Of all the sports to pluck from real-life and mould a computer game around, boxing is perhaps one of the most difficult. So many boxing games in the past have promised so much, but failed to deliver the crushing punches expected of them. Unrealistic, sluggish boxing titles simply won't sell.
Codemasters have the enviable license to create a game centred around one of the most successful boxers of modern times Prince Naseem Hamed. Until recently the short and cocky mean machine had clocked up no less than thirty-four wins out of thirty-four fights, thirty of which were straight knockouts! So with this in mind, you would think we have a recipe for a power packed boxing title on our hands.
Blood and Sweat
As you would expect Naseem Boxing gives you the quick game 'VS' option to either play head-to-head against a human opponent or computer controlled. This is where you will discover problem number one; the load times. It takes an absolute age to get into the action, as there is one load for the boxers introduction by the annoying ring announcer, and then another albeit shorter load to actually get into the fight itself. The ability to skip the former entirely would not have gone amiss!
Once in the ring I could not help but be disappointed at how bland the arenas, rings and boxers looked either. I know the PlayStation is showing its age graphics wise, but you can push the old beast a bit further than what is on show here. A fairly impressive range of stadiums are available for your slugathons, and the selection of boxers is also good, with the Prince himself being one of the wisest choices if you want to get anywhere at all. One thing I found with the 'quick game' option is that the opposition are felled far too easily. Alarm bells were ringing!
Thankfully there is one saving grace for Prince Naseem Boxing and that is in its 'World' simulation mode. This area of the game is fairly entertaining if a little lacking in features. Your task is to take a rookie boxer up through the ranking system to eventually be the titleholder, all this with Prince Naseem as your coach. A regular check must be made on your training schedule along with your food intake, so that you will be the exact weight and physically fit for your next fight. Though Naseem will guide you as to what is the ideal training regime, you can opt to push yourself a little further. Be careful not to overdo things though, you may well be too fatigued to be of any use in the fight itself.
It would have been nice for the training mode to offer a little more variety, perhaps even allowing you to do the training yourself in true "Sydney 2000" style. In the end though it isn't all about adjusting your training and eating habits according to Naseem's directions. The fun comes in taking your rookie for his first few fights!
If you played the quick game mode and found it too easy, this next phase will come as something of a shock. Your fledgling boxer finds even the most inept of opponents a tough hurdle to jump. This is where you realise how well the training regime works in toughening up your fighter step by step.
I admit, the first few fights I had were nothing but demoralising defeats, but as you train harder so your strength and agility increase. You will then find you are winning rounds, maybe not the match, but the small improvements are there to see. When you make that first leap up the ranking chart, it almost makes it all worthwhile!
For a full-blooded boxing match the bouts are just too slow, with the boxers shuffling around looking more like they are gliding than stepping. Particularly in the lightweight division, the fights should be fast and snappy but instead feel like you are playing in treacle.
Despite your best efforts you will find your boxer misses more than he hits. Every missed punch contributes to a 'special punch' meter for your opponent, which when used will severely reduce your energy putting you nearer to the KO limit. Decidedly unfair to say the least when the computer rarely misses a shot. It's not that the controls are poor by any means, the array of punches are easy enough to execute, and when you land a quick succession can be quite adrenaline pumping.
With the Ready to Rumble and Knockout Kings series on the scene, competition has never been so hot in the console boxing world. The Naseem license is one that puts you in a 'can't lose' situation you would think, but the reality is that Prince Naseem Boxing is a wasted opportunity and is nothing more than an average slug-out that never really gets past the first round.
The game as a whole is just bland, lacking any sort of draw to keep you coming back for more. One to miss.