Floating like a
butterfly and stinging with Ali has never
been more entertaining. Enter the new realm
of video boxing with EA's Knockout Kings
year's boxing battle of the champions consisted
of two very distinctive boxers: Victorious
Boxers and EA's renowned Knockout Kings
2001. But no one would have predicted that
KK would have been forced to throw in the
towel so easily.
Suffering from "molasses
fever", KK was ripped to shreds by the
agile lightweight, Victorious Boxers by
Vivendi Universal. It just simply could
not compete with the fast reflexes and
precision attacks of the newbie boxer.
Well folks, the champ is
back this season and has spent some serious
time in training camp and never before.
Being more physically fit than an over-amped
energizer bunny the game has never looked
better. The fever is gone and KK is ready
to rumble like fixes the problems of before,
but seems to have brought a few new problems
and foremost, the most obvious aspect of
this game that players will immediately
notice is the speed and button response
time of the boxers. While last year's resembled
a colorful snail with arms and legs, this
year's version is just downright fast.
In fact, it's actually a little too fast
for its own good.
The game's control consists of a left and right hook button, jab, right
straight (left straight if using a left handed boxer), block, low block,
special punch, taunt, illegal backhand and an uppercut modifier button.
Uppercut modifier simply combos with the other punch buttons to allow you
to select which arm to throw the uppercut with and how far it reaches (if
you use along with the right straight punch for example).
Button response and player reaction time is extremely
fast as aforementioned. No more of the "press punch button; wait 10 seconds
for punch to execute" routine. You're able to circle the floor, back
away from and draw near to your opponent, bob and weave away from attacks
and rather fluid and lifelike speeds.
Where the game falters, however, is in the punch sequences.
EA fixed the slowness of the players from its predecessor, but possibly
sped up the gameplay a little too fast. There are no delay times between
short punches. Meaning, as fast as you can press the punch equals as
fast as the punch delivers. This is very unrealistic as arms don't retract
back to the shoulder after punches. Instead, they just sort of stay extended
and continually connects with the opponents face.
This becomes very frustrating because this obviously
favors the button-masher. In several bouts I purposely had a partner
just smash on button with his palm (this way he doesn't know what he's
pressing) and when he was doing this he beat the hell out of a player
using strategy with his combos. In conclusion, the game is too button-masher
Certain punches like the special and hook punches take
a little time to execute and retract due to the amount of strength and
reach being put forth into them. But the time it takes to executive,
retract and then executive again is still too short and you can easily
deliver a couple of hook shots to the face without much delay, thus giving
whoever starts the barrage of unrealistic combos first the advantage.
Blocking is rather unique in this game, as it doesn't allow you to hold
the block. For example, in most games, you simply need only to hold the
back button to block for as long as you like. But in KK2002 you are only
allowed to press the block button (no holding). This gives a little strategy
to the game seeing as how you must time the block with the incoming punch.
You don't have to choose a direction to block in this game. Instead, just
time it right and the player will block whatever comes at him no matter
the direction. A nice feature that gives strategy to the game, but seeing
as how the game is a little over-amped in the speed department at least
being able to hold it would have been nice. Or at least hold it for a certain
amount of time.
If you're wondering about the game modes, don't, as they
are rather pointless. But in case you still want to know, the game features
a lack-luster Career and Tournament mode, a decent tutorial (you actually
might want to check this out before playing), and an Exhibition mode,
which is all you'll ever use in this game.
Career mode allows you to create a boxer and start fresh
from the ground up and rise to the top. You gain experience points that
can be used to build up your boxer as you win fights and thus move up
the ladder to fight the champ, which is none other than Muhammad Ali.
Tournament mode is exactly the same minus the building
up the player. Here, you just select one of 45 boxers in lightweight,
middleweight, or heavyweight and enter a charted tournament consisting
of either 4 or 8 boxers (which you can set) to advance to title belt
match. There are a few in-game short cinema sequences before a match
where a ref talks to two heated boxers, but nothing special.
What makes Career mode rather dull is that it's mainly
used along with your created fighter. Well, the Create-A-Player mode
that this game has is very incomplete and the chances of anyone with
similar tastes making a boxer that looks and plays identical to another
is about 75%. You can create a name, choose a nickname from a list, set
his weight (it won't let you go too fat or too thinůso there's no fun
to be had), set your boxer's reach and weight/damage attributes and then
you're done. There are probably less than a dozen or so clothing and
appearance items to choose from. Everything is there and is only available
for you to select from a list. No creativity to be had whatsoever.
