Ringside boos & bravos

Nov 29, 2000 at 12:00 am

It screams attention, like The Godfather: Part 2 — or so Midway would like the unsuspecting player to believe. But viewing “Ready to Rumble Boxing: Round 2” with even one eye open will reveal its shortcomings most effortlessly, making a Godfather 3 comparison a bit more appropriate (you know, the critically bashed box-office crumb).

First, 13 all-new characters, including five added celebrity boxers — such as Michael Jackson — are introduced in an opening sequence to gawk at. Sure, they have humorous names like Wild “Stubby” Corley (a freak rodeo rider with “the Fastest Jab of the West”) and Mama Tua (a 400-pound, cleavage-pouring housewife), but after you finally pick up the PlayStation 2 controller, a world of frustration will bloom.

A virtually impossible ladder of mean, knock-’em-out-of-the-ring bouts plague “Round 2” — coupled with the most defunct button-pressing aggravation since the PS2 version of “Unreal Tournament.” Minus the game’s stellar graphics, “Round 2” definitely collapses far from the gaming Hall of Fame. Its box copy rambles, “Improved Single Player AI — Smarter, Harder and Faster!” Apparently, the artificial intelligence of “Ready to Rumble” went berserk during the creation of this sequel — causing “Round 2” to suffer from digitized internal bleeding.

But, rest assured, disappointed gamers can find pleasure in the spirited return of the “Tekken” arcade crew. When PS2 rocked Japanese retail waves in March, one of the first titles to sell was, of course, the iron fist combat romp, “Tekken Tag Tournament” — with substantial reason.

But since it is a first-generation launch title, “Tekken Tag” does boast a few inevitable flaws, too. This fighter suffers more from 3-D environment confusion than any other title (i.e. the foreground and background aren’t properly laced together, creating the illusion of an incessantly rotating horizon). And each character’s movement may seem a bit stale around the edges — meaning prepatterned or a tad less fluent than “Dead or Alive: Hardcore.”

Yet, more than 2000 moves can be used when tousling with 34 various street warriors — and “Tekken Tag” may be the only great party game this year for PS2, offering up to four players the ability to clash.

Ah, the smell of fresh, ringside blood in the morning …

Jon M. Gibson investigates the triumphs — and pitfalls — of games and other technological poundcakes. E-mail him at [email protected].