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reviews

Knockout Kings 2002


Developer
Black Ops

Publisher
EA Sports

Genre
Sports

Players
1 - 2

ESRB
T

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 2002.

INTRODUCTION

Last 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 with it.

Gameplay

First 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 friendly.

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).

Graphics
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.

Sound
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 well.

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.

Conclusion
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.

Dameon White
Too bad there was no 'bite-ear-off' illegal move in the game...

Knockout Kings 2002: The Scores

Graphics

Sound

Gameplay

Depth

Presentation

Overall

8.5

7.0

8.0

6.0

7.5

7.5


The Final Word:  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.


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