When the Dreamcast launched on 9/9/99, the first game that I bought after Sonic was Ready 2 Rumble Boxing. Like many people, I had been waiting for an arcade boxing title with likable characters and over-the-top fighting moves in the vein of Punch Out! for some time, and R2R fit that bill perfectly despite being a bit light on depth. Now, nine years and one less memorable sequel later, Atari has dug through the wreckage of Midway to bring us Ready 2 Rumble: Revolution, a fist-swingin’ waggletastic party game made specifically for the Wii. I went hands-on with this reboot at NY Comic Con to see if this game will make the series a contender yet again.
Let’s get one thing out of the way immediately: Afro Thunder will most likely not be making an appearance in Ready 2 Rumble: Revolution, nor will any other characters from the original series. I was told by an Atari rep that Midway still owns the rights to them, so the only person who will be making a return is Michael Buffer to once again lend his voice, likeness and signature catchphrase to the pre and post-match festivities.
The development team at AKI has crafted 18 all new pugilists for you to trade knuckles with in Revolution, each a caricature of a popular celebrity. Semi-recognizable lookalikes for such stars as David Hasselhoff, Simon Cowell, Justin Timberlake, David Beckham and Brad Pitt are on display, each with their own strengths, weakness, statistics and move sets. I was able to try out the James Brown-esque bruiser in a match against a Shaun White stand-in, and the demo left my interest piqued.
For the millions of you that have played Wii Sports Boxing, you will recognize Ready 2 Rumble Revolution as a fuller branch on the same tree. You jab the Nunchuck and hook the Wii Remote to launch fists at your opponents, and holding down the A or B buttons while swinging modifies your attack. Every impactful blow that you land builds up your Rumble meter, which can unleash a flurry of super-powerful knockout punches once activated. To deepen this a bit, there are multiple levels to Rumble, so you can build it up several times for a more damaging finisher. If you happen to be knocked down, you must rapidly shake both hands to raise your fighter from the mat before the ref counts to ten.
During my demo, I wildly swung left and right, attempting to build up my Rumble and deliver the final blow to the cocky snowboarder. Just as I was about to discharge my attack, Shaun White blindsided me with his Rumble and sent me flying into the audience with a thunderous uppercut. I was going to write a line that stated that my character did not “feeeeeel good” after these events, but to save us both the embarrassment; I will just say that James Brown was not pleased by the outcome.
From what I gathered, each character controls very differently, as I had a tough time matching the slow but powerful Brown against the weaker but more agile White. I was told that players should try and match their players’ style to their opponents if they hope to achieve a victory, and my pummeling seems to exemplify that perfectly. The in-game action feels a little untamed at times, with the swinging of both arms being somewhat random in relation to the onscreen attacks.
To be successful, you will have to methodically maneuver your arms and land your shots. Otherwise you will leave yourself exposed to a combination attack from your enemy, and once the AI gets a string of shots in, their Rumble will be following shortly thereafter. Hopefully, the full game contains a tutorial to ease you into using specific moves and combos, as the game—like real boxing—plays much better when you are not just flailing your arms around in all directions.
While it may not end up being the deepest title on the Wii, Revolution looks to be enough of an upgrade from Wii Sports Boxing to make fans of virtual fisticuffs consider a purchase. The graphics are colorful, the boxers are nicely modeled and the action is frenetic enough to guarantee some entertainment when played at a party with friends. Fans of the original games will likely be pleased with what AKI has done in this iteration, as it seems to have much more substance to it than it did before. Ready 2 Rumble Revolution ships on March 17, 2009 exclusively for the Wii, so those looking to climb into the ring need not wait much longer.