We initially weren't expecting much from Real Boxing, the PlayStation Vita version of Vivid Games' iOS/Android game of the same name, but were pleasantly surprised by the hands-on experience we had with at gamescom 2013.
Real Boxing features two very different ways to play. For obvious reasons, the iOS and Android version of this title features touchscreen control methods only. However, the PlayStation Vita version has been completely redesigned to take advantage of the platform's hardware and design.
The first way of playing the game is using the Vita's analog control to move your fighter around the ring, using the left-side D-pad to control his left arm and the right-side control buttons for his right arm.
This changes the pace of proceedings from the arcade-like mobile design to a far more tactical affair, where deliberate and careful positioning, blocking and dodging are key to success in toppling your opponent. The resulting game is therefore more akin to an experience such as Fight Night than it is to its fast and accessible mobile predecessor.
The new skill-based setup caused us some problems in our short hands-on, as we had very little time to get to grips with the changed nature of the game, although we managed to limp our way to a messy victory in our first bout.
The second method of play moves things back to their roots and utilises touchscreen exclusive controls, playing out very much like the iOS/Android version. When using this control setup the movement of your fighter is automatic, leaving you to focus on dodging, blocking, countering and striking. The gameplay is much more fast-paced and intuitive, creating an easier and lighter alternative that is extremely enjoyable, but lacks the strategic depth of the new control setup.
In terms of graphics, character models and animation were impressive enough and the game is overall a nice looking product. Blood effects were a little muddy and blurred, but not enough to detract from the overall experience. We were told that the version we were playing was not the full final build, so there may be a touchup on these elements for the retail version.
Alongside the two varied control methods - and we cannot stress enough how differently the game plays when the two systems are compared - there are a couple of different game modes available.
For a quick game, you can select a single bout against a selected AI opponent, or you can seek a match through multiplayer. Alternatively, you can enter the career mode to fight your way through the ranks. In between career matches, you can hit the gym to play a variety of quick-time themed mini-games used to rank up your fighters abilities. You can only use the gym facilities once after each match, so its important to use your gym time wisely to ensure you keep your fighter balanced.
Those familiar with Real Boxing on mobile platforms will know that the game supported a microtransaction system linked to character customisation options. Fear not, all the items that you had to pay to access on iOS are unlocked using in-game currency on the Vita port, so once you've bought the game itself you can rest assured that your wallet is safe from that point forward. In a world where microtransactions in paid console titles are becoming more common, it's a relief to see a game that could easily have followed this path take a different turning.
Real Boxing was a surprise highlight of gamescom 2013 and is available for the PlayStation Vita on 28th August 2013. We hope to have a review for you very soon.