The Rocky series has never quite gotten its due when it came to video games. The PS2/Xbox era had two of them and while Rocky Legends was the better game, it was still clunky and slow. It didn’t capture the heart of the movies or the spirit of boxing in either a sim or arcade-style affair. This held true in a PSP follow-up on the Rocky Balboa movie, and for the longest time the franchise was dormant. Survios brought it back to prominence with their VR Creed game, however, and that opened the floodgates for interest in a new Rocky/Creed franchise game. Big Rumble Boxing: Creed Champions aims to bring together the Creed and Rocky franchise rosters in one fast-paced game that succeeds far more than it falls short.
As a boxing game, Big Rumble does a fantastic job at finding a halfway point between being arcade-style and having depth. The core combat offers up two main attack buttons in the top left and right face buttons — and it blends in with a shoulder/trigger system for defense. Combos are available with repeated presses and d-pad or stick movements enable different kinds of shots to be used alongside both regular jabs and things like uppercuts. It’s a robust system for offense, but is also impressive when it comes to the defensive game — and that’s an easy area to see neglected in boxing titles. Button presses are nice and responsive and players won’t be able to blame a loss on the controls. The button layout is also logical and easy to remember in the heat of battle.
With Big Rumble, players can block constantly with the right bumper or trigger at the expense of not being able to move and running down the block meter. Conversely, players also have the freedom of being riskier with how they play defense, but blocking at the exact point of impact to parry a shot and then open up a chance to slip a shot in that can’t be blocked. This can be both a regular hit with square or a power shot with triangle — or if dame fortune is smiling upon the player, a super move. This left/bumper trigger-activated move does a ton of damage when landed properly, but the key to getting one built up is to still land shots flush beforehand.
Each character’s super move has their own windup animation, so learning that is the key to not only nailing a shot at the right time, but also blocking it at the right time when you’re on the receiving end. Trail and error works wonders at all aspects of the game, but comes especially handy here since a well-timed super move can be just the thing that knocks someone out at the end of a round. Learning the windup time for every foe may not be ideal, but it can be done in a single fight and while the first round could be tough, learning how to avoid their killer blow can make the later stages of both a fight and an arcade ladder much easier.
From a story perspective, the arcade ladders offered up try to do something approximating a story, but fall short. The text-only story feels like a mobile game and while it’s understandable that not all of the original films’ cast could do the roles, sound-alikes would help a lot to get across the characters. The text works for well-established characters like Rocky, but doesn’t work well for most others beyond getting a broad idea that they’re cocky, confident or humble in some cases. It’s a shame because the heart and soul of both the Rocky and Creed franchises is the narrative that ties them together and builds relationships up over time.
None of that is captured here and it’s a lost opportunity that can hopefully be resolved in the future. The character dynamics were what made the Rocky series work throughout its history, and one reason the Creed series has the emotional investment it does is due to all the work done before at establishing the universe they’re in as being rooted in reality. That reality may have been tested with robots and the like, but that also served a role in the narrative and helped bring the series back to its roots with Rocky Balboa and the two Creed films. The game leans heavily on the Rocky series, which makes sense given its greater timespan, but does showcase Adonis Creed’s greatest rivals as well. Overall, it’s a good blend of the rogues gallery from the film series – even with some missing names like Thunderlips and Tommy Gunn.
Visually, Big Rumble Boxing has a crisp, clean look to it that may not drop jaws, but does look impressive due to how sharp everything looks. Character models have a solid mix of realistic proportions, but a comic book-style level of muscles to help make this feel like a set of virtual action figures going to battle. Punch animations are solid as are the reactions to them — with things like knockdowns shining due to how in-depth they can be. Rivals can be knocked into the ropes and bounce off, which helps make the ropes feel real and not just an invisible wall as can be the case in some boxing games.
The environments look great and while real-life locales aren’t used, things like the SVR Grand instead of the MGM Grand help get the point across without much of an issue and smaller touches like international flags adorning the venues help make the scale seem worldwide alongside its many venues. Areas like a sleek penthouse-esque venue with servers in the background help evoke a high-class environment, while things like a dingy couch in a back alley help when it comes to getting across a “rags to riches” story or going back to a character’s roots. The diversity in the environments helps keep things visually interesting and makes the arcade ladder in particular more fun since you aren’t just fighting in the same ring or style of venue over and over.
Audio-wise, “Gonna Fly Now” remains intact while other series favorites like “Eye of the Tiger” are missing. Still, having the definitive Rocky anthem present helps things along even if there is room for improvement in that regard. The iffy voice clips add to the trash talk, but the lack of full voiceover for the arcade ladder does hurt the presentation. The sound effect work for punches is fantastic and every kind of punch feels different in both how it looks, how it feels to input and how it sounds — so Big Rumble Boxing does a top-shelf job in that regard.
Big Rumble Boxing: Creed Champions is a fantastic arcade-style boxing game that showcases a lot of fast action while still paying tribute to the long-running Rocky franchise. It’s lacking in terms of mode variety and it would be nice to have a more in-depth story mode that either recreated key parts of the lore or that allowed for alternate history versions of scenarios to play out. As it stands, the arcade ladder system offers up a tiny bit of story, but not enough to get invested into. Thankfully, the core gameplay is so fun that it keeps you hooked and having an unlocking system in place that rewards just playing the game instead of a pay-to-unlock setup is nice to see. It looks impressive as well, with crisp graphics and steady framerates allowing for the fast action to shine.