There's real boxing and there's Hollywood boxing.
Real boxing is a frequently cagey, slow-burning affair with the occasional calculated flurry of activity.
Hollywood boxing sees a wide-open Rocky and a seven-foot Russian taking it in turns to hit one another, like some kind of all-contact tennis match.
Real Boxing the game falls somewhere in between.
Tucked behind and to the side of your Unreal Engine-powered fighter, you must defeat a series of outlandishly attired opponents with a swipe-based combat system and a good sense of timing.
There's also an alternative motion-controlled option that utilises your iOS device's camera, but it's only good for novelty value. As a means of progressing through the game it's about as dependable as Mike Tyson's temperament.
Speaking of dependable, we should probably mention that there's currently a repeatable bug that means you can't finish the tutorial when you knock your opponent out. You have to exit the fight manually.
Assorted swipes and taps of the screen initiate jabs, hooks, and uppercuts, while blocks, dodges, and clinches can be activated by virtual button-presses. Every punch saps your stamina bar, so you have to apply your attacks sparingly if you want them to do some real damage.
If you are knocked out, rapidly tapping the screen will bring you back to your feet with a dangerously low health bar.
The key to really achieving a breakthrough is the game's counter system, which presents itself whenever you successfully dodge an attack. However, the system is frustratingly flawed.
As we mentioned in our preview, launching a counter-attack can be a liability, as your opponents are able to counter your counter. In fact, they do so incredibly frequently as you work your way up the Career mode ladder. It gets to the point where you refrain from countering at all against tougher opponents.
It's a mismatch
The other problem is with the nature of levelling-up. You can boost your fighter's three core abilities (Strength, Speed, and Stamina) by hitting the gym after every five fights, or by spending money (both real and virtual) on each stat.
The gym mini-games themselves are dull and overly easy, but the real issue is with the outcome of your training.
This actually has the effect of unbalancing the fights one way or another. Come up against a fighter who's a good few per cent better than you overall and it can be a fruitless task, with every hit of his taking masses more health off you than your hits take off him. Regardless of how many hits you land, it can seem futile.
Conversely, slightly weaker opponents are easy to pick off - so long as you're not too gung-ho. The first opponent to be knocked down is almost always the loser overall, too. I experienced one reversal in 20 or so fights, and that was largely because my opponent happened to stay down at the first time of asking.
When you get an evenly matched fight, Real Boxing can be thrilling, edge-of-the-seat stuff. It's a shame the levelling system has been given so much influence over the outcome of matches.
Despite all this, Real Boxing's core action is fun and intuitive. You're generally rewarded for mixing fights up and picking the right moment to attack, and are punished for being too open. Punches really feel like they're connecting here, too.
A huge part of that is down to the game's largely excellent graphics and animation. Boxers are finely detailed, and the atmosphere created by the crowd and general sound effects is palpable.
It's a shame there's not more variety in the boxers' appearances, though. They feel rather like a bunch of Lego men, with a couple of core body and clothing components being mixed and matched to form new fighters.
We could have done with a 'skip' button for the lengthy slo-mo knock-out animations, too.Real Boxing, then, isn't quite the real deal that it purports to be. Strategic and tense one minute, frustratingly cheap and overly gamey the next, it's like a raw young boxer with the flashy moves and one or two devastating punches - but with a couple of glaring weaknesses in its defence.
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