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Distributor: Sony SCEA 1-2 Player
Game Type: Boxing Memory Card
Review Date: January 1999 Dual Shock Compatible

Setting the Scene

Amazingly it has been three long years since a boxing title has been
developed for the Playstation in the US and now we get two of
them... Knockout Kings and Contender.  Interestingly enough, both titles
portray the art of boxing, but in entirely different ways.  KK is more of a
serious attempt at the sport while Contender has much more of an in your
face arcade feel to it.

With 40 individually styled professional boxers Contender pits you against
the best of the best of the boxing world. 

Take your character on the long and testing journey from the seedy back
street venues and sweaty gyms of the non-professional pugilist right the way
up to the dizzying heights of World title fights where the best battle for
multi-million dollar purses and the glory of victory awaits you.. 

Contender is not just about fancy special moves; packed with some strategy
and a definite simulation edge, you must decide where your fighter's
weaknesses lie and train him or her to overcome them. As you progress
through the game you'll be offered handy hints and tips from your trainer
Jackal - Spar with him at his gym and learn invaluable moves that set you on
the road to stardom. 


Contender is an arcade style boxing game that will have you kicking ass in
no time.


Prepare to insert the gum-shield because the CG intro is simply jaw
dropping. Drop your guard for one second and it will smack you right in the
teeth!  Two boxers. One black, one white. One bald, one blond. One in the
red corner, one in the blue. Two gladiators of the ring performing routine
stretching exercises on the ropes. A colorless flashback of the battle plan
is interrupted by the clang of the bell. Sweat flowing through the crevices
created by super pumped up muscles. Fists hammering into each others bodies
at an alarming rate!  The lights go out! Who was the victor...? You decide!

If Tekken 2 style graphics were the apple of your eye then Contender will be
the peach in your dreams. I was suitably impressed by character models and
their ability when moving around the ring.  The graphics aren't quite Tekken
3 to be sure, but the characters would fit right into that universe.

Watch as your chosen boxer actually grows in stature as his career moves on.
Watch as his body structure increases, his muscles expand, he even seems to
grow taller.  When finally crowned World Champion he actually has muscles
growing on his muscles, they are bulging out all over his body and he looks
absolutely awesome.  

Should your boxer take a pummeling then his body gradually becomes battered 
and bruised. Red burn marks are spotted around his body, cut's and bruises 
appear on his face, while a couple of shiners are usually the only reward 
for a challenging nights work.

There are forty boxers in all, but only a few are initially available for
selection. They come in all shapes, sizes...and sexes.  Henry "Slate" Dyson
looks like the blond Russian out of the Rocky movie. There's marvelous
Marvin Woods, Lennox Hedges, Meldrick Manson... say, those guys names are
almost famous. There are quite a few female fighters that will cross your
path on route to the top. Some are formidable opponents, so don't write them
off because of their girly looks.

When first setting off on your boxing career the stadiums will be virtually
empty but progression through the ranks sees the crowd gradually grow to
capacity. Contender has discarded with the sparring sessions and just drops
you right into the next bout, which keeps things moving along at a nice
rapid pace.  Training bouts are in there though and take place in the gym
with the master.

A fight may be viewed from up to seven different angles. This includes an
excellent first person perspective that will have your head ducking and
weaving while playing the game. In this view you may be subjected to 'red
outs' and blurred vision.  Talk about reality!  After each round you also
have the ability to view a replay to study your moves. Contender includes 
an excellent facility, using a floating camera to view all the action in 
fast or slow motion.

Sounds and Effects

"Ladies and Gentlemen. In the red corner..." screams the gruff voiced
announcer as he introduces the fighters.  "Round One... Ding, ding!"  
The crowd roars on every attack, reaching fever pitch when an opponent 
is flattened.

Every bone crunching blow is exaggerated to the umpteenth degree with the
more powerful special shots cracking like home like the sound of thunder. 
All through the fight you can hear constant advice from your corner such 
as "use your guard", "back off" or "take him out!" 
All helpful stuff..... not!

The music, while nothing spectacular serves a purpose and keeps the game


I said this before and I'll say it again, if you expect to pick up the
control pad and perform a 10 hit combo or press six buttons rapidly and
knock your opponent into the sixth row, then you are going to be sadly
disappointed.  I am glad to say this is not martial arts.  Nor is it kick
boxing.  It's not even back street brawling. Contender is the old school of
fighting with a jab, jab..... jab, jab.....jab, PUNCH and the occasional
"super" shot.  Without a defense the prosecutor will have a field day.

