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Knockout Kings 2003 Package Art
 GENRE
  Sports
 DEVELOPER
  New Corporation
 PUBLISHER
  EA Sports
 NUMBER OF PLAYERS
  1-2
 CONNECTIVITY
  no
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Knockout Kings 2003

EA Sports doesn’t mess around with their motto (If it’s in the game, it’s in the game!). Knockout Kings 2003 for the GameCube represents the sport with a depth that no other boxer for the Cube as. I had the pleasure of playing through some boxers on the Cube (Rocky and Black and Bruised). All of them are based upon an arcade experience more so than a simulation of the sport. Knockout Kings offers both of those experiences while giving the gamer a tonne of boxers to play with as well as a career mode.

In short, this game represents what EA is fronting these days; a quality sports product with a lot of options, depth, modes, and variety. Thank God Nintendo had the good sense to secure a limited EA Sports line up for the future. With Nintendo’s own putrid sports games and Sega saying ‘see ya’ they certainly could use the help. It’s a shame though that, upon speaking with several retailers, most Cube owners don’t seem to care for sports titles. They’re probably too busy with changing their own diapers or warming up their bottle of formula. For the rest of the older or “cool” gamers out there who don’t find playing with a water gun all that captivating, here’s another EA Sports review for you!

visuals

Easily the prettiest boxer on the GameCube. Despite not having the “tit” animations of Black and Bruised, this game does offer some excellent animations and in addition to that there are some outstanding texturing effects. For example, there’s a “sweat” skin like the one in the Fifa series whereby you see the character glisten under the bright lights of the match. I also like that the hit detection seems a lot more realistic. In previous renditions of Knockout Kings, the hit detection was so poor that sometimes you’d score a knockout by swinging through the opponents’ head. All of that is ancient history though. This game is graphically a lot tighter and that’s a big boost in boxing games where hit detection and believability affect a big part of the gameplay.

Another cool element that has followed the series is the dynamic faces on the boxers. It’s wicked to see their faces deform from a crushing blow in instant replay or to see their eyes swell and blacken. It really adds to the fun of beating the shit out of someone.

As for the front-end menus, EA has definitely made an effort to remove their moronic menu navigational button assignments. It’s easy to flow through the menu screens and easy to work within them.

audio

I think the commentary in the game is a tad annoying, mainly because of Friday Night fight's Max Kellerman, who’s excellent in his normal venue but a tad repetitive here. In addition, the sounds from the crowd definitely could use some Sega Sports touches. The noises are all too “blah” and repetitive. It’s nice to hear Mills Lane earning a paycheck again by calling “your done son, you’re done” and the always difficult counting to 10. His audio really gives the game that “People’s Court” feeling.

As for the music, EA is on a hip hop attack this year. The menus are littered with urban rhythms. The in-game entry music is fairly solid as well. I have to say that the audio character of EA Sports games is definitely their soft spot. They need to work on building up the crowd and in-game talking. Again, Greatest Heavyweights for the Sega Genesis had “taunting” that included audio shots at your opponent. It really helps. Ask any Mario Golf for the N64 fan. Having said that, I will say that it is all about the gameplay, however, audio brings a game to life.

gameplay

With a tonne of boxers to choose from, a "create-a" option, and a nice deep career mode, it’s no doubt that the single player experience of Knockout Kings is deep enough to keep you going for a while. The element of the gameplay that I find the most satisfying is that Knockout Kings really relies on the analog control. Dipping and full out ducking are basically variations on the pressure that you place on the analog control stick. Even some of the punches that you throw (e.g. body shot) rely on how you’re pushing the control stick. Without playing it you may think that this scheme may be too sensitive but I was amazed to see just how fluid the control scheme felt. Like Waverace 64, the game has a heavy reliance on the analog stick and like Waverace 64, it’s a seamless and fluid control scheme. Nicely done.

Now for those of you that don’t know the sweet science from a sweet roll there’s also a slugfest mode. In it, you have more of an arcade experience with power ups and super punches. So Knockout Kings has both the intellectual and the Neandertal gamer covered.

As for the actual gameplay itself: I found that the gameplay definitely feels stronger than previous renditions of Knockout Kings, mostly because of the improvements in graphics and play control. However, like most fighters, you will have a repetitious scenario develop with the longer single player modes. The one thing that tends to dice things up though, is that EA Sports seems to have paid close attention to Bert Sugar’s advice about the styles of the fighters. You do notice a difference in the different opponents.

multiplayer

If you don’t want to play Super Smash Bros. Melee and you’re waiting on Soul Caliber this is definitely one of the best fighters out there. For the uninitiated, there’s a slugfest mode that allows you to mash so it really suits having a multiplayer round when buddies comes over.

overall

I found Knockout Kings to be a good improvement over previous renditions of the game. I wouldn’t put it in the same class as Madden but it is a quality video game that fighting/boxing fans should investigate. Most retailers are now carrying Knockout Kings at a reduced price because of the poor sports games sales on the GameCube so at the lower price it would be a solid buy to play through a quality fighter like Knockout Kings. There’s something for everyone in the game and it offers a lot of depth.

final score 8.5/10





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Staff Avatar Eric Mattei
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"Lost like tears in rain"


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