'Don King' boxing game a hair-raising disappointment

While 2K Games' fresh approach to boxing video games with Don King Presents: Prizefighter isn't a bad idea — folding in documentary-style presentation and featuring live-action video clips from legendary fighters and others — the game play itself falls flat on the mat.

Available for the Microsoft Xbox 360, Don King Presents: Prizefighter lets you create a boxer from scratch — by first selecting characteristics such as body type, facial features, skin tone and clothing — and then working your way up from an unknown wannabe to world champ. This career mode involves plenty of training, amateur bouts and securing a promoter to book your prizefights.

If you're good enough, you'll go on to brawl against tougher opponents for a bigger purse, get yourself a better trainer, agent and cut man, and maybe earn the interest of a big-time promoter like Don King himself. You'll go up against 30 of today's best-known boxers from six weight classes (featherweight to heavyweight), plus you'll be asked to fight in the odd classic match as someone else, such as previous champs Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, Larry Holmes or Max Baer.

The game's "behind-the-scenes" concept is a welcome one — including videos from vixens who try to woo you away from training, as well as entertaining antics by the bombastic King — but the game disappoints where it counts the most: in the game play.

Controlling the boxers is quite difficult with an overly complicated button scheme. There are 40 different kinds of punches and techniques to master, many with cumbersome button combinations such as a "step around right body hook" that challenges you to simultaneously press the right button, right trigger and B button while pushing the left stick downward. You'd think that after a few fights the controls would be more intuitive, but the learning curve remained steep and prevented the game from being enjoyable.

What's more, the buttons didn't seem to be responsive, resulting in a slight but noticeable delay between when you press down and when the corresponding action is seen on-screen. In a quick-reflex game like boxing, this shortcoming proves to be a critical flaw. Playing online against human opponents adds additional lag to the game, which makes it even more frustrating.

Despite its attractive graphics, enjoyable video clips, impressive play-by-play commentary and more than 70 licensed songs, Don King Presents: Prizefighter is sure to disappoint because of its burdensome and unresponsive controls.

Hopefully the developers, who are readying a Nintendo Wii version of the game, can work out these kinks before Nintendo gamers climb through the ropes this fall.

Contact Saltzman at gnstech@gns.gannett.com.

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