Real Steel is a robot boxing game based off of the film of the same name. By battling other robots and defeating them you earn cash to level up your robot and upgrade it until it is fit enough to take on the champs. While the fighting is decent enough there are a myriad of problems that halt Real Steel and stop it from being anything more than another licensed game that fails to excite.
Real Steel plays like an arcade boxer where each button is mapped to a heavy or light punch for each fist. On top of the normal punches you can select four special bunches as well. The special punches can break blocks, cause massive damage, and help lead to combos as well. These punches help break up the boring flow of matches that typically becomes two robots waiting for an opening then one punching the other in the head four or five times.
Each bot also has a stamina meter that drains with each punch thrown or dodged. If that bar drains the bot staggers for a moment and then has to wait before throwing full powered punches. This is usually an easy flaw to force out of enemies, which leads to Real Steel’s biggest problem. The AI in Real Steel is terribly easy to goad into just about any situation. Causing most bots to lose their stamina by swinging at you and then quickly going in for a few head shots is a simple way to take down any opponent.
Of course there are times that the enemy gets the better of you and lays your robot out. This opens up the absolutely awful minigame that is played to get the robot back up. By spinning the left analog stick and pressing the four face buttons you fill up four meters. Once these meters are full your robot gets back up and the fight carries on. However, it seems like the minigame doesn’t always work as it should. Sometimes rotating the stick and smashing the buttons works just fine while other times it’s better to rotate the stick a few times then hit one button and repeat. The game doesn’t do a great job of translating what needs to be done and that can lead to losses that feel completely out of the player’s control.
Real Steel has two major gameplay components; a single player ladder based campaign and online multiplayer. The single player is somewhat impressive at first when each fight is new and fresh, but that feeling fades fast. After a few fights you come across an enemy that is nearly impossible to beat without upgrades. These upgrades take a lot of cash to buy and that requires you to fight the first few bots over and over again in order to make the money to keep going forward. Grinding in a boxing game is an awful idea, even fighting similar bots with pallet swaps would be an improvement.
Of course if you don’t want to grind your way to the top you can always buy a pre-made robot from the in-game store, using real money. That’s right, for just $10 you can buy a pre-made high powered robot that will surely help you take down the competition. So for the price of the game itself you can buy a robot to make the game easier, if that doesn’t make people feel dirty few things will. You can also buy repair kits to fix up your bot, extra in-game cash, robot parts, and a design kit to customize your robot as well. All of these items are not integral to moving forward in the game but the fact that you can’t even paint or customize the look of your robot without spending $3 is upsetting.
The multiplayer in Real Steel is, from the few matches I played, functional. There aren’t tons of people playing the game on line at the moment but you fight just as you would in the single player matches, the only difference is that your opponents are more intelligent than the lackluster AI.
Real Steel has some decent models but other than the robots themselves there isn’t much to get excited over. The audience look like audiences from last generation games and the arenas are boring and predictable. The robots themselves are varied and interesting, especially late game enemy robots, which makes punching them over and over slightly less dull.
Animations in Real Steel work well and for a boxing game that’s important. Punches land and hit with the appropriate impact that, imaginably, a 10 ton robot’s punch would have. Robots have big clunky movements, in a good way, and react to punches quite well. Since the two bots in the ring are all that matter it’s good that they animate well and look decent but since you’ll most likely see the same bots over and over a want for variety will surely creep over you.
Real Steel is better experienced in small chunks if at all. When you down your first opponent or two the game feels exciting and reminiscent of classic arcade boxers. Then you down those same two bots over and over again for about two hours before being able to take on the third robot, and it’s here where the fun stops. Having to grind out cash and experience is something that is native to RPGs not boxing games. Besides the unnecessary grinding the constant prompts to go shopping and spend real money on the game to make things easier makes the whole experience feel dirty.
Grinding out levels and paid for content have their places in games, and neither should be in a $10 downloadable game based on a movie. There are a few moments that the game feels really fun but those moments wear off very quickly once the grind kicks in. Unless Real Steel is a movie that defines you there really isn’t any reason to go whole hog over this game. Oh, it doesn’t have Hugh Jackman in it in case you were wondering.