2K Sports' first-ever boxing sim was supposed to be a worthy contender to the throne of Fight Night, the current reigning champ of boxing simulations. (Aside from a couple of obscure import titles like the Victorious Boxers series, Fight Night is the only mainstream option for gamers looking for a boxing experience.) And the production values in Don King Presents Prizefighter are suitably high. Plenty of time, effort, and money obviously went into developing the game. In fact, with all the flash and sizzle, plus all the ring entrances, fireworks, and hoochies dancing, it'll take players a good hour or two to realize just how lousy Prizefighter actually is.
The main problem: Throwing punches via button-presses is so very 1999. Fight Night reinvented the genre with its sticks-only control scheme, and in doing so, it managed to articulate aspects of the sport—establishing the jab, working the body to slow down quicker opponents, etc.—that hadn't been articulated before.
Prizefighter turns out to be a big step in the wrong direction. Going back to button-presses to throw leather is like going back to coach after flying first class.
And in spite of what seems like myriad options for creating your fighter—you can pick hairstyles, sideburns, lip size, eye colors, etc.—every single boxer created in the system inexplicably winds up looking like the Piltdown Man.
Beyond the game: You'll spend just as much time making decisions outside the ring as you do in the ring. Picking your next opponent, then deciding how to train for him—or deciding whether to hold a press conference and forego training altogether—gives the game a welcome bit of role-playing flavor.
Worth playing for: The conceit of having videotaped testimonials from boxing luminaries (Larry Holmes!), minor celebrities (Mario Van Peebles!), and fake girlfriends (fake girlfriends!) discussing your "legend" works so well, the Fight Night series should adopt it.
Frustration sets in when: It finally sinks in that standing still and throwing uppercuts gives you a better chance of winning fights than using actual boxing mechanics and strategies, like circling away from your opponent's left hook, or taking advantage of his swelling right eye.
Final judgment: A bunch of raging bull. As Don King himself might say, "What a genuine spectacle of crapulosity."