The review of Knockout City, the new EA Original game that offers a particular reinterpretation of dodgeball.
Knockout City it is a unique place of its kind: here weapons have never even been invented and there are no conflicts as we know them. Among the alleys of this “peaceful” and colorful town, however, the members of numerous crews roam who love to play at war and solve every little friction with a volley. All the accounts are in fact settled in a kind of crazy reinterpretation of the dodgeball (sport that here in Italy is known as the poison ball) in which even the participants can be thrown on enemies like balls.
This is how the very personal vision of this sport is born Velan Studios, a team little known to the public but which boasts in its curriculum a pearl like Mario Kart Live Home Circuit (here is our review of Mario Kart Live Home Circuit). This small software house, led by the brothers Guha and Karthik Balai, has been working in Knockout City for the past four years and has managed to carry on the project thanks to the support of Electronic Arts, a company that has welcomed the game among its own EA Originals.
A few days after the release, we had the opportunity not only to thoroughly test all the content arriving on day one, but the developers have also allowed us to get in touch with some of the new features planned for Season 1 of Knockout City. Let’s find out if this new sport has all the credentials to become popular among gamers and explode in a similar way to what happened a few years ago with Rocket League.
The Game of the Ball
Just like the Psyonix title, too Knockout City is a difficult product to fit into a specific genre, since it is in all respects a mixture of an arcade sportsman, a fighting game and a third person shooter. From each of the genres listed above, the title of Velan Studios absorbs some mechanics and proposes it in a profoundly different way. The two teams, made up of three players, basically have to take the ball by accumulating KOs and, to do so, they can use any means at their disposal.
It is already from here that the first peculiarities of the Knockout City gameplay begin to emerge, since each arena is sprinkled with “spawn points” of the balls, numerous and belonging to various types: we have the Ball-Moon which alters gravity for the wielder, the Sniper Ball which is almost impossible to avoid due to speed and range and many other special balls whose use also requires a different approach to the game. Even the players can ball up and end up in the hands of an ally to be used as a traditional sphere or for turn into a lethal bomb which knocks out anyone who ends up in its range. Whichever object is used, hitting the target is incredibly simple thanks to the automatic hooking system, which makes Knockout City the perfect example of a game that is simple to learn but complex to master. Whether it is perfect saves, passes or loaded shots, the mechanics can be learned even by a child, but to grasp every single nuance of the gameplay and take advantage of the feints (very fun to use) or shots from unpredictable trajectories such as the lob requires a lot of practice. .
The same collaboration between players is an element that Knockout City pushes a lot, since the passes are not essential to KO an enemy, but can increase the level of Overcharge, a mechanic that makes the ball launch faster and therefore limits the possibility of blocking by the enemy.
The real potential of the game emerges above all in the mode Team KO Party, that is the one in which you can use only and exclusively special balls belonging to a specific category.
During a game, for example, we happened to be able to hit opponents only using the Balls-Cage, which transform the goal into a ball for a few seconds: since it was a game in which the balls could not knock out the rivals, we had to work with imagination and not only we rolled up to be thrown at the opponents, but in many cases we have caged the other players and then made them fly beyond the confines of the arena, so as to send them to the mat. This is just one of the playlist alternatives that the development team will introduce weekly and completely free, just like all future maps and special balls.
Among the various modes available, in addition to the classic one and Team KO Party, we also find the 1 vs 1 duel and a sort of Call of Duty-style Confirmed Kill, Race to the Diamonds, where knocked out enemies drop precious items to accumulate. There is also a competitive mode, the League, which will arrive a few days after launch and could prove to be one of the most interesting also because of the timed rewards that will encourage many players to participate.
