The ancient art of Sma Kin Marf

4D Sports Boxing logo

MINDSCAPE * £25.99 * 1 meg * Joystick * Out now

It's a scary old sport isn't it, boxing? Two men stand in a ring and smack each other about the head repeatedly with cushions strapped to their fists. They keep doing this until one of them fails over and then the one who didn't fall over holds his arms up in the air and tries to pretend that he isn't about to drop dead. Very noble.

So noble in fact that Mindscape, producers of quality spook software, have decided to give boxing the old 4D treatment. Thus, you closet fist-mongers can beat seven bells out of some innocent vectors without alarming elderly relatives. So let's batten down the hatches and take a look...

OK, so the screenshots look a bit startling don't they? All triangles and funny shapes and no parallax scrolling or anything. It's enough to make your average beat-'em-up fan hide under the sofa. That's because vectors and polygons tend to imply (hushed whisper) 'strategy' and 'simulators'. Eek. Grown up games! There's no fun in that, matey, I'm off. But before you run away to play something refreshingly brain dead, hold on a wee while and find out just why a bit of strategy and simulation can spice up your run-of-the-mill boxing game.

To call 4D Sports Boxing a boxing game is perhaps a smidge insulting. It's more of a boxing simulator. You control the creation of up to ten boxers, build up their skills, and then step into their shoes for the fights.

The crux of the game is the fighting, but emphasizing the wrong elements of training will mean that your boxer isn't prepared for his opponent and will promptly get his stomped good and proper. Not the healthiest of positions to be in.
So, you've created a boxer using the remarkably simple 'Create a Boxer' section. Fairly obvious. You now can enter your boxer - let's call him Susan just for humorous effect - in an exhibition fight. An exhibition fight let's Susan slug it out with a rival of your choice.

This has many advantages. For one it allows you to get used to the controls. Secondly it lets you suss out the kind of tactics you can expect from your various opponents, and thirdly you can afford to get beaten into the ground without affecting your league rating.

Once you've mastered the moves available, which is pretty easy, then you'll be ready to go for the 'main event', where you can get beaten to death in professional capacity, rather than as a rank amateur.

Going back to the moves, apparently you can perform a variety of showboat actions. These include jigging up and down, goading your opponent and generally acting like right old prima donna. Unfortunately, these only work when you press the second Fire button on your joystick.

That is, of course assuming you have two separate Fire buttons. As most people will have their Fire buttons linked to one microswitch, this renders that rather clever feature a bit redundant. Flippin' annoying as well, as I was looking forward to doing all those show-off moves. Gosh, darn it Mabel!

Anyway, you select your opponent from the league by judging their skills against yours, and then concentrate your training on those aspects you need to firm up on (oh yes, missus). This done, you can slip into some seductive silk shorts, step into the ring and have your brains turned to mush for fun and profit. Now that's entertainment.

In the ring, things start to look even more simulator-ish. The people don't look like real people, more like Dairylea triangles with attitude. They move like real people though, and that's 'cos all their movements have been copied from real live boxers. Yes indeed.

The most simulator-ish aspect of all, though, is the multitude of definable camera viewpoints. Yep, camera views. Now you may think that the last thing you'd want to do while exchanging blows with a muscle bound hulk called Bosher is to fiddle with external camera viewpoints.

Surprisingly, the idea works quite well. If Susan is being obscured by your beefy opponent, a quick prod on the function keys switch the view to give you a clearer idea of 'what's going on', as Marvin Gaye would have said.

OK, so things do look a bit confused when the boxer's get close and the animation can fling around and trying not to get leathered was quite a wise approach to begin with. And so that you don't spend the whole time waving your fists at thin air, there's a proximity meter that shows how far apart the boxers are. When they're in punching distance, it turns yellow and you can let fly with a flurry of blows.

Well, criticism time I think. The graphics are a bit iffy at times, as you can tell, and the boxers' heads have a disturbing habit of switching from little circles to alarming cubes for no obvious reason. This doesn't affect the gameplay really, but it can be disorientating.

Another gripe, being the grouchy git I am, is that at times the game can be very slow. Not during the fights thank God, but selecting options often leads to drawn out disk accessing, which makes the management sections a bit of a chore. And of course, the rather odd 3D approach may make some people think twice about buying it.

On a lighter note, the sound effects are really meaty with some bone-crunching "thud" noises, grunts and groans. The music is bearable, but not the sort of tune you're likely to hum in the bath. The presentation is, on the whole, fairly good. Despite the spooky graphics, the little details haven't been ignored. For instance, during training you'll actually see Susan (or whatever you call your boxer) doing "her" thang. Skipping, punchballs and the speed bag are all there in polygon 3D.

The playability is the sticky bit. I liked it, personally. If you can look beyond the unusual visuals, there's a rewarding game in there. It's perhaps a bit easy, as once you've built up your boxers power it's a cinch to slug your way to the top ten, but the challenge of controlling ten boxers should go some way to make up for it.