Sounds boring?  Nothing could be further from the truth. In Tekken 3, you
can select a character and defeat all challengers in a dozen fights. Imagine
being able to select King as a young cub and groom him through the ranks,
building him yourself into a champion fighter capable of the skill, speed,
stamina and special moves to make it to the top. This provides the
satisfaction and lastability that keeps you playing Contender over and over.

Learning the game is fairly simple due to the fact that you initially set
out with only the basic attack and defense moves.  As you progress up the
rankings special abilities are awarded. Diving straight into the options
menu allows you to customize the game modes to suit your ability. Along with
the usual tweaks and turns there are three difficulty settings and an option
to switch on the TKO. A Technical Knockout is awarded if any fighter hits
the canvas three (or five) times in one round.

If you own a Dual Shock controller then the vibration feature may be
activated for purely attacking moves, defensive, or both.  The effect
certainly won't strain a muscle but adds a little to the fun of playing. 
The face buttons offer low and high guards, head and body punches while 
the shoulder buttons allow your boxer to weave the upper part of his body 
to avoid oncoming blows.

There are three modes of play. An Exhibition fight involves single or two
player versus bouts from a selection of ready made boxers. Many will only
become available after you have won a few titles. A Tournament offers you
the choice of several fighters with different attributes. The challenge
being to guide them through the rounds of a knockout competition. 

The real deal is the Road to the World Title. Here you get the chance to
take a budding youngster and groom them into the Champion of the World.
There are eight boxers up for grabs. Weight and speed varies while gut's,
stamina, life, power, endurance and patience are all qualities that are
gained through experience. You are allowed a certain amount of freedom when
choosing your next opponent with four or five possible contenders waiting to
pick a fight with your boxer. Try to pick on someone who is on their way
down the ladder rather than an upcoming new talent who is out to impress.

Now you will probably hit the canvas within a few minutes of the first
round. This will happen over and over again unless you learn from your
defeats. Don't go charging in thrashing away at fresh air. There are two
scale bars at the top of the screen representing strength and stamina.
Should your strength fall below half way then back off and defend until it
has fully recharged. If you receive a blow when your strength is sapped then
it's lights out and the count begins.

As you move up the ranking, you will be shown several lethal combinations by
your personal trainer. First you must work your way up to become the local
champ. This opens up the opportunity to have a crack at the National crown.
Succeed here and the top ten boxers in the world are patiently awaiting you.

After each bout the statistics are shown for punches connected and
knockdowns, while a report of your fight appears on the front page of Boxing

Value for Money

If you don't own a boxing game then Contender will not disappoint. Remember
the rules though: a jab, jab.....jab, jab.....jab, punch.  Or of course, 
you could always get your super punches down pat and go in and maul your 
next victim. 

If you already own the Knockout Kings game, I would still recommend a look
at Contender as it plays totally different and may appeal to you as well.
GRAPHICS: 15/20 Whoa...first we have no boxing games at all for the Playstation during its first 3 years in the States and now we get two over the past few months. First there was that strategy/stat oriented Knockout Kings from EA and now we get an arcade boxer called Contender.

Being the only boxing titles out there right now, of course there will be comparisons drawn between the two. To make things a more easy to distinguish the two apart is the fact that KO Kings is a more accurate boxing simulation with real licensed boxers and Contender is a faster paced arcade action title with fictional characters that duke it out in the ring.

Contender doesn't pull any punches, it just goes right at the opponent and never lets up. As with any arcade style fighter, you get super punches that when used properly can devastate the opposition.

I really enjoyed Contender with its huge variety of fighter's (40) and no nonsense action. The Tournament mode was a blast to play through and the Main Event will really put your boxing skills to the test.

The only drawback is that you really can't create you own fighter which is a shame. Also, due to the fact that this is an arcade style title, there are mixed weight classes AND both sexes fighting it out for the title. A bit unrealistic yes, but a heck of a lot of fun non the less.

The character models are decent but would seem more at home in Tekken then a boxing game. There is also a Mike Tyson look a like in there if you can find him. It's the fighter with the Tribal tattoo bands around both biceps.

Overall, I enjoyed playing Contender...a lot. Once you get into the rhythm you get hooked and just want to keep playing until you demolish all of that stand in your way from becoming World Champion.
SOUND: 7/10
VALUE: 18/20


GRAPHICS: 17/20 Contender is a first class arcade boxing game that differs from the normal crash, bang, wallop of beat-em-ups. I love the way that the smooth motion captured technology allows you to watch your boxer grow in stature.

Be warned as it has a gameplay that grows on you, rather than smacks you straight between the eyes. Still... it's nice to play a fighting game that requires thought and tactics rather than rapid button pressing.
SOUND: 7/10
VALUE: 16/20


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