ABC’s Wide World of Sports Boxing – PC Review

And Round One
begins…. Black
Adder comes out
confidently and meets
Bruiser Bilotta at ring center.
Adder fires a crisp left
jab which scores. Adder
fires another jab, and a
third, all scoring effectively.
Bilotta ducks inside a
fourth jab only to be met
by a straight right. Sensing that Adder is already
on his game, Bruiser fires his own jab,
but Adder comes downstairs with a punishing
right cross to the body. Bilotta winces
from the blow and Adder has found the weakness
he was looking for. Blow after blow
rains into the mid-section of Bilotta and
down he goes. The referee counts to five and
Bruiser rises defiantly, but it seems only a
matter of time. Again, Adder starts off with shots to the head and
then pulverizes the body, looking for weakness. Down goes Bilotta
a second time. There’s the five count, but again he rises. This
time, however, there is no escape. Black Adder rushes in, eschewing
defense, as he looks to finish off his man. Punch after punch,
pounding with the incessant meter of Bilotta’s own pulse, comes
in. Adder meticulously searches for the finishing blow. Finally, a
solid right cross does the trick and Bilotta goes down for the
final time. Adder wins on a TKO due to the three-knockdown rule.
Feel-Out Round (Introductory Matters)
ABC’s Wide World of Sports Boxing is a hybrid action/strategy/
role-playing game that allows players to create a customized boxer
from scratch and direct his entire boxing career — both in and out of
the ring. Not only does the game rely on performance in the ring,
but upon money and personnel management. ABC’s Wide World of
Sports Boxing offers a unique perspective in taking the boxer from
the “Who is Joe Balogna?” stage through the “Who can beat Joe
Balogna?” stage.
During the boxing action itself, the fighters are viewed from a sideon
perspective. Ring movement is simulated by a dynamic background
and it is easy, for example, for fighters to find themselves on
the ropes. So, even though a full view of the ring is not available, the
tactics which make use of the full ring are accessible. The selection
of punches is limited to a modest assortment: jab, cross, hook and
uppercut. As for the on-screen figures, note that both of the fighters,
as well as the referee, are modelled off the same actor. Various hair,
and skin tone styles have been rendered onto this digitized base.
This game might well be entitled “Cutter’s Revenge!” A couple of
years ago, the present writer spoke to John Cutter at Cinemaware
concerning their TV Sports: Football product. While John may not
remember the call, it appears that this reviewer may have made a
tactical error in describing the original version of TV Sports: Football
as “easy.” During the interview, upcoming plans for TV Sports
Boxing were discussed. The latter, alas, never appeared, but ABC’s
Wide World of Sports Boxing is a soulmate to that design, and it is
intriguing to see the number of Cinemaware alumni (like Cutter and
Jerry Albright) who were involved with the design. Maybe John did
remember that “ancient” conversation since, under no circumstances,
could this game be called “easy.”
Caught on the Ropes
In fact, it is flat-out challenging. The joystick controls do not feel intuitive
and it takes five or six games to master an accurate jab.
Hence, setting up styles and combinations that work will take a number
of fights to perfect. Nevertheless, the wait is worth it and the
game functions become instinctive.
More important is the way boxing as a whole is portrayed in the
game. In the ’50s, boxing was a major sport, with the world champions
known to most sports fans. Today, boxing receives coverage
somewhat behind midget lawn bowling and full-contact croquet. The
multiple sanctioning bodies and expanding divisions have a lot to do
with that but, more important may be the overall sleaze factor associated
with the movers and shakers of the sport. Individuals such as convicted felon Don King control the major fighters and the outside
actions of Tyson and others have left a bad taste in the mouths
of many.
ABC’s Wide World of Sports Boxing embraces this sleaze. The
fight managers are characters like Don McQueen, “Very flamboyant
and powerful. He is untrustworthy and will do anything for a buck,”
and Fifi Lamore, who refers to her fighter as a “big stud.” On a personal
level, this critic finds that these characters detract from the
overall product. However, they do not detract from the game play.
Middle Rounds: Picking Up the Pace
The game offers enough options when creating a fighter that it is
possible to create widely different fighters in skill and style. Each
fighter has a base of points allocated for such attributes as Power,
Defense, Stamina, Cuts, Chin, etc. Experimenting with these settings
shows one of the strengths of the product. Every type of fighter from
a stick and move dancer to the slowest slugger can be created.
One note of strategy — for all their differences, Muhammad Ali and
Mike Tyson have/had one thing in common: incredible hand speed.
Unless one is a superb counter-puncher, the setting up of an accurate
jab is vital to the success of any fighter. Hand Speed and
Reach are important.
Counterpunches Score
There are a number of small problems in the program. For example,
during a fight, a fighter will be cut on the right side of the
face. Nevertheless, when the decision is announced, the cuts are likely
to be shown on the left. Further, a fighter can receive a rank of
65,526, obviously somewhat lower than one would expect even the
amalgam of fast proliferating sanctioning bodies today could
manage to create. Of course, with the confusion in boxing today,
that might entitle the fighter to a title shot!
Piling Up the Points
Practice, practice, practice. It is the only way to get any experience.
Use the exhibition option to learn the ropes. Use the jab to set up
combinations. Learn how to exploit a weakness and, most importantly,
learn defense. It is impossible to load up on every attribute and
the computer-controlled player will search (but not cheat) for the
weakness.
Going for the Knockout
The “Wide World of Boxing” magazine (documentation) provides a
number of features including rankings, schedule, results and classifieds.
These are, of course, provided to give the career option more
definition and substance. In this they succeed. Fighters move up and
down the rankings constantly. Smart players will keep notes of how
to beat a fighter, such as the body attack against Bruiser Bilotta, so
that as one’s opponents move up in the rankings, it will occasionally
be possible to fight a rematch to improve one’s own position.
A Strong Final Round
Data East must feel somewhat like Carl Lewis at the World Track
and Field Championships in Tokyo. Lewis broke the world record in
the long jump, but still finished a very close second. If this product
had been released a week earlier it would have been the champion
boxing game on the market with no close contenders. Now, one
would be remiss in ignoring the fact that the boxer’s movements are
inferior to the action in 4D Boxing (reviewed elsewhere in this issue),
but the career options and resulting emotional involvement in the
boxers created for ABC’s Wide World of Sports Boxing make the
latter somewhat superior. Regardless, boxing aficionados may spend
as much time arguing about which computer game is best as they
do about who will win the next heavyweight championship.

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