If properly orchestrated, the free post-launch support it will guarantee the game always new contents with the aim of fueling the interest of the public in the long run. In this regard, it must be considered that the arrival of a new sphere or a new map can have a rather important impact on the play routines, since each arena is not distinguished from the others only by the aesthetic aspect but also by a gameplay that distinguishes it: Vicolo delle Risse for example, it proposes ducts through which to move quickly from one place to another instead Thundering Roofs is full of air currents that players can use to move with the hang glider, a tool supplied to any user. As things stand, however, we must note that the maps represent one of the weaknesses of Knockout City, as not all of them offer mechanics that really influence the style of play and, more generally, these are places characterized by a anonymous design and who know they have already seen.
Goodbye Battle Pass
If in terms of content the basic package seems to be more than convincing, the plan for post-launch support should also live up to expectations: Knockout City will embrace the philosophy of the seasons but will not implement any type of Season Pass and all the contents can be unlocked for free.
The many (and crazy) options for customization they are only partially linked to microtransactions, dedicated only to players with little patience: it is enough to gain experience and complete challenges to get in-game currency, XP boosts and skins. The peculiarity of this system is that The unlock order of costumes and accessories is random, but that by reaching the maximum level everyone can achieve everything.
To kick off the dances will be there Season 1, the beginning of which is set for the next May 25, a few days after the release of the game. On the occasion of the launch of the first season the title will welcome a new map called Action station and a series of little extras among which we find the competitive mode, i crew contracts and the first weekly playlists. This is just the beginning, as the developers have already promised other news coming by the end of Season 1, which will last nine weeks like all those that will arrive in the future. In short, the developers therefore have very clear ideas on how to support the project and keep it alive for a long time.
Two shots with the crew
Such a product does not live only on content and gives its best when played in the company of friends. In this regard, it seems that the development team has understood the importance of this factor and has decided to place great emphasis on social functions. Plus the ability to train with friends in an interactive called lobby Hideout, Knockout City indeed includes the possibility of form a Crew and periodically complete challenges that require collaboration between various clan representatives and give access to exclusive rewards.
To cancel any barriers between players, the game has been supporting since day one cross-play is cross-platform, features in which Velan Studios strongly believes due to the total absence of discrepancies between the various control systems, since the automatic lock-on system eliminates any kind of advantage for those who use mouse and keyboard. Also in terms of fluidity the game has a smooth performance and, regardless of the device used, the frame rate is locked at 60 with the only exception of Nintendo Switch, on which it is possible to choose whether or not to enhance the graphics sector by halving the number of frames per second.
If the granite frame rate characterizes all versions of the game, the graphic detail and the resolution vary. In any case we are faced with a production with a very simple and functional technical sector, with models and settings from cartoon style which do not stand out for their originality and detail, thanks to a not particularly brilliant artistic direction.
From map design to character design (and related customization options, even those for sale in the shop), the artistic direction fails to hit the target and that’s a great shame, as more attention in this regard would not only have made Knockout City emerge from a general level of flatness from an aesthetic point of view, but would also have more easily attracted the attention of players, especially younger ones.
It is still a project anchored to the older generation and, to prove it, is theabsence of a PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X | S version, machines on which the game can be played in backward compatibility to enjoy a boost in resolution and loading times.
Knockout CityVersion Analyzed PlayStation 4 ProA few hours spent in the company of Knockout City were enough to understand how it is a title with great potential and with a concept capable of capturing the attention of users belonging to all age groups due to an immediate and fun gameplay. It remains to be understood how much and how it will be supported by the developers, but the premises leave us optimistic about the future of the game, especially since it seems that the disastrous launch of Rocket Arena has taught EA a lot. The ticket price is only 19 euros and allows you to access at no additional cost to any post-launch content without having to shell out additional money for the purchase of Season Passes and skins unless you want everything immediately. No less important is the audience reached since day one, since the game will be included at launch in the EA Play and Xbox Game Pass Ultimate catalog, not to mention that for the first ten days it will be possible to download and play the full and free version. of any kind of limitation. It is a series of choices that could prove to be virtuous and decree the success of a game that is so valid, but which also needs a large community to be able to explode.