Real Steel Review
Not all that long ago, the very idea that a game based on a fairly high-profile Hollywood movie and developed by one of the most familiar names in fighters could launch at less than a tenner and would have been laughed out of town in a heartbeat.
Licensed dross like Street Fighter: The Movie, Enter The Matrix and Eragon have long commanded full price, so it’s refreshing to see a game that understands its limits and charges based on content and quality rather than what it thinks it can get away with.
With its minimal selection of modes (which offers just a solo ladder, multiplayer mode and garage in which to work on your ’bot), much of Real Steel is a focused grind towards simply improving your fighter.
With a minimal selection of opponents and a mountain to climb between each in terms of performance, expect to challenge each numerous times in order to scrape together enough cash and parts from the meagre prize funds to push through to the next fight without it being an uphill struggle.
The repetitive grind can be lessened through Xbox Live bouts but what you save in time, you quickly lose in pride – low-level fighters, no matter how skilled, will usually be crushed by those who have put far more time and money into their creations which, while a little humiliating, actually nets a far fatter pay packet than beating any of the early AI rivals. It’s a hard slog, then, but at least the fights themselves are entertaining enough, if perhaps only in short bursts.
It’s about as simple a boxing game as the sport allows, with face buttons used for light and heavy punches while the shoulders handle guarding and evasion.
Each robot can also be assigned four special attacks, which take the form of canned combos, unblockable blows so telegraphed as to be almost entirely useless and power strikes capable of demolishing damaged body parts should they land.
Robot builds play very differently, with some relying on hefty Power bars to keep up the offensive pressure.
Keeping an eye on the condition of components is crucial – losing an arm impedes both offensive and defensive performance (and kills the ability to use special attacks) while losing both or having your block knocked off counts as an auto-loss.
Still, building your fighter is by far the most satisfying part of the game but, by God, Yuke’s doesn’t make it easy. An overly complex web of menus stands between you and the perfect fighting robot and, with many parts restricted by experience levels (not to mention prohibitive pricing), it’s a long, hard slog to create a perfect fighting machine – and one that proves that while winners might not use drugs, they sure as hell need to get their credit cards out.
Top-end components – and even the ability to redesign your fighter’s appearance – are all locked away behind additional charges. It might work for free iOS games but, when you’ve already paid the best part of a tenner for the game, it’s a bit of a kick in the teeth.
Still, it could be worse. Hugh Jackman could be in it.