World Championship Boxing Manager was apparently a bit of a hit when it was released back in 1991. I’m not old enough to have experienced the joys of the boxing management sim, but now’s my chance to finally get a taste with the console launch of its official sequel, World Championship Boxing Manager 2. Developers Mega Cat Studios hope to capture the essence of the original and build upon its ideas for the enjoyment of all kinds of boxing fans.
Will World Championship Boxing Manager 2 be a real knockout, or are you likely to throw in the towel shortly after getting into the squared circle?
World Championship Boxing Manager 2 is a boxing management sim, where you’ll essentially try to lead fighters to attaining glory, championship belts, and tons of cash. That’s the ultimate dream for anyone in the boxing world. The team behind the boxers are just as important as the talented people stepping between the ropes. You’re going to have to manage certain aspects of their career to ensure they achieve their goals and create a real legacy.
The best place to begin is Story Mode, which features a selection of scenarios geared up to show you the ropes and tell a narrative along the way. You’ll get to try your hand at turning an amateur scrapper into a fighter that’ll put fear into potential opponents, or managing the next big thing as she deals with her family issues. Heck, a few of the stories even focus on legends like Rocky Marciano and Sugar Ray Robinson, delving into the undefeated streak and the origins of his nickname, respectively. Teddy Roosevelt is in the spotlight for one scenario too, because he used to box apparently.
There’s a decent variety of scenarios for sure, however the voice acting used to convey the stories is quite unconvincing – bordering on cringeworthy – on the whole. Due to the relatively easy difficulty, they do at least provide a good way to get a handle on what it entails to be a boxing manager and how much influence you can have.
Scheduling matches is one of the important jobs in the world of management and each month you’re able to enrol fighters in different kinds of events. These include properly organised tournaments and one-off bouts on set days, while prize fights and exhibitions can be arranged on a whim. My first problem with World Championship Boxing Manager 2 is how you’ve got no idea who you’re going to be up against until the moment right before the match begins. That foils any chance of real preparation, which is surely a crucial part of boxing.
A bit of strategy comes into play before each round though, with decisions to be made as to whether to go guns-blazing, slightly offensive, take a laid back defensive approach, or find a neutral middle ground. It’s questionable how much it makes a difference, except the riskiest option that’s bereft of dodging and weaving. Nevertheless it’s nice to be able to switch it up between rounds as well as choose a health or stamina boost.
As for the gameplay, and it’s presented in a cool 32-bit art style to capture the retro vibes really well. Both fighters stand still for up to ten rounds, throwing punches while occasionally dodging. Draining the opponent’s health bar to nothing is the simplest route to glory, but it’s also to win via judges’ decision. Each round only lasts twenty seconds and you can zoom through the action at four times the regular speed if you wish. The sad truth is that even that grows monotonous after just a few match-ups and any excitement garnered from a knockout wears thin.
In the build up to a contest, you do have to set up training regimes and ensure the fighter isn’t fatigued, but seeing as you’re venturing in blind, it’s just a case of focusing on your own strengths or weaknesses. Every training session costs money and will increase specific stats such as strength, blocking, accuracy, endurance, and more. To get additional benefits from these, you could hire staff or improve the gym facilities, which eats into the money in the bank. I definitely welcome the freedom available when increasing the attributes, allowing you to turn fighters into whatever style suits you.
Nothing differs dramatically upon transferring your focus to the Career Mode, aside from signing whomever you wish and growing a stable of fighters to manage. It’s endless too, so you can spend hours and hours in there if you wish. You won’t, but you can. Given the idea is to start right at the bottom, it’s going to be a grind with limited funds and fighters that couldn’t punch their way out of a paper bag. It’s to be expected, however the hard graft is made tougher by some bizarre bugs, glitches and mechanics.
Boxers regularly become stressed and get fatigued, which is where therapists and doctors come to the forefront. For some unknown reason, no matter what energy boost or level of stress reduction is purchased, the fighter sees no benefit whatsoever. It’s frustrating because it’s hard to afford such commodities and then it doesn’t actually work, ever. The game itself has also completely frozen up a few times, requiring a full console reboot.
Another strange occurrence arises when the training of stats results in negative effects, with no obvious reason as to why. Fortunately it didn’t happen too often, but every point counts in the early stages of someone’s career. The steep initial grind of Career Mode is enough to put people off without the addition of those issues. Benefits of training are minimal, you’re lucky to win a fight on points, and therefore cash is in short supply, so you’re likely to enter a depressing loop of losses. Where’s that therapist when you need them, eh?
Ultimately, World Championship Boxing Manager 2 swings and misses with its simple, yet repetitive, boxing management sim. Sure, it’s a streamlined experience that’s easy to delve into, but in no time at all you’ll realise there’s a monotonous gameplay loop and a lack of substance. The Career Mode highlights the drawbacks the most, with various issues making matters worse. And while the Story scenarios fare better as an ideal way to ease yourself in, it still suffers the same repetition eventually.
If you’re thinking of investing in World Championship Boxing Manager 2, knock yourself out. No, I mean it, just do something to stop yourself potentially wasting money on it.