LifeisXbox’s Knockout City review | For the foreseeable future Knockout City will be my guilty pleasure and that’s something I never predicted. Velan Studios and publisher EA have pure gold in their hands with this new franchise. Everything here is based on dodgeball or –koningsbal – in Dutch, which I loved to play regularly on the schoolyard or during physical education. Let me first address sustainability as EA’s previous attempt for a casual online game, Rocket Arena didn’t turn out as planned. Plagued by a small player base the game never found a healthy community. Will this be the case for Knockout City? With a ten days free trial for everyone, being on Xbox Game Pass and EA Play from the start and being a more addictive game I see a more promising future. I’m not Amalia True from HBO’s series The Nevers so the future remains to be seen but I have high hopes. Let me throw you some balls with positives about the game to explain why Knockout City is fantastic to play.
We played Knockout City for 8 hours on Xbox Series X. Also available on pc, Playstation and Nintendo Switch. Important: Knockout City is an online-only game!
What we liked!
- Strong basic gameplay | It all comes down to trying to hit players and avoid getting hit yourself. You have very basic mechanics for that, opening up the game for casual and young players. I was surprised by this at first but throwing the balls is done with an auto-aim system, this was a required mechanic as you have a lot to take into consideration. So I’m glad that throwing the ball isn’t harder than it is, there’s a lot of depth here as you can decide the speed or change what kind of throw you do. My favorite is throwing the ball with a left or right bend, like Angelina Jolie’s Wanted movie where they can shoot bullets that don’t follow a straight path, it is really cool to hit a player behind an obstacle. Knockout City truly got me with its gameplay when it involved defence. Timing a catch when someone throws a ball at you remains an adrenaline rush. Sometimes you find yourself in a one-on-one situation where both players are skilled enough to catch a ball, these fast-paced battles are fantastic to experience. Besides catching you can also do a kind of tackle dodge so the other player drops the ball or you avoid the line of the thrown ball. Combining both the catch and dodge mechanic and using the environment cleverly can make you an absolute beast in Knockout City.
- Strong advanced gameplay | Advanced tactics open up with special ball types and working together with teammates. Passing the ball is a clever option as it results in getting bonus speed. quickly changing the angle by passing the ball is often enough to confuse the opponents. You can turn your player into a ball and teammates can pick you up, this allows two possible devastating attacks. You can charge and throw a teammate, this results in an instant kill. But you have to be careful too, if you fail to hit the player the player in ball shape are stunned, leaving them completely open for being hit. Or even worse, the opponents can catch you and insta-kill someone from your own team. If you charge even longer you will throw the player in the air doing an area-of-effect explosion. Special balls change the flow of battles and all of them have fancy sound so you immediately recognise the danger. You have a sniper ball that travels incredibly fast, a bomb ball on a timer that explodes, a moon ball that allows you to jump higher and more importantly if you hit an opponent their recovery is much slower, opening an opportunity for teammates for a quick second and deadly hit.
- Risk and reward play is addictive | One thing I realised quickly was that a single person can make a big difference. Being skilled at dodging or catching balls means that you don’t have to rely on teammates, it is always beneficial but not a must. When you put yourself at risk you have a higher chance that opponents take a shot at you, which means a likely opportunity to catch the ball with an added speed bonus. Playing wild and free is rewarding as it opens up opportunities to surprise opponents. I’m honestly a beast in Knockout City, being pretty good at instant decisions and reflexes makes this a fabulous game to play. My playstyle allows the other two teammates to play it more carefully and work together bringing down enemy dodgeball players from a distance or ambushing them with precision.
- Cosmetics and crews | Character models aren’t my thing, you’ll read that in our somewhere between section but the number of cosmetics you earn in-game is really impressive. Changing your look with outfits, faces and hairstyles are things players expect nowadays but Knockout City takes it further with taunts, victory or defeat poses and crew cosmetics. Nothing is locked behind microtransactions, you can decide to speed things up and purchase extra Holobux (in-game currency) but you don’t have to. Nothing gives you a competitive edge over others, everything is purely visual. As it should be! I really loved that you unlock crew cosmetics for a total of 32 players, your clan members complete challenges for additional credits making it a strong and rewarding aspect of Knockout City’s gameplay.
- Cheerful visuals, sound and music | A motivational and happy announcer keeps you informed how the match is going, you could compare him a little with Sunset Overdrive’s narrator. He was also always happy and loud, in a good way! Sounds are really well done here, helping you with split-second decisions as you immediately know if you are dealing with a normal or special ball. Getting hit sound effects are charming and doing taunts is a fun way that allows for celebrating a nice kill or laughing at a mistake from an opposing player. Environments have enough landmarks so you always know where you are on the map, all of the six maps manage to stand out with personality and a very colorful art style.
- Character models | An art style is like music, some people love it and some people dislike it. Visually the environments look colourful and nice but the models from the characters are a bit weird. They clearly aimed for androgynous models and I really respect that, but there’s not really a middle ground in creating a character. Especially in the beginning if you try to make a female character the options aren’t really available. doesn’t really help either that the characters lack detail and look out of place in the arena. Still, thumbs up for the androgynous approach, something you rarely see in video games.
What we disliked
- Lacks content but hopefully post-launch content will change this | Knockout City’s base is strong and addictive but I was a bit disappointed to see the lack of overall content. Six small maps (one was added a few days after launch) and only a handful of game modes are hurting the game in the long run. Luckily Velan Studios has post-launch content plans to keep the game interesting. There is also a weekly variation so that patches the wound a bit!
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