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This week Matt is inducted into the Versus arena in a trial by fire. Two time Versus champion, Sarah, shows him around the ring in Contender, a game that adds insult to injury. The best of 15 death match was a painful set of 60 two minute rounds, and in the end it's unlikely either of these console gladiators will ever again load what may possibly be the worst boxing game ever created.

9 wins

For the first time ever, I actually kicked Matt’s ass at any sort of video game. Winning was the most exciting aspect of Contender, and I think that Matt may have been so bored with it that he lost all will to play to win. But it’s not as though I liked the game any more than he did. I have more fun with the punching bag in my garage than I had playing Contender, and my punching bag seemed to be a better simulation of a boxer then any of the games characters. I have fond memories of Nintendo 8’s Mike Tyson Punch-Out, and I was excited to see another boxing game on the market. After playing 15 very long matches, I can say that I still lust for Tyson's Punch-Out. At least in Punch-Out there were unique, if a little cartoony, boxing opponents like King Hippo, Bald Bull, and Mike Tyson himself.

I was very disappointed in the graphics and sounds. Maybe I was hoping for too much. I wanted to hear the smack and crunch of hard hits and see welts and sweat on the boxer’s faces. The boxers didn’t make so much as an "oomph" when they were hit with the strongest of blows. As for the duel shock, I nominate Contender for the worst use of vibration so far this year; steady, constant, and handnumbing vibration. The control was so slow I had time to eat chips and get drinks in the middle of a game (try that with Tekken).

The characters were almost all the same, with some women and racial stereotypes throw in for good measure. I know that part of the game is making a boxer and, through fighting her, make her better, but I really can’t see anyone wanting to invest that much time in this game. I can’t decide who this game was meant for; it's surely not the fighting game junkies, as there ultra fast reflexes are more of a hinderance than a help when playing Contender, and it's not for boxing fans – with no blood, sweat, or tears, Contender pales in comparison to the real thing. If you’re a boxing fan that wants to experience some of the action at home, I suggest a punching bag over this game – it’s cheaper, more fun, and more realistic.

-- Sarah Wichlacz


The Rundown




Play Modes

4 (in versus mode)


Apparently, the idea is to build your boxer as you fight seasons. In reality, there are few characters, bad graphics, horrible sound, awful game play, and an incredibly ugly interface. This is a good disc to hang from your rearview mirror.


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6 wins

Midway through the tournament I realized that Sarah would knock me down a notch. Instead of using skill, we both relied upon sneaking what punches we could past our defenses, leading to a versus match dependant upon who could tap the buttons faster. I contribute my shameful defeat to my inability to adapt to Contender's slow pace and lack of versatality in characters (there are only four).

Unfortunately, the best way to make it through the rounds is either a) try for a T.K.O (we had it set at three) or b) crowd your opponent into a corner or against the ropes and just keep punching. Contender's special moves lack in design and efficiency. Yes, they're good when you actually can land one, but the process between engaging a move to its completion is too slow-it allows for your opponent to pummel you mid-way through. It seems the only time a special move works is when the round first starts.

If you can play it well enough you can get a T.K.O. early into the round, then block and jab the rest of the time to beat your opponent via the point route.

As for combos, the only ones that really cropped up during our versus match is the classic 1-2-3 move. Of coure, I started to really upon this more than the specials. It allowed me to at least bring the win-loss number closer together.

Contender verges on being a boxing sim, but not enough to make it worth anyone's time. The boxers don't sweat. There's no sound effects of fists hitting flesh. No blood flies. When a T.K.O actually does occur the boxers merely drop to the mat instead of flying into the ropes, corner or air. Finally, the last straw for me is finding no cheap shot moves, something I think all fighting style games need.

Contender offers no sense of the real (my disbelief is not suspended, more I keep watching the clock wondering when we'll finish the 15 matches). For me Mike Tyson's Punchout still remains the best boxing game. It would have been nice to bite an ear off in Contender, but all you really can do is punch, punch and punch.

-- Matt Baldwin