I liked the Rocky movies. Well, except for Rocky V which was just plain crud. But the others were fun and even inspiring. I mean what could have been better than Rocky IV, when in the middle of the cold war Rocky and a big mean Russian, in the form of Ivan Drago, fought right in Moscow? And then to have the Russian crowd start cheering for the American? Personally I think that scene alone ended the cold war. But then they had to go and mess things up and make Rocky V. The main fighter, Tommy Gunn (okay, Iíll give some credit for the name), was actually punching bubbles at one point in the movie. So this is obviously when I gave up on Rocky and all things Rocky. Now, years later along come Rocky for the PS2. I have to admit I was very skeptical. Is it a stirring experience like the first Rocky movie, or does it make you wish you were never born like Rocky V? Read on, the answers are all ahead.
Rocky the videogame is divided into four different areas: Exhibition Mode, Movie Mode, Knockout Tournament (available after you complete the game in Movie Mode) and Sparring Mode. Exhibition Mode is the quick and dirty ďI just want to punch someoneĒ mode. You get to choose from any of the fighters that you have unlocked from elsewhere in the game, so after you finish the Movie Mode you can see how a fight between Clubber Lang and Ivan Drago would turn out. The Movie Mode is the heart of the game and Iíll go into more detail about it later. The Knockout Tournament is where you fight your way through opponents tournament style. Itís pretty standard stuff so I wonít go into the details. You can learn new boxing skills and hone them in the Sparring Mode. This is a very effective way not only to learn your way around the ring, but around the controller as well. There are three sparring partners with different styles that you can go up against. You can choose for your sparring partner to just stand there as you wail away on him, have the partner block only, or engage in a normal fight. The standing only and blocking only sparring options are a nice way to practice different combos without the worry of getting pounded.
Now to the heart and soul of the game: Movie Mode. In Movie Mode you are Rocky Balboa and you follow the path of the five movies, meaning you start off as a lowly fighter and work your way to a match against the aforementioned bubble boy. The Mode is broken into five acts, one for each movie. Each act has the same format; you fight three matches and then you go to the main event, which is the finale of each of the movies. For example, in Act IV you are Rocky in the Rocky IV movie, and after three fights you face Drago in the main event. The format is very good and before the main event of each section you see a cutscene that sets-up the premise for the fight. For example, in the Rocky II act you see Apollo Creed bad-mouthing Rocky all over the news. In Act III you get to see Clubber Lang taunt Rocky about his soft fights and learn about Mickey passing away. While not cutting edge in their presentations, they are still well done and help bring back the feel of each of the movies.
Each section in the Movie Mode has fighters from that movie. For example, in Act I you fight Spider Rico. I have to admit some ignorance here, but apparently that was the name of the fighter that The Italian Stallion beat at the beginning of Rocky. You also fight in mostly the same rings and venues as were seen in the movies. Itís interesting to see the upgrade in arenas as the game goes on. At first you are fighting in rings where the floor and pads are taped together, only to be fighting later in places with huge multi-screen displays. You will also notice a wide disparity in the crowds. In some places itís not uncommon to have bottles thrown onto the ring during the fight. In others youíll see everyone in black ties. Itís good to have crowd animations that are more than just static pictures of a group of people. These crowds boo when things are going slowly and chant Rockyís name when youíre cruising.