When creating a boxing game, there are a lot of options for a developer ranging from a simulation-type experience similar to Fight Night to the arcade hijinx of Big Rumble Boxing: Creed Champions, or even the more puzzle-oriented spin that Punch-Out!! delivered. Creed Champions instead opts for a more traditional arcade fighting game with health bars and special moves. But traditional doesn’t mean “good” in this case as Creed Champions is quite unremarkable and seemingly only for those who are desperate for any kind of Rocky video game.
Credit where it’s due, Creed Champions knows why people are here and does a pretty good job of delivering heavy doses of nostalgia. The game’s arcade mode, which has some short visual novel chapters between boxing matches for each character, features a mixture of old and new characters from the films. You’ll get to do a training montage where you’re punching meat while “Eye of the Tiger” plays and it is just as awesome as you would want it to be. You’ll see familiar foes such as Clubber Lang and Drago and relive those bouts with some filler ones sprinkled that pad out the experience.
The individual stories found in the arcade mode range from eliciting smirks and being a bit more entertaining than they should be to being rather dull. Adonis Creed’s story focuses on a shady charity tournament going on that features all of his past rivals. It’s a bit underwhelming and not all that developed, but it is functional and gets players into relevant fights with Creed’s foes. However, Rocky’s story, which is seen through the lens of a tall tale that Balboa tells Adonis about his career, is more entertaining as Rocky’s embellishment makes for a decent storytelling hook since he hams up his street fights and boxing bouts in order to impress Creed.
There’s not much action to speak on inside the ring. There are standard punches, which can be thrown in succession to land combos, and power punches that are best used at the end of a combo or at distance. You can try to dash away to avoid punches, block punches by guarding, or attempt to break your opponent’s guard by employing some dirty boxing technique and grabbing them. There’s also a special move bar that fills out that can be unleashed (although it can be countered, so you have to watch when deploying it).
It has all of the mechanics you’d expect from a fighting game, but it also never feels all that great due to combinations lacking any sort of satisfying oomph — the animations and sound effects are rather crude and lacking — and combat gets repetitive rather quickly. While technically competent, there aren’t any unique gameplay elements that stand out, which makes each fight rather samey as players don’t need to change up their tactics all that much.
The Rocky series has never been all that realistic (as evidenced by Rocky’s ridiculous robot butler), but there has always been a respect for the sweet science at the core of the franchise as well as a genuine look into the humans who get inside the ring. After all, combat sports revolve around being compliant in watching men and women suffer brain injuries in a quest to better their lives and to entertain others and the series never shied away from boxing’s sadder side.
Given these inspirations, it comes across as quite absurd both ignore the sport’s rules as well as the heavier and more human topics seen in the films. It’s odd to have boxing matches inside a ring where boxers can be knocked down while ignoring unified rules like a 10-count and similarly weird to see potentially career-ending blows treated as pure entertainment value. It’s a small gripe against Big Rumble Boxing, and one you’re forced to get used to pretty early on, but it’s just a strange choice when there are 10-counts in the game (whenever a health bar is emptied) and there’s no realistic way to fight to a decision. The films pay respect to both the boxer and the sport and this game doesn’t do either.
Once you finally accept that Big Rumble Boxing is utterly ridiculous and just start laughing when you see a street fight inside a bar pause for a 10-count, it becomes more enjoyable. It’s far from a good boxing title, but there have been far worse licensed fighting games. Boxing video games are pretty rare nowadays, so Big Rumble Boxing: Creed Champions won’t truly tide over anyone waiting for eSports Boxing Club to finally bring a simulation back or those looking to relive the glory days of when there were multiple solid arcade offerings. However, if you’re just a fan of the films and want a casual fighting game to remind you how cool Mr. T looked as a boxer, then the forgettable boxing bouts might be worth some of the nostalgia-fueled laughs.
As ComingSoon’s review policy explains, a score of 5 equates to “Mediocre.” The positives and negatives wind up negating each other, making it a wash.