Oi, Kid! You think you got what it takes to make it big on these streets? To survive in our world? Didn’t your mummy tell you it’s dangerous to mess with tough guys like us?
This city is our battlefield, and you either got balls - or get knocked out…
So anyway, if you want to join our dodgeball social club, there’s an entrance fee of $19.99 unless you’ve got the Xbox Game Pass or EA Play Subscription. We’ve got a free sampler course that runs from the 21st of May until the 30th... Terry brought some of his brownies for the next dodgeball meet ‘n’ greet!
In this underground society, life revolves around turf wars of dodging balls in extreme underground “Dodgebrawl” matches across the metropolis known asKnockout City. It’s evident that Knockout City is heavily influenced by its contemporaries, as it feels a lot like an amalgamation of other competitive online team-based games that have only grown more popular over the last decade.
There’s not a lot of dodgeball representation in videogames as it is. And being a 3D third-person Action ‘Shooter’ (of sorts!), Knockout City has the ball in its court in terms of its premise. A standard round of “Dodgebrawl” goes as follows: get hit by a ball twice in one life and you get knocked out, every knockout equals 1 point to the opposing team. First to 10 KO’s wins the round, best of 3 wins the game, with rounds capped to 5 minutes. Though it’ll take some practice to effectively use the tools at to your disposal, once you get to grips with it, the game’s potential broadens with you and your teammates’ skill.
The controls are far from complicated: just walk over the ball to pick it up, hold the throw button to charge your shot, have your reticle auto-lock to your rival, and release. Your best bet when a ball is heading your way is to catch it - a red vignette will warn you of danger, with a lump that lines the border indicating the direction of the oncoming attack. It becomes a matter of timing to use the catch button on time, but you can’t just spam it frequently - there’s a cooldown so the duel doesn’t turn into a game of room-temperature potato.
It’s not all throwing and catching though; curving the ball, lobbing the ball, gliding, last-minute dodging and tackling add some spice to the basic gameplay. Three of my favourite additions are Fake Throws, Passing, and “Balling Up”: the latter of which sees your character tuck and roll into a ball, allowing your teammates to use you as a dodgeball and vice versa! It is a bit overpowered though - Landing a hit on an enemy with a balled-up teammate is an instant KO.
The best moments are in the one-on-one brawls within the wider battle around you. Reading your rivals’ moves, the taunting and fake-outs, manoeuvring around each other to gain any and all advantages was like a fast-paced version of Chivalry.
Though movement isn’t always great - at times feeling sluggish when just traversing the map and finicky when attempting to tackle enemies.
Let’s talk balls for a second. Other than our trusty rubberised ruby dodgeball, and becoming the ball, there are five special balls available as of writing:
- Bomb Ball: which turns that aforementioned room-temperature potato into a hot one!
- Cage Ball: where once again YOU become the ball, but unwillingly so
- Moon Ball: giving you gravitational advantages and disadvantages one can expect being on the Moon!
- Sniper Ball: a speedy, precise dart of a ball that can be sent from across the map
- Multi Ball: the best ball - carry three balls to overwhelm your opponents with and supply your team members with some ball-ammo!
As of launch, the gametypes (known as “Playlists”) are limited to four: Team KO, Party Team KO (all special balls available), Face-Off (a 1v1 version of the standard variant), and Diamond Dash (a 3v3 battle of KO’ing your opponents to collect diamonds and depositing them at your base). With the promise of new modes, maps, and content after launch (Ball-Up Brawl being available on the 25th of May), there’s not much in the way of diverse gametypes yet.
I was able to play five of the six maps (the sixth map “Jukebox Junction” to be available on release), and similarly with the gamemodes - these weren’t diverse enough to stick in the mind, nor did they warrant a longer stay in Knockout City. Though each map had their own quirk: Rooftop Rumble having two opposing team zones with a bridge in the middle, and Galaxy Burger being a circular inclosed diner with revolving platforms and walls for temporary low level and upper level access - maps felt indistinguishable with one another, and most of the time were too big for 3v3 games.
I will say that Concussion Yard stood out the most, and for good reason. The action flowed best on this map, using evaluation and open-ended rooms for engaging combat moments - the construction site had familiar echoes of the Halo 3 map “The Pit”.
I’ve mentioned a few positive similarities to other franchises by way of gameplay; however the presentation and visual design of Knockout City makes it feel more like Knock-off City. The identity of the original game is lost underneath a thick layer of trendy character combat titles with that Pixar-sheen: Your Team Fortress 2’s, Sunset Overdrive’s, Overwatch’s, Fortnite’s… they all have a similar art style - but very distinct worlds.
Knockout City falls into the Fortnite zoomer focus-grouped miasma where the likes of Destruction AllStars and Rocket Arena dwell, which is a shame as underneath that smooth matte plastic veneer is a distinctively intriguing retro-futuristic rockabilly charm.
Glimpses of artwork tucked away as assets in the menus and stylistic choices for the environments, music, and characters highlight the talent of the design team; however, the overall utopian dieselpunk-ish theme was too subtle for what is extensively a loud game.
Where Knockout City falls short on enhancing its inherent uniqueness, I'm grateful that there are some quality of life amendments present that should be standard in all games of its ilk by now. “The Hideout” being a lobby area to practise your moves and mess about while you wait for the matchmaking gods to send you into battle, as well as crossplay and cross-progression enabled from day one.
On the surface, Knockout City seems like another generic team-based action game that saturates the marketplace - and I don’t blame you for thinking as such; presentation is important! But beneath the Fortnite aesthetics and the roadmap of promised content lies a solid mechanic of ball-dodgin’ and dodge-brawlin’.
Knockout City (Reviewed on Windows)
Game is enjoyable, outweighing the issues there may be.
On the right map with the right team, you’ll encounter some fantastic PVP moments. Though tonally it’s more miss than hit, Knockout City is at least worth trying out; but without much variety of content as of review, I'd wait until the game reaches its potential.