Knockout Kings 2002
If Will Smith's Ali has you itchin' to kick some ass, then you'll be in luck this March. Electronic Arts' latest brawler lets you fight with (or against) the legendary boxer and a slew of other modern-day punching bags (such as Lennox Lewis and Oscar De La Hoya). This year, EA is trying to get rid of the stiff, clunky feel that has saddled down the series. The early version we tried has boxers who respond quicker and move more smoothly. And who can blame them? A new, hip-hop soundtrack makes it easy to float to like a butterfly in the ring, and the suddenly chatty announcers give this game the excitement it sorely needed.
Download Knockout Kings 2002
Last year, when EA Sports ported their distinguished boxing simulation over to Sony's next-generation hardware, the level of anticipation among PS2 pugilists was extremely high' and for good reason. Like many of their other fine sports franchises, the Knockout Kings series has consistently offered gamers a compelling mix of solid graphics and high-octane action. With an impressive list of features, modes of play, and licensed fighters, it's no wonder that many gamers consider it to be the premier boxing video game.
Unfortunately, Knockout Kings 2001's debut on the PS2 was marred by extremely sluggish prizefighters and an awkward control scheme. As a result (to no one's surprise) the game received several unfavorable reviews that deemed it as a 'rent only.'? With this year's game, EA Sports attempts to redeem itself, and enters the ring with a brand new game engine. Among other things, this year's game boasts a radically new control system for faster, more- furious fighter control, all-new boxer animations including stumbles, knockdowns, and signature moves, eight different boxing venues, and of course, a sweet stable of legendary fighters from the past and present. But does it have enough to go the distance? Well, get to yer corner and sit on yer stool, fool! Round one comin' up' ding!
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
From the main menu, you can get into the ring in Play Now Mode (Quick Start), select an advanced game mode, or adjust the game's rules and options. Game modes include Exhibition, Tournament, and Career. Exhibition Mode is a one-fight affair for one or two players. In Tournament Mode, you'll take on a full slate of boxers in a single-elimination tournament. In Career Mode, you'll start fresh from the ground up and take on all comers, in an attempt to become the next great champion. The game features a total of 45 boxers'21 real fighters and 24 fictional ones'which are divided into three different weight classes. You can choose from among any boxer featured in Knockout Kings 2002, or create one of your own. At the Create-Boxer screen, you'll first select a nickname and weight class for your fighter. Next, you'll select your fighter's physical characteristics, such as height, weight, reach, and damage. You must then disperse your 'Points Reserve'? in order to delineate your fighter's skills in the attribute categories of Power, Speed, Stamina, Chin, Heart, and Cuts. In the beginning of your career, you'll start off at the bottom of the Fighter Pyramid. As you progress through a predetermined number of fighters at each level, you'll move up the pyramid, with an eventual shot at the championship. Along the way, you'll earn additional reserve points to increase your fighter's skills, but be careful! If you lose three fights in a row before you win the championship belt, your days as a boxer are history. And if you do manage to become the champion, you must defend your title'suffer three loses in a row, and you'll be forced into early retirement.
At some point, you'll inevitably find yourself standing in the middle of the ring with your opponent staring you down. It's time to don the gloves, and get to brawlin'. Lucky for you, the developers have reworked the control scheme to now offer much more responsive and fluid control of your fighter. The sluggishness from last year is a thing of the past, as this year's fighters stick and run with a whole new sense of speed and purpose. The PS2's four basic controller buttons are used to execute the basics punches, which include hooks, jabs, crosses, and overhand rights. The other controller buttons are assigned to the more advanced moves, which include uppercuts, blocks, taunts, and a multitude of special moves and illegal punches. The pressure-sensitive left analog stick is used to maneuver your boxer. With a full move of the analog stick, your boxer will move left and right, and back and forth around the ring. Attack your opponent, back away, or circle around in an effort to corner him. Once you're in tight, a slight move of the analog stick will adjust you boxer's upper body. Avoid your opponent's blows by ducking, crouching, leaning back, and bobbing left and right. Then go on the offensive and knock him out! The beauty of this control scheme is that it allows you to move and throw punches at the same time. The control mechanics work and work well, however, I do have one minor complaint in regard to the block button. A press of the block button will protect your fighter for only a split second (unlike last year's game, which allowed you to hold down the block button to cover up indefinitely). As a result, far too often blocking becomes cumbersome and ineffective, eventually forcing you to go on the offensive for almost the entire fight. Make no mistake about it; most, if not all fights are slugfests. Read on.
