Knockout Kings - X-Box Review
June 7th, 2004
Boxing is called the Sweet Science. I never knew why until I played this game. The only way to describe the feeling of landing that knockout blow is sweet. And there is a lot more strategy to it than one might think. Especially since almost all other previous boxing games have been glorified button mashers. Except for Punch Out. That game was truly ahead of its time. A rhythm action boxing kinda game. But I'm not here to talk about Punch Out. Knockout Kings finally introduces strategy to boxing games. Giving a player total control over his boxer's arms is a masterstroke. Now you can have feints. You can trick your opponent into blocking low and landing a crushing blow to his chin.
Boxers can now dodge and bob and weave. They can rope a dope. They can deflect blows and launch into counters quick as a cat. Or a bee.
But that is not what sold me on this game. What makes this game, what puts it on the top of the heap, lording over all other boxing games (Punch Out included) are the knockouts. They just look brutal. Painful. Unpleasant. They elicit laughter and applause and "oh no oh no... ouch!" The jabs look a little weak, but laying someone out with an uppercut, or a special brings a smile to the lips. The replays are just gravy on the garlic mashed.
The replays wouldn't be as rewarding if the graphics weren't so pretty. The licensed boxers all look like their real life counterparts and the created boxers look pretty okay as well. They move around and throw their soup bones around in a very convincing manner. But there could be more variety. All jabs look the same. All punches look the same. Except for the specials and there aren't all that many of those to choose from. And the create a boxer needs more options. Like hairy chests.
The sound is the glaring weak spot of this game. The punches all sound great. The grunts and wheezes are just fine. The sound of shoes on canvas: likewise. But the announcing is retarded. Instead of getting anyone who has anything to do with boxing, EA instead used a VJ from BET. That's just insulting. Boxing has been around a lot longer than rap. I don't hate rap, but I think the announcer in this game is atrocious and all the musical choices save one are annoying. There are people out there who like rap but hate Puff Daddy. I'll get to the music in a bit, I want to get back to the announcing. An announcer like... Tigger? I think that's what he calls himself... would be fine for Def Jam Vendetta, or NFL Street or NBA Street. Because those are arcade games. The Street style announcing in the Street games makes sense, adds to the flavour. DJ Cucumber Slice is one of the best things about NBA Street. But What if they used him in an actual basketball simulation game? People would be pissed off. What if EA replaced Madden with Biggie Smalls? Mass hysteria. SO why did they think throwing some generic street personality into their "boxing simulation" would be just fine? And why are there less than ten music choices in this game? And you have to pay for all but 2 of them? There's no fucking way in god damn hell that I am ever, under any circumstance, going to pay money, even virtual videogame money for a fucking Puff fucking Daddy song. This is the god damn X Box, why can't I use my own music for my own entrance music? Because EA is Fucking Lazy. They spend no time optimizing their games for the different platforms. Hence no hard drive music and the way too long loading times.
Fuck Puff Daddy. Fuck him in his stupid fucking ass.
Luckily, the control in this game makes up for a lot. It takes a while to get used to, but it soon becomes second nature. I'll assume that you know how this game works by now so I'll skip the basics and just cut to the chase: it works like a dream. Having to skilled players face off is a thing of beauty. And for those that just can't wrap their minds around not mashing buttons like morons, there are other controller configurations available. There are only a few problems with the control of the game. There's no way to lock up. I understand why it's not in the game, but it IS a part of boxing so the option should be there. When you start playing, standing 8 counts and saved by the bell are not enabled. Why? This is supposedly the best recreation of the sport of boxing, all the rules of boxing should be in effect right off the bat.
Also, there only seems to be two types of computer opponents; the bruiser and the pussy. The Bruiser stands toe to toe with you and trys to pummel you to death. The Pussy spends nine tenths of the match running away from you. I hate those fraidy cats. But it is very satisfying to knock them out. Or to beat them via decision.
But still, even though EA seems to not have much respect for the sport of boxing, they managed to pretty much nail the art of boxing. It's brutally good. It just feels good to duck under a punch and then land a good solid hit to the chin, to see your foe's limbs go limp as they fall to the canvas, to pummel your opponent's limp body as they try to fall down but are stuck in a corner(my record? 2 hooks, 2 uppercuts and a jab. I giggled like a schoolgirl as I did it). Or, the best of all, the lucky hit. The punch that downs an enemy even though he had plenty of fight left in him. My record? One punch. I downed a man, a heavyweight champion, with one punch. My first punch. Not even P Diddy can take that from me.