On the other hand, a lot of people have found it extremely off-putting and difficult to get to grips with. Hmm. Nah, sod 'em. I liked it and if you like sports games that require a bit more thought then you'll like it too.

Mindscape have taken a risk with a game like this, and it's almost paid off. Not a perfect game by any means, but if you persevere you'll be rewarded. Give it a go.

4D Sports Boxing logo

Boxing, the sport of kings, where two men enter a ring in order to belt seven bells out of each other, has made little real impact on the computer-games scene. Which is surprising, considering the popularity of beat-em-ups. If you try to think of slugging tests only Elite's Frank Bruno's Boxing, Superior's By Fair Means or Foul and Storm's conversion of Taito's Final Blow spring to mind, and not all for good reasons. The problem is that these bouts are biased towards arcade action and against the rules of the ring. But enter mindscape, with 4D Sports Boxing, a vector-based bashing spectacular which puts the player in the fighter's gloves - literally!

Who is this Gym bloke?
To begin with, you've got to have a fighter, so it's off to the gym. Your prospective proponent of pugilism is created by the alteration of various values (height, weight, speed, stamina and punching power), which determines what division of boxing he'll be fighting in (from the weak but nippy flyweights, al the way up to the slow but deadly super-heavyweights). To complete the picture, the colours of the boxer's jersey, trunks and even his face can be tweaked to suit your whim!

Once the boxer is built to a satisfactory level, the new contender can then either be put into a try-out fight to see if he fits the bill, or blast straight into a championship eliminator against other title-hungry hopeful.

The fights can be played from either of the fighters' lines-of-sight, or from one of the stadium's various camera angles - there's even one which follows the fighters and always seeks the best view of the action. Once you've set this up, along with the level of detail and the screen size, the bout begins.

All the boxing moves you'd expect are there, straight punches, hooks, jabs and upper-cuts, and they all make a resounding 'thud' when they tag the opponent's body. The other fighter doesn't just hang about and let you pour on the punches, but he dodges, weaves, blocks and tries to dish out as much damage as you. So leaping straight in and trying to club a fighter into submission is not the most sensible strategy!

Bar brawl
Both boxers status screens contain four bars, the uppermost being an indication of the distance between the two boxers, with one each for energy, stamina and power. These have to be watched closely, because they are your guide to how your fighter is actually faring.

A little tactical chicanery is needed with some fighters - a case of wearing the opposition down a bit at a time. However, unless you keep your wits about you and your guard up, your would-be champ will be the one decorating the canvas. But if it looks like your boxer is just about to get smeared half-way across the canvas, you can throw in the towel, but this will go against you on the boxer's records!

Depending upon who wins the bout, either your fighter (or your opponent) gets a nice little earner, so the aim of the game is to keep going to the top, earning as much dough on the way as you possibly can. Once you're there, you've got to stay there!

A hop, a skip, a right to the jaw
This fight game may not exactly be over-exciting to look at, but it plays well. The level of graphic detail determines the speed of the game - on maximum detail things have a tendency to slow down a touch, whereas using the bare bones (with matchstick boxers) things fly along. Each bout is preceded by animations, which the eager can jump through, which look good and add that all-important touch of realism.

The staggering amount of views give you not only the option to look at the battle from your own eyes, but from those of your opponent, and a wealth of camera angles (there's an especially nifty overhead view) which increases the TV feel expressed in the title. Add to that some well-placed samples and an excellent thumping soundtrack, and the package is complete.

4D Sports Boxing, with its excellent presentation and adrenaline-pumping action is enough to get anybody from the weediest wimp to the likes of Evander Holyfield himself sparring away from the word go. It's still a beat-em-up, but one with style and depth - much like the sport itself and as such, some folks will love, some will find it shallow and some will try to ban it. 4D Sports Boxing is the best implementation of the noble art so far and anyone who has ever wanted to be a contender, but doesn't like being beaten senseless, should give it a try.

4D Sports Boxing logo

I don't mind boxing. It's dull to watch, but I see no reason why two fighters shouldn't try to kill each other for money. I do mind 4D Sports Boxing though - on paper, it all looks hunky dory and interesting, but in reality it's painfully slow and much more boring than the real thing.

The authors have chosen to use arrangements of polygon shapes to represent human figures. In theory, this should allow for more realistic fighter behaviour and interesting viewpoints.

In practice it doesn't work. The boxers' movements are convincing (that said, they barely resemble human beings when static, as the detail is reduced to keep the action running at anything approaching a reasonable speed), and there's an ample supply of statistics and features (including those camera angles galore and a decent instant replay).

It's been converted from a PC original, and it shows. I'm also not convinced that the vast number of available moves is a Good Thing (there are some three dozen accessible). A degree of context sensitivity would have made more sense.

My biggest bugbear is the sluggish speed at which it runs, though. It's like watching a slow motion action replay - watching, not playing, as the fighting doesn't feel particularly interactive.
Nice try, but the result just doesn't cut the mustard.

