It is easy to look at games like Fortnite and think that the free-to-play market has reached its peak. Occasionally, however, a game comes along and blows said statement out of the water. One such game is Knockout City, a new cooperative multiplayer title where groups square up against one another through the medium of dodgeball!
Knockout City might sound boring on paper, but it is actually a grand scale player versus player title akin to Rocket League, whereby a seemingly trivial real-life sport is given a cool new video game overhaul. In this sense, Knockout City surpasses expectations. The premise is extremely whacky, with a whole lot of colour and fancy technologies like jumping pads and gameplay gimmicks, feeding off of insanely intricate arenas. The game has no buffs or bonuses (especially those extending to the insidious likes of battle passes), and instead requires players to have at least some skill. Knowledge about the game and its mechanics is an absolute must-have as well, but the game does a good job of teaching players these rules during the first collection of matches.
The topic of skill may sound like a far cry at first, considering all throws pretty much lock onto their targets. However, locking on attackers by no means results in an automatic win. Instead, it is up to any defending player to get a well-timed successful dodge or catch. Doing so not only cheats the throwing player out of their point, but also affords the defender an immediate opportunity to throw an even speedier ball back. It sounds so simple, but truthfully requires a fair amount of skill to accomplish. Catching and throwing (and perhaps even dodging) sound like something people do in games like Apex Legends or Overwatch, but having to compete with upwards of three or four balls at once can be extremely overwhelming. As such, the trick here is to try and isolate enemy players to ensure skill overcomes pure luck.
Matches are all played within small arenas featuring intricately woven paths and level designs. These maps are designed to give players who can think tactically an edge, while also allowing those who prefer to hit the opponent head-on a lot of enjoyment as well. Each player gets two strikes before the opposing team is afforded a point and the player is forced into a respawn. Most matches only last a few minutes, however they offer enough time to learn the layout of arenas and to give players a feel for how to isolate enemies or where to retreat if cornered. It also helps how arenas are designed with solid walls and very obvious objects to put aside any technicalities or arguments about whether or not balls can pass through certain holes. It is clear where players can run and jump and where their balls can go. This aspect of the title is very enjoyable and well thought out. Little is worse than having enemies snipe player characters through the tiniest of holes in games like Apex Legends. Thankfully, there is none of this in Knockout City, and it is very much appreciated.
On top of maps designed to be understood from the get-go, Knockout City also features many different balls. Multi-ball, for instance, works similarly to Mario Kart’s triple shells, while a bomb ball will explode when its timer runs out, making it a nice and sneaky way to take out unsuspecting opponents. Little is as satisfying as teleporting behind enemy lines and catching them off guard with a boomy boi while they are too occupied to dodge or catch it themselves. In this way, it is clear how the game may not be for everyone if given enough time to settle. Knockout City is a brand-new title and a lot of people are already playing it, but like all competitive co-operative multiplayer titles, it will inevitably breed a very serious player base. In this sense, it will be interesting to see how Velan Studious will keep it fresh for new players whilst keeping it hardcore enough for veterans. Only time will tell!
With that said, the sole focus of the game is not just the matches people play. Players can jump into their hideout before all matches. There, the game lets players chat with friends and get some practice in. It is also where the game truly showcases its insane breadth of customisation. All crews have a cool car they can customised (often to extremes). Similarly, player characters also come with a whole lot of options. These include – but are legitimately not limited to – gliders, Knockout (KO) poses, outfits and dyes, and so much more. The developers do need to have some form of a cash flow, however, and the lack of a battle pass does necessitate other avenues. As such, players can also expect a shop in the hideout where real-life money can be spent on a few additional cosmetics. Fortunately, it does not seem like the game has fallen into the trap of not giving penny-pinching players their fair share of cosmetics (there are fourteen pages of hair options alone)!
As I am writing this review, Knockout City is enjoying its first major season of content with a completely new ball type and a whole lot of extra progression methods. Season 1 already gives players a taste of how future game modes will rotate through playlists, while more casual players can still go and select any game mode they deem cool enough to play. The current season also comes with a cool new mode where there are no balls whatsoever. Instead, players have to curl up and act as balls for their team members (a really cool and fun premise).
Contrary to popular belief, Knockout City is not a free to play title. Instead, it is free to play for all Xbox Game Pass Ultimate or EA Play subscribers. It also comes with a 10-day free trial for anyone still on the fence about its $20 USD price tag (which, quite honestly, is a steal considering the incredible gameplay on offer). Paid-for competitive titles do not often come along with such a good price and/or pricing options whilst still managing to surpass all expectations.
Knockout City is a true testament to multiplayer done right. It has all the hallmarks of zany fun while also promising a steady cadence of new and zanier game modes. Games like these always rely on their player bases and Knockout City‘s player base certainly seems to be chugging along quite nicely. This game is wonderful, nay exceptional, simply because there is nothing quite like it. It is unique, manages to be creative, and is genuinely good fun. Simply put: play the game.
|Unlimited customisation!||Overwhelming customisation!|
|Clear-cut arenas are a breath of fresh air||May be off-putting to people who do not like balls|
|BOMB BALL YO|
Title reviewed on Xbox Series X with code supplied by Electronic Arts.