Those with a sense of deja vu need not fear - although Don King Presents: Prizefighter was indeed released last year on the Xbox 360, the Wii version is still in development, and it's an entirely different kettle of fish.
The next-gen version was widely panned for unresponsive controls and inferior graphics, two problems that the Wii doesn't exactly have to try to overcome. It's a Wii; inferior graphics are to be expected, and when you market a console primarily based on its method of control you can be reasonably certain game developers will take advantage of it.
2K have stepped into the ring, and as far as boxing games go, Don King Boxing is fairly conventional fare. We didn't get to see any of the story, but it wasn't really what we were concerned with. What we really wanted to see was how 2K have utilised the Wii controller to provide an authentic boxing experience.
We started off in tutorial mode, where we could get a good understanding of how the system works. The Will controller and nunchuck must be held vertically, which is something that requires a bit of training, but after a while it feels natural enough. It's important to go through the tutorial and learn the different punches and blocks, along with various combinations which are actually pretty hard to nail.
The game mimics your movements pretty well - a jab is particularly easy to reproduce, and enormously satisfying to land. You can perform extremely quick combinations of moves, and alternating between upper and lower body shots is as simple as pressing the controllers trigger, or the nunchuck's Z button. There are four primary attack strikes - jab, straight, uppercut and hook, and all can be performed with either your right or left fist, and can target either the upper or lower body, making for a total of sixteen possible shots.
On top of this, you can perform blocking actions that will stop you from accumulating damage in the ring. Pulling back on the controller and nunchuck whilst simultaneously pressing the "A" button will allow you to bring your arms up and step back from the action. Likewise, moving the controller and nunchuck to the left or right will allow you to dodge incoming blows. All this may sound complicated, and it is, but after a very short while it all feels very natural, and almost instinctive.
The advanced tutorial will teach you all you need to know about performing combinations. It's crucial to perfect these if you want to land the really big hits during the game itself, and with a bit of practise you'll be able to chain attacks together like a pro. Combinations appear to consist of three types of punches that need to be performed in quick succession, such as jab, body hook, straight - or jab, jab, uppercut for example.
After dancing around 2K's office for about half an hour, it became clear that this game is extremely physical. Even when you're not landing blows, you really need to be blocking, so your arms are constantly doing something. Before the humidity got to us, we decided to have a couple of rounds against the AI to see if our skills were up to it.
We were able to pick our opponent from a list of twenty or so, and likewise we were able to set our venue. It appeared most venues were locked out in this build, but we did see Madison Square Garden, Boardwalk Hall and Trump Taj Mahal. Once the fight begins (having been introduced with suitable hype from the commentator) we were able to position ourselves close enough to our competitor to land some punches. As mentioned earlier, punches really need to be performed from a blocking position. Even on a relatively easy setting, our competitor was performing punches that seemed to arrive from nowhere, so speed is absolutely crucial.
It's not just about wailing on your enemy with whatever punch you can think of either - when you’ve got enough adrenaline (denoted by a bar filled with lighting strikes in the HUD), you can hold the "C" button down and execute a normal punch. This will generate a special attack causing far greater damage to your opponent. The type of punch thrown depends on which special attack you use, such as the "Heartbreaker", or "Gazelle". When landed, these dramatically drop your opponents health and can be a game breaker.
After winning a couple of matches by the closest of margins, we had a brief look at the training modes. Here you can practise any type of punch imaginable against static bags, opponents, or what looks like a Guitar Hero-inspired moving wall of icons. This allows you to perfect your timing by striking exactly as the icon passes a set point. At the end of it all, there's even a fitness point system that shows you how much energy you've burned!
We had a huge amount of fun with Don King Boxing and can't wait to try out a final build to see how the story is integrated. Those with the Wii Balance Board will be happy to know there's full compatibility, and we'll bring you a review on the entire package closer to the March 27 release date.
The more eagle-eyed amongst our readership will notice we originally published this article under the name of Don King Presents: Prizefighter. We've been informed by 2K that it is now called Don King Boxing, and we apologise for any confusion.