I don’t remember Real Steel all that well. In all honesty, I really only remember that part where Mason Dixon almost lost to Rocky but then he won. Beyond that all I can really remember is Hugh Jackman being a scum-bag and his son being more intelligent than any 11 year old should be. It would appear however that it did really well in the box-office and that a game was made about it. A game which I got to play.
Now, I’ll be perfectly clear here. Games based on movies are bound to suck 90% of the time. This is due to a lack of effort and a large amount of greed. People figure that a movie that sells well can bank on a game that they sell to idiot consumers. This leads to them hiring a half-assed team which has no idea what they’re doing while offering them limited resources to do it. The results? Usually a poor licensed title.
There are exceptions however. Spider-Man 2 is an amazing game, and the Avatar video game wasn’t bad. However, games like those are few and far apart. To be honest, I was pretty sure going into my Real Steel review that this game was going to be exactly like the other ninety percent: A cheap cop-out to make money. After a few hours however, I was proven partially wrong.
Maybe it’s because the movie was so amazing that it should have been a game. Perhaps it’s that robots fighting will always be awesome. Or maybe it’s because they hired YUKE’S (you know, those guys who did UFC Undisputed) to handle development duties. Either way, this game doesn’t sink. It floats about as well as a robot can, but it doesn’t sink.
Let’s be honest; Real Steel is a $15 downloadable game. The riggings are robots (this means that absolutely no effort has to be put into them), and they look about as well put together and you’re going to get with a DLC game, but that’s fine. This game obviously had more effort put into it than most games based off movies get, and I can give them credit for that. Is it the best-looking game in the world? No. However, it is good enough to do what it needs to do.
Like I said, it’s not a bad game. The environments are complete shite, but it’s OK. Environment isn’t important with a fighting game and any effort put into environments wouldn’t do much. For the most part, the game is solid. In fact, the only really big issues are the sound, the controls, and the difficulty curve.
We’ll begin with the sound. I mentioned in my Rocketbirds: Hardboiled Chicken review that the music really sold me. In fact, the music in RocketBirds was so good that even though I had the game, I also went and bought the soundtrack off of iTunes. Unfortunately, Real Steel didn’t do this. There was absolutely no delivery on the sound whatsoever. Aside from a couple of title screen songs and the sounds of robots punching each other, there was nothing. Granted, the robots hitting each other sounded great at times (at other times, I swear it sounded like one of them had just hit a piece of lead wrapped in human flesh), but that was it. No sound or music worth mentioning anywhere.
I’m not saying they had to go out and ask the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra to do the music for their game, but they should have delivered something. I had to play the whole game with Alien Ant Farm playing in the background to enjoy it. Music is very important in a game you intend to sell. You should not skimp on it!
Now let’s talk about the controls. It would be hypocritical to say that these controls are impossible. I say this because I’ve mastered most characters on Mortal Kombat and, if they don’t have hard to understand controls, no game in this universe does. However, I swear to Cthulhu that it is easier to do a bicycle kick as Liu Kang than it is to win a single fight in this game without mashing O and X.
Literally every fight I won went like this: Hold down the block button. Good, he just struck. Counter with an uppercut, face shot and hit in the stomach. Then, block again until energy returns. At least in Mortal Kombat, I have to get below a quarter of health before I spam Smoke’s skills. In this game, it was necessary from the get-go to repeat the same basic combo every single time I fought a new opponent.
The final thing in my list of complaints is how mercilessly difficult this game is. Maybe it’s because I suck at games like UFC Undisputed 2010, but this game was hard. Damn hard. Very damn hard. To be fair, the last boxing game I played had Glass Joe as my first opponent, but I feel that was fair, and how any boxing game should handle itself. A game should throw a few soft opponents at players that they can beat while trying to get the feel of the game down. Even Dark Souls didn’t murder-ball the player before they understood the controls.
It would appear that the people at YUKE’S didn’t feel the same way. I lost to the first opponent three times before I even understood the controls. By the time I had figured out how to defend myself, I was button mashing my arse off while trying to get my guy to stand back up from a knock down. It does not bode well for a game when I’m at the end of it and I still don’t comprehend everything I’m doing.
These complaints are huge and quickly over-shadow the biggest asset the game has: Its customization. Sure it’s a linear boxing game, but the character customization is huge. Unfortunately, it’s about as understandable as Metal Gear Solid‘s plot, but at least it exists. In fact, there are only two games in the world that have as much robot or character customization depth as this game: Mech Warrior 2, and Armored Core 4.
Other fighting games don’t have it because their modifications are purely aesthetic. Real Steel‘s customization let’s you give your character two cinder blocks for fists and then makes those fists actually work like cinder blocks. It’s a pity that this game isn’t memorable, as these customization options really shouldn’t have gone to waste.
At the end of the day, Real Steel won’t be remembered. It’s a half-decent downloadable game that was designed to ride on the movie’s fame. The only true bright side is that it’s a cheap fighting game. Aiming to those standards, it does alright for itself. Though, don’t expect a lot from your purchase.
Real Steel was released on October 18, 2011. This review is based on a copy of the game which we received for review purposes.