Based on the Ryan Coogler film, Creed: Rise To Glory is a boxing training camp in virtual reality. Taking either the PlayStation Move or Touch Controllers on PC and putting on the headset drops you in an experience that’s actively trying to make you greater.
CREED: RISE TO GLORY
Published by: Survios, MGM
Available For: PlayStation VR, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift
Creed: Rise To Glory is the latest VR experience by one of the most refined VR studios around, Survios (Raw Data, Sprint Vector). The game represents an attempt at mixing a story with tech most of gaming is still trying to figure out. It doesn’t get everything right but the pieces it manages to nail the landing on are fantastic.
Players can use the game as a home exercise routine in freeplay, but most come for the game’s career mode. That’s where you’ll play through bits of the story from the Creed film in the virtual gloves of Adonis Johnson/Creed. The career mode follows Adonis from his early ambitions of being a boxer out of the shadow of his father to being trained by Rocky for a light heavyweight title fight against Ricky Conlan.
Before you can get in the ring, you’ll need to train. Conditioning you for the rigors of boxing is what Creed: Rise To Glory doesn’t skimp on. Your stamina for fights literally depends on you completing various exercises. Hitting the heavy bag, working on combinations and dodging with Stallone himself, you’ll even get on the treadmill by using the move controllers to swing your arms as if you were running in real life. After a while, these exercises run the risk of getting tedious but it’s once you get in the ring for a real fight where Creed RTG gets fun.
You’ll step into a ring surrounded by one of a few vibrant venues to fight in. Starting in a bar in Mexico, you’ll work your way through the bingo halls of Philadelphia all the way to the big arena in London against champion Ricky Conlan. The distance from the ring to the crowd, the lights, referee; every bit of the arenas have an authentic feeling only VR can deliver. Once the fight begins, the mechanics of the game are easy enough to understand. The controllers you hold take the place of boxing gloves and as you swing, jab, or uppercut, the movements on screen are near 1-to-1 responsive. Your opponents each have their own fighting styles you’ll need to understand and the difficulty ramps as you progress. My first fight against some Irish jobber in a gym was easy since he’d hardly defend himself which allowed me to just throw punches at will. Once I got to the later fights, the game’s defensive techniques became vital. More advanced fighters in the game would throw quick shots that were hard to block by simply holding your hands up to your face. Remember the prefight exercises? Those come in to play as you lose stamina whenever you throw punches or block too many shots. The more exercises you completed in training the longer it took for Creed to get gassed in the ring. Once your stamina is gone your punches have little effect on your opponent until you refill by holding your hands steady to your face.
It’s all science-y sounding, I know, however, the end result is worth the work you’ll put in. The hits during fights feel meaty. Combining the visceral mechanics with the big fight atmosphere created equals a rewarding experience every time you manage to leave your opposition flat on their back or in a heap unable to make the referee’s count of ten.
Playing a game based on the Rocky franchise needs to feel like more than just a good mechanical experience. It needs to have a grandeur. This is where Survios succeeds and fails when it comes to Creed Rise To Glory. There isn’t enough attention paid here to the incredible story told in the Creed film. In the game, you never quite understand why boxing is important to Adonis Johnson. You simply just fade into a gym one day, months away from a light heavyweight title fight with the current world champion. Remember a big part of the film was that the world didn’t know Adonis “Donnie” Johnson was the son of Apollo Creed, the game lacks that moment of mid-film payoff at the revelation. A few short cinematics that showed the struggles of Michael B. Jordan’s character would have gone a long way to making this feel like a story cultivated in VR. Even most of the important Rocky character is skipped here. Maybe that’s due to the limited voices of characters you do hear in the gaming coming off as uninspired. Whether it was in gym training or in an actual boxing match, voices you hear from Adonis or Rocky come off a little flat. Cinematics aren’t something Survios is known for and perhaps skipping them saves the studio budget but there have to be creative ways to incorporate more of the license’s story elements. Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out told a bit of a story through mid round dialogue from the characters Little Mac faced. Yet here there’s no storytelling by anyone your fighting or being trained by.
There is one part of the cinematic experience Survios didn’t shortchange the game in and it’s definitely one of the most vital elements.
Gonna Fly Now!
It wouldn’t be a piece of the Rocky franchise without the most inspirational music of all time. Survios uses the iconic theme in a similarly emotional heightening way to what Insomniac did with Spider-Man swinging through New York. In Creed RTG, moments when you start to feel winded during training, the game kicks that epic theme in and you can’t help but want to push just a little bit more. It also uses it to up the intensity during the climax of the Ricky Conlan fight similar to what Creed did on film. Hereafter three complete rounds, the game puts you in a montage of the remaining nine rounds set to the Rocky music. In the few seconds you get of each round, the music kicks in, the rest of the arena goes black and all you have in front of you is total focus on your opponent. Survios synthesizes that moment when athletes are in the zone and it just works to feel like a big deal. I only wish they’d have done more of it in other parts of the game.
Overall, despite considerable lacking in storytelling presentation, Creed: Rise To Glory justifies its $29.99 (MSRP) price tag for anyone looking for entertainment that gets you off the couch and into active participation. The gameplay is as taxing on your body as it is rewarding. I can’t think of a more satisfying emotion in gaming than the invincibility you feel after knocking foos out in a round of Creed: Rise To Glory.
7 out of 10 Apollo Creed(s)