and the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. A whopping 26 new boxers are also being introduced in Rocky Legends, bringing the total number to more than 40, all of which had at least a passing appearance or mention in the Rocky films. The animation on them looks smooth and authentic, with cruiserweight champion Johnny Nelson lending his talent to the motion capture.

Perhaps the most interesting, new feature in Rocky Legends is its career mode. Aside from taking the role of Rocky Balboa, you will be able to follow the careers of three other boxers: Apollo Creed, Clubber Lang, and Ivan Drago. The developers have been given permission by MGM to create alternate story arcs, which will be told using reedited versions of the actual film. What if Clubber beat Rocky? What if Ivan Drago didn't kill Apollo Creed? You'll be able to play out these scenarios in Rocky Legends. As you make your way up the ladder, you can earn cash to unlock new features such as movie trailers or other boxers, venues, and costumes for use in other game modes.

In order to raise your attributes as you make your way through a career, you can engage in eight different training games to hone your timing and your skills. Aside from the basic eight, which include boxing basics like the speed bag and sparring, each of the four major boxers has a special training game. Rocky's, for example, is a chicken chasing game pulled straight out of Rocky II that helps him increase in speed and agility.

We had the chance to spar in an early Xbox version of Rocky Legends, and from our brief play session, the controls seemed tight and responsive. It has a similar interface to that in the original Rocky, with different buttons mapped to different punches (there won't be a right thumbstick punch mechanism like in Fight Night 2004), but don't expect to button-mash your way to victory. Rocky Legends is currently slated to ship this October for both the PlayStation 2 and Xbox. We'll bring you more information on the game as it becomes available.

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