Knockout Kings 2002 features decent AI, which will keep you on your toes throughout each fight. On the easiest difficulty setting, CPU boxers will not offer much of a test of your fighting skills. However, as you move up the difficulty ladder, the challenge becomes greater. On the hardest difficulty setting, CPU boxers tend to block and evade most of your punches and fight with a distinct level of smarts. They'll pick up on your moves in the early rounds, and adjust and counter later on in the fight.
No question, the game is not for the feint of heart. The action is always fast and furious, thus making it more of an arcade experience than a full-fledged boxing simulation. A quick look at the final stats after most fights yields an unrealistic number of punches thrown and landed. I would have preferred a game engine that offered a more realistic pace than what we have here. Nonetheless, the game is fun to play, offers a stiff challenge, and delivers a decent replay value.
Without argument, the graphics in the game are good'very good. Fighter models are depicted with clean and detailed textures. And while the physical appearance of each boxer may be somewhat exaggerated with arms, legs, and torsos bulging with layer upon layer of muscles, the effect is cool and the message is loud and clear'these warriors mean business! For the most part, the fighters' facial features bear a reasonable likeness to their real-life counterparts. And as you progress through each fight, an assortment of damage effects, such as swollen eyes, cuts, bruises and contusions will clearly indicate when your fighter (or opponent) is takin' a beating.
The biggest improvement to this year's game comes in the form of highly impressive motion-captured animations, which bring a whole new level of interaction and realism to the ring. With the addition of all-new hand animations and motion blending techniques, the boxers exhibit extremely fluid movements. They'll punch, sway, bob, and weave with the same speed and agility of their real-life counterparts without any noticeable slowdown. And when a fighter is about to take a dive, he'll wobble, stagger, and stumble before his ultimate crash to the canvas. Furthermore, you'll also find new facial animations that display a host of facial contortions brought on by a series of lethal blows and devastating combos. The game also features impressive visuals of each of the fighting venues. Ringside textures are clean, colorful, and highly detailed. The fans in the stands are reasonably detailed and offer an assortment of animated reactions to the fight at hand.
Continuing the trend in EA Sports' most recent lineup of sports software, Knockout Kings 2002 offers an impressive selection of slow-motion cinematic sequences, which go a long way in capturing the brutality of the sport of boxing. You'll witness that fierce knockout punch, up close and personal. As you lie on the canvas, you'll be treated to a hazy first person view of the referee who'll begin his count as you attempt to clear the cobwebs (Get up, fool!). Much like the game play itself, the visual effects are a bit over the top' but cool nonetheless. Although several camera views are at your disposal, the default camera offers an excellent view of the action at all times.
While the sound effects in the game are adequate, they certainly don't do anything to broaden the value of the game-play experience. The one exception is when the ringside combatants make contact. Landed punches reverberate with exaggerated whacks and thuds, making it all the more enjoyable to knock your opponent silly. Otherwise, the music and crowd effects are strictly ho-hum.
The game's commentary, handled by Larry Michael and Max Kellerman, is somewhat improved over last year's effort, but it's still a far cry from what it should be. On the whole, the announcers do a better job of keeping up with the action, but they use the same tired phrases over and over. Furthermore, during the actual fight, they don't make reference to a fighter by name as often as I would like. As a result, during several heated exchanges you'll hear, 'He's in trouble now'?. Uh, exactly 'who' is in trouble, here
When all is said and done, Knockout Kings 2002 represents a substantial improvement over last year's game. The graphics and animation have been overhauled to near perfection. Subtle improvements in the audio department include ringside commentary that does a better job of callin' the action (much better than last year, anyway!). Most importantly, last year's control scheme has been reworked to now offer extremely responsive and fluid control of your fighters. Are the fights realistic? Well, not really. Let's face it folks, this game is boxing on steroids. If you're a diehard boxing fan who demands a more realistic pace to your fights, you may be a bit disappointed. However, if you like your action fast and furious, you won't find a better game in which to practice your penchant for passionate pugilism.