Available for Xbox 360 (XBLA) and PS3 (PSN)
Game Developer: Yuke’s
Release Date: October 12, 2011 on XBLA, October 18, 2011 on PSN
Official website: realsteelgame.com
Real Steel is the videogame adaptation of the recent Hugh Jackman movie of the same name. The movie seems to have been well received but unfortunately (as happens all too often) the game is mainly a bucket of bolts. The graphics are sub-par, even for a downloadable game, and the DLC options scream “gimme your money.”
2 out of 5 stars
Real Steel review
Because the Real Steel film and game are based on a fictional (for now) robot boxing association, much of the game mechanics will be familiar to Fight Night fans. Firstly, the game does a terrible job of telling you how to play, and I was forced to dig through the Start menu and read a digital manual to figure it out. After swimming through the bleak Armored Core reminiscent menus, I was finally able to get the hang of the controls. As usual for a boxing game, there are buttons for ducking and swaying as well as blocking and punching. The sway and duck controls are a bit wonky, and there were times I didn’t feel like my button presses were being properly received. The punching mechanics work just fine though, and I applaud developer Yuke’s for adding in a power meter which depletes whenever dodging or punching. I think that decision prevented what could have been a game version of Rock’em Sock’em robots, where there is no such thing as defense.
Real Steel allows players to customize their robots into refined fighting machines, so the aforementioned energy depletion can be improved through upgrades. However, there a few major issues I see with the way they implemented the customization feature. Each part, such as the head or legs, only has about seven alternatives, so you don’t have a very good set of parts to work with. The other issue is that the game starts your robot with an overall score of say, 600 points. Once you beat your first opponent you only win enough money to repair damage from the fight and maybe raise a dozen or so points. Frustratingly, your next opponents after that become vastly more powerful than you. What this means is that players will either get frustrated because they keep getting annihilated and can’t afford upgrades, or you will be forced to fight the same skewed matches over and over until you can afford upgrades. I fought the same couple robots about fifteen times just trying to earn money and I only earned enough to bring my robot up to the level of barely being able to compete.
There’s an alternative to that frustration, which is to purchase upgraded parts using real money. Given the way the game difficulty is ramped up, and the fact that parts are difficult to acquire, give me the distinct impression that Real Steel is just after your real cash. Almost every choice in a game’s design is mulled over by a team of people, so I’m fairly certain this was a deliberate design choice. You can’t even paint or decorate your robot without paying $2 to unlock the feature. This fact coupled with the half-baked single-player progression had me wanting to throw my controller as far and as fast as possible. On a positive note though, online multiplayer performed smoothly without a hint of lag. Real Steel also includes a split-screen versus mode in addition to the single player and online modes.
Real Steel also drops the ball on its presentation. Menus are bland (although having the background be your robot shadow boxing was a cool choice) and mostly a boring mix of blue, black and futuristic looking lines. The in-game graphics are fairly bland as well. I do understand that this is a downloadable game, but the textures are ugly, lighting is only passable and the robot models don’t really look very good. This game has more of the graphical essence of a top of the line game for the original Xbox. Throw in the fact that the game mercilessly repeats the same menu music, and you may be regretting your purchase fairly soon after making it.
Real Steel is a game that has minute kernels of fun fused with long periods of frustration. For everything the game does right, it does much more that is completely wrong. I am also somewhat insulted by the blatantly commercialized nature of the design. I was under the impression that gaming had put those days in the past where arcade game AI would pull off ridiculous feats of cheapness to wrangle more quarters from you. I do think that the money-making tactic would have worked better if the game was fun, but it rarely is. The bottom line is, unless you really, really liked the Real Steel movie and want to support the franchise, stay very far away from this one.
Thanks to Yuke’s for making this review possible!