In this corner, weighing in at 180 lbs. is Contender from Sony and Victor Interactive Software--an arcade-style boxing experience reminiscent of Mike Tyson's PunchOut on the NES with make-believe fighters and fast action. Sure, Knockout Kings from EA may give you a technically correct boxing experience, but when it comes down to it punching your opponent in the gut or in the mug is what this sport is all about. And that's what Contender gives you--a "punch your opponent in the gut and/or mug" arcade-style boxing experience.
Graphically, this preview version of Contender looks like a poor-man's version of Street Fighter EX. The game plays like a scaled-down fighting game, since all you do is punch and block. But then you'll remember you're not playing a fighting game--you're playing a boxing game. As mentioned, the 40 opponents in Contender aren't based on any real fighters (although one boxer looks suspiciously similar to Mike Tyson, and another to Dennis Rodman). With that said, each character's personality comes through via his/her looks, and consequently brings out some interesting stereotypes similar to those in PunchOut.
At the game's start, you have a finite number of character "types" to choose from (around 20 eventually), each being from a different weight class, and having various power, speed and stamina attributes, among others. As you work your way through the ranks, these attributes increase--thus readying you for the top contender in each circuit. You can save your character after each fight, and then use this character to whoop up on your friends in the two-player mode.
Contender is to Knockout Kings as NFL Blitz is to Madden NFL 99. It's a scaled-down version of essentially the same thing, with a lot more arcade action thrown in. Problem is, Contender isn't nearly as enjoyable as NFL Blitz...relatively speaking. It's somewhere in between NFLXtreme and NFL Blitz, actually. This is how Contender breaks down for me: Contender isn't a technical representation of boxing--it doesn't want to be. This game prides itself on being fun and easy. Problem is, while the game is fun some of the time, it's just a little too repetitious for my liking. I'd say it's because this game doesn't really have a set identity. It's supposed to be an arcade boxing game but it really plays like a half-rate fighting game with some strategy elements thrown in (since you can't just go to work on your opponent without blocking, ducking and weaving). Hence, fighting a bunch of boxers with a few body and head punches and a few defensive tactics in your arsenal gets stale. In Contender's defense, it has good number of boxers, some interesting camera views and a save feature that allows you to save your character and fight your pals. But then, the two-player mode isn't all that fun either. Overall, you can't expect much from Contender. Rent it, play through a few circuits and see how you feel.
Contender looks and feels more like a traditional fighting game than a boxing game. The characters are goofy and robotic and don't look realistic in any way. Taking a fighter through the ranks is really fun even if it is a little easy at first. It'd be nice if there were more punches available, but having the super punches is cool. Overall it's enjoyable as a lighthearted contest, but real boxing fans should stay with Knockout Kings.
While EA's Knockout Kings is more of a slowpaced, realistic boxing sim. Contender is geared more toward fans of adrenaline-pumping "knock your opponent's teeth out" excitement. Which do I prefer? Contender, but not by much. Even though I appreciate KK's attention to detail, I'd rather enjoy quick, precise action-packed gameplay. The one-player game is a bit on the easy side, though. Real boxing fans should stick to KK.
I love fighting games, but as with EA's more sim-like Knockout Kings, I found Contender to lack that special something that makes it fun. To be completely honest I just found the thing quite spectacularly boring. I know there's strategy to the timing of punches but I just couldn't get used to the sluggish nature of the controls. It all seems terribly robotic and monotonous. An odd choice of signing fromSCEA.
Contender's an arcade boxing game that plays more like Super Punch Out than Knockout Kings. While it doesn't contain the gameplay depth or number of features as the current champ, Knockout Kings, Contenders quick fights, crazy characters, and easy knockdowns will appeal to younger gamers who aren't up to the challenge of a hardcore sim.
When you first play Contender, you might mistakenly write it off as just another button-mashing fighting game that takes longer to load than it does to knock someone out But the more you play and the more you build up your character, the more fun the game becomes--and by the end, you will actually find yourself yelling at the champ as you pummel him down to the canvas. Overall, Contenders not as enjoyable as Knockout Kings, but it's still good fun--especially as you work your way up the rankings.
The Main Event
At the outset, your fighter will only be able to throw a few punches, but as you progress through the Main Event mode, an eye-patch wearing trainer teaches you new easy-to-learn, wicked combos and punches like the corkscrew and super body-blow. The game also sports 40 fictitious fighters, including male and female boxers, and the strange champ, Beastman--each utilizing a distinct fighting style from Open to Peak-a-boo.
Graphically, the game features cartoony boxers who, like Knockout Kings, get cut and bleed as you pound on their face. Unfortunately, you'll need to fight in first-person view to witness the damage. Another downer is the break-up in each fighter's body--sometimes it looks like their arms are going to fly right off.
The sound is also pretty mediocre as, throughout the match, the cornermen yell out instructions that quickly become annoying. Furthermore, the crowd never gets too amped, even during title bouts.
Contenders arcade style might not appeal to everyone, but the fast gameplay and character-building aspects are fun enough to merit a look from fighting-game fans. But if you're looking to buy just one boxing title this year, stick to Knockout Kings.
- After being knocked down, your next special punch will be super charged. Draw your opponent in close, letting him hit you a couple of times, then blast him to change the fight's momentum.
- Throwing too many punches tires your boxer out, so make each one count.