4D Sports Boxing logo

Despite a potential cross-over audience among aggressive young teenage males, boxing has never been successfully transformed int a video game. So can Mindscape and Distinctive Software, Inc. bring anything new to the big fight?.

Like the title suggests, the programmers of 4D Sports Boxing have thrown everything into some impressive polygon 3D graphics routines which make the boxers look like those square-jawed Dire Strait's award-winning Money for Nothing music video. The extra 'D' is supposed to represent the element of realism.

As each model of the Amiga offers a varying amount of raw processing power, there is a special render option to adjust the detail of graphics used to create the boxer's shape and features. On the standard A500, 4D Sports Boxing is playable enough for everyone discounting a budding Mike Tyson.

The simulation itself is very comprehensive, enhanced by a large number of performance stats which, thankfully, remain in the background for most of the time. Nobody wants to spend too much effort in the gym or arranging a fight, so there are merely a few menu formalities to flick through before the fun really begins.

There is a fully array of instant replay views, including what either boxer saw before their lights were punched out. You can even position the 'camera' anywhere within the surrounding area or go flying around to smoothly track the fighting action. These viewpoints can be changed at any time during each round and should therefore prove useful in improving your technique. To be honest, I had more fun pretending to be a live broadcast director than actually boxing the ears of the forty-odd opponents before my eventual retirement and product endorsement deals.

Sure, there is plenty here. However, the lack of any realistic damage being inflicted on the faces of fighters detracts hugely from the feeling of actually being ringside. Ultimately, this game lacks the sort of heavy weight punch needed to make a true world champion. Like the old cliche goes, 4D Sports Boxing could have been a contender. Know what I mean, Harry?

BOXING CLEVER When you're actually in the ring, a series of punches and showboat moves can be called into play. The latter manoeuvres, such as sticking your chin out and head shaking, obviously change depending on whether your opponent is on his feet or laying flat on the canvas. They are included to boost your confidence and replenish some much-needed energy. Nevertheless, a few well-timed left hooks to the body and right uppercut to the head should see off all but the most durable athlete. Mindscape recommends you constantly move around the ring using a combination of fighting moves rather than simply repeating just one punch.

4D Sports Boxing logo Zero Hero

Boxing - the gentlemanly art of hitting somebody in the teeth as hard as you can with a pound and a half of wadding on your fists - has often been attempted as a computer game, rarely with any degree of success. 4D Sports Boxing is the exception to the rule - a fabbo smash on the PC, it won a ZERO Hero. And now it's out on the Amiga. Hurrah!

"So tell us of this wondrous game, oh aged, palsied one," you cry in unison, your squeaky voices ringing out irritatingly. Right then. Create and name your own boxers - RG Bargee or Mary 'Tyler' Moore, for example - decide their height and weight category, pick a suitable head and a fetching outfit to box in and away you go in your quest for the number one slot. Train your boxer after each fight, build up strengths as you see fit and wipe the floor with sundry opponents (or, if you're crap, be the wipee).

Amiga reviewPatrick:Naming sports is a strange thing, when you think about it - why call a sport in which two people punch each other 'boxing'? Why not 'punching', or 'splat-u-like'? What's it got to do with boxes? I'll tell you: it comes from the old Saxon word 'boks', literally meaning 'to smash a foe in the gob with your cloak wrapped round your fist'. Now you know why this game isn't a supermarket shelf-packing sim.

If I had to sum up 4D Sports Boxing in a sentence, I'd say it's a cracker. (That's not much of a sentence. Ed.) That's all you need to know, basically - the impatient ones among you can dash down the shops and buy it now.

The game runs slower than its PC equivalent, and the boxers don't have the same facial details (that oh-so pleasing 'don't hit me' look just before you knock them out, for example). If nothing else, this shows that the PC is the better machine for chucking about large amounts of polygons. However, this in no way detracts from the gameplay on the Amiga.

The polygon figures of the boxers are smoothly, nay, artfully animated. You also have the facility to set up cameras anywhere around the ring (or use the more than adequate ones provided), so you can play back your knockouts and other favourite moments to your heart's content. There's a nicely manageable rise in the ability of your opponent - early on, you can afford to stand toe to toe and slog it out, but later on it's essential to use boxing skills. Boxing sklls include moving out of the way of punches and, er... phew... hang on a bit... nope, that's about it, really.

After each fight, along with the announcements and fight statistics, a newspaper headline and photograph record your winning KO punch - a minor thing, but a nice touch. Contest 40 or so fights and you'll find your boxer has aged and must retire. One thing that I always thought would have been nice was a fuller record of your boxer once (s)he retired, rather than simply showing the winnings. (Adopts irritating cockney accent.) Still, massn't grahmble.

All in all then, 4D Sports Boxing is a great game that takes out its competition on the Amiga inside the first round, and any would-be boxing heroes will love it (assuming they still have any hand/eye coordination). Buy it. Who knows, maybe we'll even see the return of the infamous Smack In The Marth compo. (No, thank you very much. Ed.)