Boxing doesn’t have the most extensive catalogue of games for fans to play at home, mainly because it’s not that varied, so developers tend to adopt martial arts for their fighting games instead, ensuring players get to use more than just their fists.
For this reason, boxing games are often more realistic than the excesses of games such as Street Fighter and Virtua Fighter, requiring players to think about the strategic elements of boxing, rather than simply trying to pummel the other player into submission.
Real Boxing for iOS certainly plays to this audience, and those who want insane combat moves, flying kicks and the chance to fire off a few ‘Hadoukens’ should look elsewhere. For everyone else, Real Boxing will be a revelation, as it’s a full-on boxing simulator that for a game, is surprisingly punishing.
You get to create your own boxer and compete in either single, quick fights to hone your own skills, or go for a multi-fight career mode, where you take on opponents of all different skills to eventually claim one of three different belts. Designed using the Unreal Engine – on which the incredible Infinity Blade and its sequel are built – Real Boxing looks astonishing, with very lifelike fighters with highly realistic movements.
There’s a choice of control methods, one expected, the other decidedly not so. The first is much like Infinity Blade’s gesture control system, where swipes in different directions are used to throw punches, plus a pair of buttons for blocking or dodging. It’s very straight forward to learn, and there is a quick tutorial too, but learning timing and combinations is almost entirely down to you.
This is the secret to Real Boxing, as your character has two power bars during the game: One for his overall strength, which sees you hit the canvas when it has been depleted, while the other is for stamina. This is recharged either by blocking, dodging, hugging (you know, in the boxing sense, not the best pals sense) and being knocked on your behind. When this happens, the game introduces the old tap-very-quickly-to-fill-the-bar mechanic to help you back on your feet.
Attempts to continually bash your opponent until he falls down sees the stamina bar diminish very quickly, and your blows will have less power or miss completely, leaving you open to attack. It’s all about holding back until the right moment, then unleashing a series of well-timed, flowing attacks. Sounds easy? It’s really, really not.
If the gesture control system doesn’t appeal, then Real Boxing has motion control too, which turns your iPhone or iPad into a Wii-style input device using the forward facing camera, meaning you air punch, hook and uppercut away to control your onscreen avatar. That’s the theory anyway, as although it’s almost there, it’s not quite accurate enough to play a serious game. Others may have a different impression, but even with a good upright stand for the iPad, it was still never 100% responsive, and that meant losing fights.
You’ll want to win each fight too, as it feels like it has taken real skill when you do, and losing is a fairly unpleasant experience. As the blows start to land, so the screen blurs and the camera angle subtly changes, and you become powerless to respond. It almost always ends with you on the mat, struggling to retain consciousness. You can improve your fighter’s chances by hitting the gym, and doing so really pays off as the levels progress.
Winning though, is a far better experience. You dodge a blow and gain a split second to react, so you throw a couple of jabs in your opponent’s direction. Dazed, he falters, leaving you with the opportunity to deliver a devastating uppercut. His head flies back, blood sprays from his mouth, and down he goes. Then you get to relive the moment in slow motion, from several camera angles, as you relish your victory. Real Boxing is startlingly visceral and bloody, and incredibly involving for a game designed to be played on your phone.
Real Boxing is also difficult, and certainly shouldn’t be confused with an arcade boxing game where you can breeze through without putting in some practice. You’ll make it through two or three fights in the easiest career mode without much effort, but after that, you’ll be mincemeat without practice. For once though, the game is good enough to make you want to get better.
It’s compatible with both the iPhone and the iPad, although you’ll need at least an iPhone 4S and an iPad 2 for it to work. It did crash once or twice on our iPad, requiring a restart, but ran perfectly on the iPhone 4S; however the game’s epic nature means it belongs on the iPad’s big screen. It’s priced at £2.99, which is excellent value considering not only the game’s amazing visuals, but the amount of replay value too.