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access_time June 3, 2021 at 6:00 AM in Reviews by David Poole

Review | Knockout City

It’s always interesting to see a new title from the EA Originals lineup. We’ll often get breakout titles like Fe or It Takes Two, giving developers the chance to get a wide release. The newest EA Original comes from Velan Studios, the developer of Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit. Moving away from the augmented reality space, the developer shifts gears with an online multiplayer title with Knockout City. While seeing the title reminded me of Rocket Arena, it seems like things are moving in a better direction for Knockout City.

The goal of Knockout City is to enter one of several arenas to compete for dodgeball supremacy. This includes various team modes as well as free-for-all matches, each offering something a bit different. Players will create their character with several preset options, and they’ll unlock more over time as they level up. There is no story here. Only the five D’s of dodgeball: dodge, duck, dip, dive, and dodge! Of course, this being a video game, we also get depth with additional gameplay mechanics. As simple as the game looks, this is one incredibly deep multiplayer experience.

Knockout City is incredibly easy to pick up, but full of creative strategies. Players will run around the map and pick up dodgeballs of various types, using the right trigger to throw them. If you hold down the trigger, it charges the throw to make it faster. Throws get even more complex when performing tricks in the air, allowing curve balls and lobs as well. These tricks also give players the ability to get extra jumps, increasing mobility on the map. Players can even use hang gliders to glide through the air.

Things get real interesting when you end up on the defensive side. Not only are you able to dodge (which doubles as an effective tackle), but you’ll also be able to catch thrown balls. Timing is key, as the window for catching an incoming ball is limited. Brace for impact too early or too late, and you’ll take a hit. If you catch it, or even make a perfect catch, then you can turn the tables on your opponent. Of course, these rules apply to them as well, so you’ll have to catch them off guard. This can be with the help of an extra teammate, or even using feint throws.

One of the more interesting features is the ability to roll into a ball yourself. If you roll into a ball near an ally, you can become an emergency projectile to utilize. If your teammate charges you, then you can even unleash an ultimate attack that delivers an instant KO. It’s an interesting concept, but it does work well in practice. There’s even a mode specifically for it, though the strategies get real interesting here when opponents start catching you and throwing you off buildings. You can mash buttons to get free, but if you’re not fast enough, you can end up in a nasty predicament. One of the special balls, the cage ball, even forces you to go into ball mode.

Speaking of special balls, there’s plenty of types of special orbs to utilize in the game. From the fast and deadly sniper ball to the gravity defying moon ball, the game can easily change depending on the special ball chosen for the match. Some modes, like Party Team KO, even make all the balls special. If you can master these special balls, then you can make for a formidable opponent. Of course, the true key to success is teamwork.

Knockout City puts players in 3-on-3 or even 4-on-4 multiplayer dodgebrawls. While you can often get by or even carry your team to victory, working well together makes for a more enjoyable experience. If you find true teammates, then it’s best to form a crew. Being part of a crew means you can earn special crew cosmetics as well. You’ll earn these rewards on top of your regular rewards through leveling up, making your avatar incredibly flashy. Leveling up can also help to earn Holobux, the in-game currency for purchasing even more cosmetics. While you can buy them with your hard earned real money, you can actually earn it all just by playing and completing contracts.

Contracts are special missions that have players fulfilling certain requests. These missions can be anything like tackling a certain amount of opponents, or even completing a set number of matches. Finishing contracts can earn a lot of Holobux and experience, and helps to make progress a breeze in the game. You can even earn style chips to give yourself more options with the cosmetics. For a game with a lower price tag, but still utilizing microtransactions, this is at least manageable. You can spend money if you want, but the game is perfectly enjoyable with just the price of admission.

Perhaps one of the best things going for the game is the fact it offers cross-platform play. With PlayStation, Xbox, Switch and PC all able to play together, you’ll always have people to play with. Thankfully the game seems to be popular enough to give a large pool of players to work with. You’ll have the standard casual matches as well as ranked play, which helps to make things even more competitive. For a brand new IP with a unique approach to the shooter genre and accessible options, Knockout City can easily stand out among other titles like Splatoon or Spellbreak.

When it comes to presentation, the game offers a unique cartoon style that’s colorful and full of life. The various arenas are diverse and offer fun gimmicks to help them bring something different to the table. I personally love the Concussion Yard with the level of vertical options and the giant wrecking ball. Even Galaxy Burger offers a fun map with a rotating element to it to make players adapt on the fly. It seems the team at Velan Studios isn’t done offering new maps for the players either. As for the music, it’s catchy and offers some great tunes to enjoy dodgebrawling with.

Overall, Knockout City is a blast to play. It offers a unique dodgeball game that’s easy to jump into and have a good time. It takes a little time to get the timing right, but once you get used to catching and master the different ball types, you can dominate the playing field. It’s even better when you get a crew together to take on the world. With a bright and colorful visual style, addicting gameplay, and plenty of people to play with, Knockout City seems to be a smash hit.

Final Score: 9 out of 10

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