The Rocky series has deservedly cemented itself as one of the most iconic franchises of modern cinema. It naturally spawned a number of games over the years, with developer Survios turning out the latest efforts: the 2018 VR title Creed: Rise to Glory and Big Rumble Boxing: Creed Champions. The latter is a departure from the studio’s usual VR efforts, billing itself as a straight up arcade beat-em-up featuring 20 characters from the Rocky franchise.

Big Rumble Boxing: Creed Champions doesn’t feel like a true boxing title. It’s more of a cross between pure beat-em-up games like Street Fighter or Tekken and the more traditional boxing games like Fight Night. That’s no bad thing, either. Big Rumble Boxing fundamentally feels fun to play, despite some obvious limitations to the core gameplay. It’s an accessible game that features several difficulty options, but maintains a fairly bog standard control scheme throughout the game, allowing even boxing newcomers to pick this one up with ease.

What’s immediately noticeable with Big Rumble Boxing is its art direction. It’s perhaps the biggest departure from previous games in the Rocky franchise, featuring heavily stylised character models that have more than a passing resemblance to the fighters seen in Street Fighter 5. This undoubtedly works in the game's favour, as characters like Clubber, Viktor Drago and Rocky Balboa himself are instantly recognisable, but they manage to avoid the ‘uncanny valley’ feeling you’d get had the developers opted for a more realistic approach.

Aside from that, the visuals look serviceable. The environments range from full-size arenas with the added crowd to boot, down to the more intimate settings such as Mighty Mick’s Gym and simple back alleys. The crowds themselves don’t really do a whole lot, and in the larger arenas only the front two rows are fully animated, with the rest of the crowd consisting of static images to fill in the space. On the flip side, the limited visual ‘noise’ during each fight allows for a smooth frame rate, which rarely - if ever - dips during bouts.

The gameplay itself feels pretty accessible, but with a few touches to satisfy those wanting a deeper experience. You simply tap ‘Y’ to unleash a flurry of quick jabs and hooks, slowly but surely chipping away at your opponent's health. ‘X’ is then used for stronger hits, and can be used in conjunction with ‘Y’ for some pretty brutal combos. ‘B’ is for a simple ‘grab’ move, and ‘A’ is used for dodging; straightforward stuff, then. You can knock out your opponent a maximum of 4 times before the match ends by simply emptying their health bar, and sadly there’s no option to TKO your opponent at any point.

The game also implements a mechanic called ‘Slip Counter’, which is a fancy way of saying you can dodge hits at the last moment, giving you an opening to counter. These can be quite tricky to pull off at first, but doing so is incredibly satisfying as you watch your fighter gracefully dance out of the way of an incoming fist, leaving behind a blue haze of their previous stance. Learning how to slip counter isn’t necessarily essential for winning fights, but it certainly makes the game a lot more manageable, particularly on the higher difficulties.

The main gripe we have with the gameplay is the distinct lack of variety with the fighters’ play style. We’re not expecting major deviations from move sets like what you’d see in more traditional fighting games, but you can settle into more or the less the same rhythm for every character with a good deal of success. The only difference between the characters is the general animation along with individual personality quirks.

The other difference with the characters is their ‘Super’ move. Displayed via a meter at the bottom of the screen, you can build this up by landing hits on your opponent and also taking damage yourself. Once you’ve filled it, you can tap ‘ZL’ and unleash a powerful attack that cuts down a good quarter of the health bar. What’s good, however, is that if you’re quick enough you can block or dodge these attacks, which gives you a fantastic opening to unleash a flurry of your own attacks.

Big Rumble Boxing: Creed Champions contains two main modes to enjoy: Arcade and Versus. Arcade takes you through several matches, with some light story elements added in between each match. There are also a few mini-games sprinkled in for good measure, which mostly consist of hitting specific button combinations while your character lays into a punching bag. Completing Arcade mode unlocks further characters, but these can also be unlocked via Versus mode, which simply lets you arrange your own matches, choosing your opponent and venue at will. Practice mode is also available, so you can hone your skills at your leisure.

Although there’s very little voice work involved (Rocky shouting “YO” whenever he uses his Super move tickles us every time), there’s a good variety of music included with the game. Eye of the Tiger and Gonna Fly Now are both present and accounted for, and we have to admit that hearing these songs made matches feel instantly more epic. The crowd noise is serviceable, but nothing to write home about, and the commentary during bigger matches adds a bit more authenticity to an otherwise very arcade-centric game.

Conclusion

Big Rumble Boxing: Creed Champions is a solid take on the Rocky/Creed franchise, celebrating the wide variety of fighters that contributed to the series over the years. The gameplay is rather basic for the most part, with little deviation in style between the characters, but fundamentally the fights all feel fun and it’s incredibly satisfying when you land a knockout blow on your opponent. The graphics benefit well from more stylised art design, but limitations with the arena’s crowds do stand out. If you’re a fan of Rocky, though, then you’ll definitely want to step into the ring and try this one out.