- If your blue stamina bar is low, step away from your opponent and dance around the ring until you regain some of your health.
- Throw punches at your opponent's body that force him to block low, then smack his unguarded head.
- Wait for your opponent to throw punches, then, while bobbing out of the way, counter with a punch of your own.
Each fighter has a unique look, including a bruising woman boxer and a fiery Beast-man. But, at times, everyone's limbs look like they were sewn on.
Tight fighter control is highlighted by a slew of punches and three distinct fighting styles. You're even awarded super punches after being knocked down in order to even things out But like Knockout Kings, you can't move your boxer and block at the same time.
For such an over-the-top arcade boxing game, the sound is way too tame. WWF-style crowd chants would've added a lot to the overall product
Overall, Contender doesn't measure-up to Knockout Kings, but it's still fun enough that boxing and fighting gamers will want to check it out It's definitely a good weekend rental.
It seems like just a few months ago I was commenting to a friend about the lack of boxing games on the PSX. It seems like just about every type of game has been done to death, but boxing has just been completely neglected for some reason. Then along comes EA Sports with Knock Out Kings. This was a nice start, but it was just a little slow for my tastes. I was looking for something with a more arcade flavor to it. Something along the lines of Super Punch-Out for the old Nintendo. It looks like my wish has been granted
Contender is an arcade-type boxing game with enough realism thrown in to keep boxing purists happy. Sure, there are no real names here, but you will have the opportunity to fight against 40 different fighters while trying to take over the title for yourself. There are seven different camera views, including a first-person cam that will get you up close and personal with the action. Throw in special knockout punches and what you will end up with is one pretty fun slugfest.
This is my type of game. I like simulations to a certain extent, but deep down I am an arcade fan. Whether it be racing games or fighting games, I prefer my action a bit more unrealistic. Contender manages to pull off a great combination of realism and arcade-style action that should satisfy all types of gamers.
There are a couple of different game modes, but for the most part you will spend your time in the main event. This is where you pick from a lowly assortment of fighters looking to become the next champ. The fighters have a graph displaying their current skill levels. This graph is made up of life, power, speed and endurance. Obviously, the higher the better. Since you are just a lowlife newbie, your levels are pretty low in each of the areas. Your first task is to challenge the fighter that is ranked ahead of you on the ladder. It is from here that the game really takes off.
You start your quest to the top of the boxing world in the local league. You will have to fight your way through a number of four-round fights until you reach the title holder. You will either progress by challenging other fighters with similar skill levels to your own, or other fighters will challenge you. After you are successful in stopping an opponent, your skill levels may or may not increase. The farther you make it up the ladder, the tougher your opponents will get. It is as simple as beating the fighter in front of you, but can be as difficult as knocking over a brick wall.
Also as you progress through the ranks, you will learn new moves from your trainer. These moves are usually more powerful and used to wear down the opponent faster. These moves also serve another purpose: they can be used as special knockout punches. The way it works is that if you get knocked down by your opponent and manage to get back up, you will receive a special knockout icon. If you have this special icon, you can throw a super power punch that, depending on the opponent, may or may not knock him out. The idea behind this icon is to give the fighter getting beat a chance to turn the tables. Don't get me wrong. This does not always mean that the person getting beat will be able to turn the fight around, but it means that he has a better chance of surviving. I really thought this was a great addition to the game.
As far as your arsenal of moves goes, the controls are pretty standard and easy to execute. Two buttons are used for punching, two buttons are used for blocking. Two shoulder buttons are used for your special moves and two shoulder buttons are used for ducking and dodging. One of the biggest keys to your success as a fighter will be knowing when to go on the offensive and when to be on the defensive. If you go out there throwing punches like a crazy person, chances are you will not make it far. The computer opponents are tough and if they see an opening, they are sure to jump on it.
This brings me to a pseudo-complaint. Some of the computer-controlled opponents seem to be unbeatable. First off, the fights will almost never make it to the cards. If they do, it seems like you will always get the shaft. I don't know what some of the judges are smoking, but I will never understand how I landed twice as many punches as my opponent and still lost the round. I mean, I would be dominating a round only to see that the judges have scored the round a draw or given the advantage to the opponent. Like I said, the matches never make it to the score card anyway, but it still made it a bit frustrating.
Another tiny complaint was that I had a bit of difficulty when it came to maneuvering out of the way of punches. It seemed like my fighter would not move like I told him to. This was really frustrating, especially when my opponent would land a stiff uppercut to my noggin and send me directly to the floor. Part of it was probably me, but I know that part of it was the game.
The graphics in this game remind of a first-generation 3D polygon game. This is not really bad, but the fighters just look really boxy (no pun intended). The best way to describe them is that they look like the fighters in the original Virtua Fighter game. It is almost comical to see today, but they don't detract from the game at all. The more I think about it, the more I think it may have partially been done intentionally to exaggerate the buff bodies of the fighters. Maybe I am just giving them the benefit of the doubt.
If you are looking for a fighting game that does not contain outrageous combos but still has an arcade-like feel to it, Contender may fit the bill. I really enjoyed taking my fighter from the bottom of the ranks and slowly climbing the ladder. There is a definite feeling of accomplishment after beating some of the tough fighters in this game. I guess your decision on a boxing game comes down to pure preference. Do you prefer a more realistic and slow game or do you want a bit more action? My money will take the action any day.