Review by: Mike Laidlaw
Published: March 15, 2001
As a rookie contender, HBO Boxing has some hard work ahead of it, since it’s going toe-to-toe against the established heavyweight champion of PlayStation boxing, the Knockout Kings series. Fortunately, Acclaim Sports, who handled the development of this new franchise, and HBO, the network known for excellent coverage of the sweet science, have more than enough moxy and bravado to take their team all the way to the top. Of course, there are some significant obstacles on the way to the console boxing championship; the most notable of these is a spotted history, which tellingly indicates that pugilism is a notoriously hard sport to translate into the digital realm. Even EA Sports’ series took several attempts before really perfecting their style, so is it possible that a novice contender can claim the belt on its first run up the ladder?
Backing up this title bid is a roster of fighters drawn from today’s headlines and the annals of history: Roy Jones Jr., Michael Grant, Marvin Hagler, Sugar Ray Robinson, Hector “Macho” Camacho, Jake LaMotta, Rocky Marciano, Floyd Patterson, Larry Holmes, Fernando Vargas, David Tua, and other luminaries appear in the three weight classes that make up this game’s roster, while a selection of famed female pugilists such as Bridgett Riley and Mia St. John round out this traditionally male-dominated sport. Even George Foreman takes a break from selling mufflers and fat-busting grills to once again strap on his gloves. In total, a basic set of thirty-seven fighters has been included, each with their own specialties, unique skills and fighting styles.
As is standard with most sports simulations, a plethora of modes awaits the player in HBO Boxing. Looking for instant action? Hop into a quick bout, where the boxers are selected randomly and thrown into a one-off match. A single bout gives you more control over your fighting options, specifying the arena and fighters but basically operating the same. Standing in the middle ground between the short-term single bouts and the long-term career is the TVKO Pay-Per-View event — one of HBO’s top boxing events. The player controls just about everything in the TVKO, including the rules, the venue and the number of fighters participating. Up to eight matches may be scheduled, and a standard tournament ladder guides the action up the tree until the last two fighters meet to determine which of them will be declared the TVKO Champion. Each character may be set to Human or CPU control and those fights deemed uninteresting may be simulated in order to speed up the tournament.
As might be expected, the career mode lies at the center of the action and lets you guide a custom-built boxer from his humble beginnings to the top of his career. In addition to appearance and size, one of the first things involved in the creation of a new boxer is determining his style. The list is fairly exhaustive: Boxer, Showboat, Slugger, Stalker, Aggressive, Unorthodox, Croucher, Dancer and Defensive styles are all available. While the change may seem cosmetic at first, each style has a slight twist of its own. Sluggers, for example, tend to swing slower, but pack more power, while dancers benefit from slightly more agile footwork. Aggressive and Defensive boxers cancel each other’s advantages, while the Unorthodox style is the most difficult to read.