'Ready 2 Rumble' adds punch with celeb parodies

The Hoff was not hassled at all when Atari chose to parody him in their new comic boxing video game, Ready 2 Rumble Revolution.

In fact, after being approached by publisher Atari, Baywatch star David Hasselhoff is helping promote the game for Nintendo's Wii (rated Teen, ages 13-up, $40) despite its less-than-flattering portrayal of him.

"I just thought it was the funniest caricature I had ever seen," Hasselhoff says. "My agents and manager said, 'You can't do this. This is demeaning. They have you overweight and you have a bra line.' And I said, 'Yes, I know. Isn't it great?' ... Besides that, I get free Wiis for the family."

Hasselhoff is one of 18 characters, most of them based loosely on celebrities as diverse as Will Ferrell and Justin Timberlake. "There's a character called Fight Clubber, and when you look at it, it is totally Brad Pitt, and character called Hilarious D is clearly Jack Black in the School of Rock garb," says Craig Harris of entertainment news site IGN.com. "They are clearly bringing out (recognizable) characters."

That's a slight departure from the 1999 original, released by Midway for the Sega Dreamcast, with make-believe, over-the-top characters such as Afro Thunder and "Raging" Rivera. The series gets its name from ring announcer Michael Buffer's "Let's get ready to rumble" mantra, which is heard in the game.

This Ready 2 Rumble does deliver some play styles from the original, including championship mode. And characters can still build up their rumble meters to deliver extra-strength Street Fighter-like combos. There's also an expanded create-a-boxer mode and multiple unlockable characters and player accessories.

Atari producer Todd Slepian says the game aims for the casual crowd as well as hard-core fight fans. "It's very easy to pick up and play," he says. "But there's a lot of depth to the game, and there's really the sweet science of boxing if you take time to discover it."

Hasselhoff sees Rumble as a party game. "A lot of people are going to want to knock out the Hoff. I don't know why, but I don't really care. It's a lot of fun."

This isn't Hasselhoff's first game parody. He appeared as a playable character last fall in the expansion pack for Pain, a downloadable game for the PS3 that lets you catapult characters and attempt to smash the environment. "I got to do all the voices for that, like, 'Oh no, not the face!' That was fun," he says.

In addition to finishing an album that he describes as "Emerson, Lake and Palmer meets pop opera," Hasselhoff, 56, is on tour starting May 17 in Sacramento (itinerary at hasselhoff.com). He is also in negotiations to return as a judge on NBC's America's Got Talent this summer.

And he's talking to Atari about developing his own game. "The games now make as much as or more than a blockbuster motion picture," he says. "A full-blown script comes in and it's great. ... You are in the game."

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