Real Steel [$4.99] was released to the App Store this month by Indian developers, Jump Games as a tie-in to the boxing movie of the same name. The film is due to be released on October 7th, and as far as we can tell from trailers, combines Wolverine and Kate from Lost with an $80 million dollar budget and a likely drunken bet in the Hollywood production rings that they could get people to pay money to sit through a movie based on Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots.
If you don't generally follow upcoming releases of robot-centric movies with lots of explosions, this trailer will get you up to speed:
Shockingly enough, even though the premise of the movie couldn't possibly be more ridiculous, huge robots fighting other huge robots makes for a good video game. The core of the game revolves around tournaments where you choose one of four robots initially available, then fight against seven robots, one-by-one, with increasing difficulty. To win the tournament you must reach and defeat the final robot, Midas, the gold-blooded killer. But first you'll do battle with fighting machines like: Aquabot the diver robot, Six Shooter the electronic sheriff and Noisy Boy, the manga mangler. Each robot has it's own entry animation, fighting style and signature special moves. Low blows and knees to the robo-guts are acceptable.
Like most fighting games, if your health bar hits zero, your robot is defeated, although you can repeat a tournament level until you eventually win. Once victorious, you're awarded an upgrade token and can choose to upgrade your robots armor, power or speed attribute, ready for the next round in the tournament.
Robot upgrades sound pretty cool, but these are statistical attribute upgrades only, so unfortunately there's no visible hardware add-ons for the robots. Also, your robotic upgrades don't appear in sparring or practice modes and once you exit a tournament your upgrades are lost altogether. Basically, the upgrades are only good for the current tournament.
However, if you manage to win the entire tournament, four additional robots are unlocked (making eight in total) and "hard" difficulty mode appears, whereas initially only easy and medium difficulties are available.
In 'free sparring' mode, you select a robot for yourself and your opponent (device), choose one of four locations and select a difficulty mode. The venues include a parking lot, the zoo, a saloon and crash palace. After that, the fighting is the same as tournament mode. In 'practice mode', the opponent doesn't move or strike back, allowing you to beat up some unresponsive hardware without any risk of damage. I wanted to completely thrash this defenseless opponent, but you can't destroy the metallic practice-dummy as it's health always quickly auto-restores back to full strength.
The touch controls include a virtual pad, plus four action buttons for left and right punches, block and special move. There's a couple of combo moves available, such as landing four sequential left punches for a jab combo or pressing [Punch, Special] for a special move. Some users have commented online that the controls are unresponsive and I experienced this myself, until the developers explained that the first punch in a special move must actually make contact before the special button is pressed. This isn't explained clearly in the game, but knowing this makes a big difference to your competitiveness and enjoyment.
Each time you attack, your power bar depletes, so you need to pace yourself and frequently block, so your power reserves can regenerate. Each of the 13 attacking moves has a different point value, ranging from a basic jab (150 points) up to special moves (400 points). There's also points for the amount of health remaining at the end of the match, for ripping the opponents artificial head off or for completing a perfect round. Your scores are captured in six Game Center leader-boards and there's 24 achievements to nail.
When you're ready for the final kill-shot, the "special move" button is replaced with a red "RIP" button, for the finishing-move. Your opponents are always keen to do special moves on you too, such as Metro using his large sledge-hammer fists to decapitate my poor robot's head.
Movie tie-in's can sometimes be terrible games, rushed out to promote a movie, but this near-future robotic boxing game is reasonable-- Mostly because robots fighting makes for a decent game. The robot animations are pretty good, even if the background graphics seem a bit lifeless. Real Steel is currently the same price as Fight Night Champion [$4.99 / Review] which is a regular boxing game with more features, but if you're excited for the movie and enjoy the idea of robot-on-robot combat, this is the only official game for the movie.
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