A boxing title needs to have tight control and Greatest Heavyweights will make you float like a butterfly and sting like a bee. Okay, you don’t really float in the ring even if you are playing as Muhammad Ali; like most 16-bit boxing games, movement is pretty much confined to left and right. Even though the ring rotates in the upper radar, it never feels like you’re actually moving around it. Regardless, you’ll be so focused on trying to bring down your opponent that it probably won’t matter.
Timing and combinations are the keys to success in Greatest Heavyweights, and if you don’t have a gameplan before you fight, you’ll be hitting the canvas before the third round. As in Holyfield’s game, each fighter has two areas where he can take damage: his body, represented by an picture of his chest, and his head, represented by a picture of his foot (just kidding). Each meter starts off “filled” (not unlike a glass of water) and will slowly disappear as the boxer takes damage. A cool feature is that the each picture will shake as the area gets hit by a successful punch. Furthermore, the boxer’s face will start to show swelling and blood after repeated hits! I know it sounds rather gruesome, but you get a feeling of accomplishment whenever you render your opponent bruised and battered. Hey, it’s a violent sport.
Perhaps the best part of the game is stepping into the shoes of a famous boxer, although the career mode is arguably just as exciting. Each former champion looks very much like his real-life counterpart, with visible differences in height, body type and facial features. This makes for some strategy as some of the taller fighters will have a distinct advantage over the shorter ones in reach. Another interesting aspect is taunting by the boxers. Yes, by pressing a button you can make Ali say “I’m so pretty” or Dempsey say “I’m gonna crush your skull!” The voices sound very accurate, but I have no idea if Patterson or Marciano actually talked trash during a fight…
Those who want to experience boxing from the ground-up will want to create their own fighter and rise through the ranks separating the contenders from the pretenders. The career format follows Holyfield’s game very closely in that you can “train” after each fight by selecting various icons to boost strength, speed or stamina. This mode provides a worthy challenge, as each boxer becomes harder to defeat the higher you move up the ladder. In the end, Greatest Heavyweights offers just about everything you want to see in a boxing game, and will keep would-be boxers fighting long after they should retire. What could be more realistic?
Each fighter looks very lifelike and is easily recognizable by sight alone. There is also an animated crowd in the background that adds to the atmosphere.
Once you hear the announcer introduce each fighter (he sounds like Michael Buffer), you’ll know that you’re in for a treat. Each fighter has a taunt that can be performed at any time during the match. For some strange reason, the computer likes to taunt a lot so you can get some shots in while he stands there insulting you.
Sometimes a fight can go back and forth for what seems like an eternity, and the amount of punches thrown often approaches astronomical numbers, but the game keeps drawing you back. The combinations feel “right” and the control is crisp. Each fighter also has noticeable differences in speed, range and strength, making for a different experience each time you play.
The game saves your stats, prize money and created boxers. Grab a friend and you can play forever!
The manual offers brief character bios and fully explains the game’s controls.