Knockout City Review | Surprise Hit

Knockout City Review

I will be the first to admit that when the Knockout City trailer premiered during The Game Awards last year, I didn't give it much thought. And because of that, I didn't participate in any of the beta tests that happened in the lead-up to the launch of the game. In fact, it wasn't until I read Alexa's article on the game releasing on Friday that I realized the game was not free-to-play. Though if you are reading this within ten days of May 21, you can pick up the game for free and play it until May 30 with no paywalls. Over the last two days, I have been playing a lot of Knockout City and despite not planning on writing a review for the game, after so many great throws and KOs I had to share my thoughts.

Knockout City is set in a near-future dystopian city and tells the story of a teenage boy who is sent to compete in a dodgeball battle to the death for public amusement. Nah, I'm just joking. Knockout City doesn't have a story, it simply places you into a Hideout where you can hang out and practice some moves before heading into multiplayer matches. The first season of the game starts on May 25, so for now all the matches are purely for fun, though that doesn't mean they aren't intense.

Explaining the gameplay loop of Knockout City is rather simple. At the start of the match, two teams of three are dropped into the map. The two teams rush at one another and try to knock each other out with dodge balls found around the map. Two hits and you're out. Ten outs and the team wins the round. Two rounds win the match. There are also special dodge ball spawns each match that changes how the balls function. One lets you throw multiple dodge balls back to back, while another turns your opponent into a ball, ready to be picked up and thrown off the map. You use the right trigger to throw, hold to charge throw, and the left trigger to catch. You can jump, tackle, and glide around the map to get to or away from enemies. If you really wanted you can even turn yourself into a ball and have a teammate throw you as a projectile.

Knockout City Review

The controls are easy to learn and it doesn't take more than a few minutes in the Hideout to grow comfortable with them. Before long I was clipping my favorite plays of the game as I learned to chain attacks or work with my teammates to effectively knock out an enemy. The game has only been out for a few days but I am sure as we continue there will be clips surfacing of crazy dodgeball combos or John Wick style 1 v 3 dodgeball encounters. And while it will take a bit to master the timing of Knockout City, thanks to auto-aim, precision is not a factor in how you play. Meaning you don't have to have a mouse with a high DPI or tape a little dot at the center of your screen to be able to hit your shots. To be honest the only real hurdle to playing Knockout City are the unintuitive menus that present information in a convoluted manner.

There are several different game modes in the game, though you can only play Team KO until you hit Street Rank 5. After that, you have access to Diamond Dash, Party Team KO, and Face-Off. Team KO is what I have been describing so far. Diamond Dash has you knock out opponents to pick up Diamonds. 30 Diamonds win the Round and two rounds win the match. Party Team KO is a chaotic mode that plays the same as Team KO but all the balls are special balls. Lastly, Face-Off is the only non-3v3 mode because it pits two players against each other head-on. Other than Face-off, I have played a fair amount of all the other game modes and though Team KO is my go-to, they all do a great job of keeping things fresh.

Except for the menu screens, the presentation in Knockout City is vibrant and clean. All five maps available currently in the game are tight and well designed, leaving ample room for straight-on dodgeball fights and Wanted style curve-the-dodgeball-around-a-corner moments. Rooftop Rumble and Galaxy Burger are my personal favorite so far with Concussion Yard easily being my least favorite. The game does have lots of customization options as well, allowing you to fully customize your character's look and the moves they pull off at the beginning and end of each round. Consequently, there is an in-game store where players can purchase items using real-world currency but the game makes it very clear that they are purely cosmetic and don't impact in-game performance. Unless of course, you play better when you look cool. The gameplay is also accompanied by an energetic score, that plays via KO City Radio during each match, and satisfying BOINGs of dodgeballs as they bounce around.

Knockout City Review

I do want to touch on something I think is important with a game like Knockout City; longevity. A few years ago, Ready at Dawn, the developers of The Order: 1886, released Deforemers, a physics-based multiplayer brawler, much like Knockout City, that was published by GameStop. The game was released as a budget title, for the price of $30. I had a great time with Deformers, but soon the game's lobbies went empty. A year after release, the developers announced that the game would be shutting down as it was no longer financially viable to continue. I really hope that isn't the case with Knockout City. Velan Studios has a fun game on their hands and if it's supported consistently, could have a strong community behind it. From what the developers have revealed so far, it seems the game will have new content each season, including new maps and modes, and all that will be available at no additional cost.

Knockout City is a surprisingly fun arena battler with simple mechanics that make it easy to pick up and play, though perfecting the timing of those mechanics will take practice. That being said, the future of the game will depend on how Velan Studios handles content drops over the next few months as the content in the base game at launch can only be fun for so long. However, I will admit that after hours of playing the game over the last few days I have not reached the breaking point. Knockout City is out now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC. The game is also playable on PS5 and Xbox Series X|S via backwards compatibility. Even if you have the slightest doubt about the game, go and download the free Block Party before the end of May and give it a go. The base game costs $19.99 and the Deluxe version is $10 more at $29.99. I have seen people stating that the game should be a free-to-play title and though I don't think that's entirely necessary at the moment, I wouldn't be surprised if it becomes free-to-play in six months to a year with some sort of cosmetic paywall. For more information on Knockout City, check out our release day coverage.

Knockout City | 8 | Great

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