Boxing seems like a perfect area for virtual reality to explore. The tactile nature of beating the pulp out of another person seems ripe for the medium, and there have been relatively few PlayStation VR boxing forays thus far, making CREED: Rise to Glory stand out a little more than it otherwise might.
CREED is a tie-in to the rebooted Rocky franchise, and while it seems to very loosely follow some plot beats of the first movie, it’s a largely disassociated narrative that is nonetheless very straightforward. You play as Adonis Creed, son of Apollo Creed – portrayed by Michael B. Jordan in the films – on a quest to win the championship belt. That’s it. The narrative spans seven fights and a few minigames, and will take you no longer than two hours. And that’s if you really take your time. The narrative is almost completely non-existent, though, with no drama or anything surrounding the fights you have to prepare for. There’s one attempt at this where you accost a bouncer at a bar, but it’s handled so strangely that it just doesn’t work. It functions mechanically identically to the in-ring fights, with similar scores and jarring announcer stuff that makes you think it’s an official fight. The rest of the fights pit you against both fighters that have appeared in the CREED films and a couple that haven’t, as you methodically punch your way to the top.
The gameplay is largely satisfying – on the lowest difficulty. The game actually finds itself in a catch-22, where the lowest difficulty offers up entertaining fun gameplay but with little to no variety, while the higher difficulties have their own problems. For every single fight, you briefly walk forward, and then you stand still while blocking occasionally and punching until the fight ends. If you don’t want to move from the spot at all, nothing bad really comes of it. On the flip side, the higher difficulties offer more engaging and varied fights, but the PlayStation Move is simply not precise enough for this to work well at all.
By having to protect your head with your gloves, the Move controllers are constantly up near your head, and the PS Camera will constantly lose track of the position of your hands. Therefore any time you need to do elaborate sequences or block a flurry of blows, it’s very unlikely each move you make will be tracked successfully. This is especially frustrating in some of the minigames that require you to hit target dummies in specific spots rapidly, as the tracking struggles to track pulling your arm back and going forward in rapid succession. The minigames themselves, while simplistic, are quite fun, though – a couple of them offering up some addictive “one more time” gameplay loops that greatly add to the experience.
Not only that, but these minigames are incorporated into the narrative portion in rapid-fire montage sequences that pay homage to the iconic training montages popularised by the film franchise – all the while set to “the” song from Rocky. You know the one. Unfortunately, apart from that song, there is seemingly only one other song which is from the first Creed film, and is a different variation of the main Rocky song. While the music is largely motivating, it wears thin after hearing it so many times, much like the dialogue in the game. Other than lines seemingly lifted straight from Creed for Adonis’ voice work, there are only a few quips in the game. Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky is an admirable imitation, but the rest of the voice work mostly falls flat, in particular the in-ring referee, who, and we’re not making this up, has one total line of dialogue and he says it every fight: same intonation, same inflection, everything.
Visually the game is decent enough, as character models look alright, and the actual boxing rings look pretty good. The animations are a step back, though, as walking looks very poor, particularly when you have to manually move by swinging your arms at your side rapidly. Thinking how it must look out of game when playing online is a laugh, though: two people frantically swinging their arms trying to get close to one another. The online mode has a population for now at least, but as with all VR titles, being able to rely on an online community is a gamble. It does offer more variety to the fights, however, when you know the person on the other side of the boxing gloves is having the same issues you are. Plus, between online and Free Play mode, you can step into the shorts of Rocky Balboa, which is a nice touch.
CREED: Rise to Glory can be entertaining, but the PS Move’s inability to track things properly makes it hard to call this a good game. A thin narrative and smattering of other shortcomings detract from the overall experience, but it's not a disaster by any stretch – just not worth its full $24.99 price point.