To save this, you would have thought that EA would have
allowed you to choose one of the real boxers - like Ali - and start from
the ground up of his career and work your way up the ranks to finally
become "the greatest of all-time." Well, umůno. Sure, you can select
any boxer that you'd like, but they'll start and always remain in the
game with their current stats. Basically, Career mode serves no purpose
and I only found myself playing it once. And that was just for the sake
of the review.
Exhibition and multiplayer in this mode is what this
game is definitely about and I can honestly say is the only thing you'll
be doing in this game. A lack of options everywhere else, and shallow
tournament and career mode make this its only saving grace.
Multiplayer is an absolute blast in this game and is
easily the only thing next to the graphics, music and presentation of
the game that saves it. Pitting button-masher against strategist is extremely
fun since the game favors only two things: 1) the button-masher, or 2)
the player who is boxing with Ali.
And when I say "heavily" favors I mean just that. If
you're a button-masher you have a great chance of winning in this game
and even more so if you're Ali. Now, try pitting Ali up against a button-masher
and watch what happens. The game can only really choose one to favor.
And whom do you think it favors? That's right; the player who's using
Ali. Throw a couple of head blows at a button-masher with Ali and watch
him hit the mat.
For good matches, stay away from using Ali too much (this
also avoids complaints from friends).
By far the best in the series. If you've paid attention to both the PS2
and Xbox version of this game you'll notice that the two actually aren't
that different in their graphical prowess. In fact, they were basically
programmed from the same game engine. The Xbox version only features
better lighting and smoother-skin texture effects. But the PS2 version
is still by far no slouch.
Fighters all share in smooth skin textures and body appearances
seem to be right on cue. No one looks off-balanced or disproportionate
at all in this game. Everyone stands at their correct height and moves
around the ring seemingly in relation to their overall stats and weight.
Bobbing and weaving is rather fluid, but can get a little
jerky since you have to use the analog stick (the same stick that you
use to move your characters) to dodge attacks. Control basically works
like this: push analog stick in direction completely and hold to move
around ring and lightly press in a direction to dodge. This is rather
difficult at first since you actually have to press it extremely light
to do a dodge. Learning can become a little complicated, so it's best
to experiment with the controls for a bit or adjust the sensitivity in
the game's option menu.
Facial animations are easily the most identifiable in
the game. Boxer's react facially to blows and even swell up from repeated
attacks. Mouth pieces fly out all over the place, spit and sweat flies
off of the faces from the crush shot, and the ropes bounce around as
fighters fly into them (although they seem to be a little over-exaggerated).
It all looks incredible really.
Crowds are comprised of your standard new-generation
sprites with repeated gestures and grainy textures. But you won't be
paying too much attention to them anyway. Arena's look great (a total
of 8 in all) and the in-game replays are full-on action replays that
only enhances the graphical experience. Nice indeed.
Like other EA Sports greats, the music is by far one of the most entertaining
around. Listening to the crisp sounds of LL Cool J and other bass-pumping
hard rock and rap beats fits the sports' level of intensity rather
In-game sound is another story though. Crowds are rather
quiet on the front side of things and need to be a little louder. They
don't support the game as they should. Punches all sound somewhat similar
to the next and this becomes a little more apparent in the replays as
everything in the background is drowned out by only what happens in the
ring. A nice effect, but could pack a little more punch (no pun intended).
It's not too bad, but it's also not anything that you
wouldn't have all ready become accustomed to hearing it other fighting
titles, or possibly even last year's version.
For being button-masher friendly and suffering from uninspiring Career
and Tournament modes, the game still somehow manages to end up as a
rather top-notch boxer. This game is definitely for the multiplayer
and that's what makes it enjoyable. If you're looking for solo-play
action then you definitely need to look elsewhere. Otherwise, you'll
be seriously disappointed.
Too bad there was no 'bite-ear-off' illegal move in the game...
Knockout Kings 2002: The Scores
If it weren't for the shallow solo-play aspects, Knockout
Kings 2002 would have easily seen a higher score. The
game is still extremely enjoyable though, but as aforementioned,
this lies in its multiplayer fields of the game. Get
this game for its multiplayer if nothing else. But if
you're looking for some solo career action then you'd
better check out Victorious Boxers.