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Review: ‘Don King Presents: Prizefighter’

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There may be no more polarizing personality in all of sport than Don King. And there may be no more polarizing sports game to hit the market this year than 2K Sports’ “Don King Presents: Prizefighter” for the Xbox 360.

Simply put, this is a game that you’ll either love or hate.

The reason for this is “Prizefighter’s” throwback control scheme. Instead of mapping a fighter’s punches to the right analog stick, ala EA’s popular “Fight Night” series, “Prizefighter” makes use of the face buttons to control the action. Judging by much of the message board banter I’ve read since the game’s release, those who enjoyed “Fight Night” loathe the controls in “Prizefighter.” Several online reviews share that sentiment.

boxart.jpgI couldn’t disagree more. Mapping punches to the face buttons slows down the pace of the fight and adds a layer of strategy to each bout. The response time is a tad sluggish, but after several fights I believe this was done on purpose to force gamers to plan their punches wisely. There’s nothing more satisfying in “Prizefighter” than executing a well-timed combination that leaves your opponent face down on the canvas.

I’ll concede that if you go into “Prizefighter” with a button-mashing mentality, you’re not going to get the most out of the game. If you don’t have the patience to block, counter-punch and look for openings, as a real fighter would, “Prizefighter” becomes extremely frustrating. As I said earlier, it’s not for everyone.

It’s a shame that some people are giving up on this game so quickly because the career mode is one of the most original I’ve seen. Your created fighter’s story is told through a series of documentary-style film clips, featuring interviews with your trainers, promoters and others. These clips set the stage for each milestone in your career.

Along the way, you’ll improve your skills through a series of training minigames and have to balance your celebrity status with your career in the ring. There are plenty of other twists and turns along the way, but I won’t spoil them here. “Prizefighter’s” career mode is unique and refreshing take on what has become a tired mode in most sports games.

Developed by Venom Games, the people behind “Rocky Legends,” “Prizefighter” also includes 30 licensed active fighters like Kelly Pavlik and Shannon Briggs, as well as 10 legends including Larry Holmes and Ken Norton, for use in exhibition bouts online or off. The create-a-boxer feature is pretty standard, though you’re limited in the number of fighters you can create and save.

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Visually, the arenas look nice and the footage of King and Co. during the career mode is especially well done. Unfortunately, the fighter’s themselves don’t really stand out and there are some pretty noticeable problems with collision detection. HBO’s Jim Lampley and Emmanuel Stewart provide the play-by-play and analysis, but it’s rather bland and repetitive, as is the instruction you and your opponents receive in your corners between rounds.

While it has some issues (like overpowered specialty punches and too many knockdowns), “Prizefighter” is a very solid boxing game. If you’re a “Fight Night” fan, you may want to rent before you buy because it is so vastly different from EA’s game. But with a little patience, there’s plenty of enjoyment to be had from “Prizefighter.” It may not be a knockout, but it certainly holds its own.

Score: 6.9/10