Contender Review


For PlayStation

By Contributing Writer Jimmy Payne

Rating: Good
   I'm not a huge fan of video game boxing, but ever since I played Mike 
Tysonís Punch-Out for the NES years ago, I canít help but be interested in 
every good looking boxing game I come across.  Unfortunately, the last 
awesome boxing game I played was Super Punch-Out (the almost-as-good-as-
the-original sequel to Punch-Out) and I was really hoping that Contender 
would end the terrible streak of average boxing games.  Contender isn't a 
bad game by any means, but it's not exactly a must-have game, either.
   When I first turned on the game, I was greeted with a weak looking intro
sequence (which isn't unusual nowadays).  After watching this pointless 
sequence (with really crappy music, I might add), I moved on and found 
myself staring at the group of characters to choose from.  One thing that 
took me by surprise was the fact that it looks exactly like the character 
select screen in Tekken 2.  Hmm... coincidence?  I think not.  A lot of 
things in Contender are stolen (or borrowed if youíre one of those "let's 
not point the finger" people) from other games.  For example, the replay 
interface is exactly like Madden NFL '99's and the camera angles are very 
similar to Knockout Kings.  There really isnít anything too bad about this 
because most of the stolen stuff was stolen from good games, but it irks me
that the makers of Contender couldnít come up with their own freakin' 
content.
   Something that might deceive a lot of people about Contender are the 
commercials.  The commercials depict a regular area with people bustling 
back and forth minding their own business.  Suddenly a bell rings somewhere
and two people start swinging at each other like there's no tomorrow.  
I could see how this could deceive some people into thinking that the game 
might feature out-of-the-ring fights, but unfortunately it doesn't.
   Now, what about the gameplay?  Well, if I had to sum it up in one word 
Iíd have to say "slow."  After throwing a punch you want so badly to follow
it up with an uppercut or some other combo, but it takes forever to 
re-position yourself.  Furthermore, your opponent always seems to be much 
faster.  Switching to the first-person camera angle is even more ridiculous.
While youíre throwing about one or two punches every five seconds at this 
angle, your opponent is clocking you in the face like nobody's business, 
which builds up to a very frustrating experience.  
   To its credit, the (fictional) characters in Contender are very 
balanced.  All of the boxers have different attributes which make up for 
weaknesses and rely on their strengths.  For instance, one character might 
be very slow, but he makes up for it in brute strength and stamina or vice
versa.  This is very cool to say the least because youíre forced to pick 
a character that suits you, not one that dominates over all the others.  
I think this is one thing that is missing from a lot of fighting/boxing 
games.  
   Contender has a very realistic feel, while still retaining a "letís go 
out and kick some butt" attitude.  What I mean by this is that itís more of
an arcade-style boxing game then it is a life-like one (like Knockout Kings)
but it doesnít come off as being for casual gamers, either.  The slowness 
does get to me, but if youíve ever watched boxing on TV then you know that 
it's slow at times and is usually leading up to a climatic ending.  
Contender pulls this off very well.  You have to work hard to weaken your 
opponent over the 12-round fight and the 12th round is always very intense.
If you pull it off and win the match it can be very satisfying.  The only 
downside is you have to go through 12 rounds (if you donít get your butt 
kicked by the CPU sooner) and it takes up a lot of time.  It can be 
extremely frustrating to lose after spending 30 minutes trying to beat one 
opponent.  Switching gears, something else thatís cool are the judge's 
scorecards.  They are so accurate that itís almost scary.  And unlike real 
life boxing, if one boxer completely dominates the other throughout the 
fight, the judge will give that boxer the victory instead of calling it
a draw...
   Contender is a worthwhile weekend rental that any boxing game fan should
take a look at.  If youíre aching for some big punches, some minor strategy, 
and an all-around decent boxing game, check out Contender.  

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