Knockout Kings 2002 Review
When first hearing of a sequel in the Knockout Kings series, I was both excited and anxious in emotion. EA continually presents one of the best boxing depictions since the Mike Tyson series and delivers a very solid and powerful representation of the sport. The Playstation 2 has been lucky enough to harness the benefits of this series, as now both KOK 2001 and KOK 2002 have given gamers excellent entertainment. Expanding on last year's title, KOK 2002 is filled with action and detail that will keep players glued to their seats, hoping to progress through EA's addictive slugfest.
The graphics of KOK 2002 are easily an improvement from last year, as player detail and surface texture has been concentrated on. Each boxer gives an excellent portrayal of their actual counterpart and has specific elements that will stand out in your mind. The muscle quality among boxers is incredible and quite detailed. Each athlete is extremely ripped and reveals how graphically precise EA developers were in the process of KOK 2002. The player animations are really what make this game great. The flowing movement and streamline action is absolutely brilliant and the best I've seen in a boxing title. Also, the footage shown when a player is knocked out is superb. The striking punch will be shown from multiple camera angles and presented in slow motion form. This really adds to the greatness of a knockout and gives a sensational feel to the game. Also, as the game progresses, you will notice cuts and bruises along the boxers' face, which adds realism and accountability for later rounds.
In terms of gameplay, EA has set the precedent for further boxing rivals. I enjoy how the game feels and the way it immerses players with action sequences and incredible punch combos. As the bell rings, you will instantly get a feel of what true life boxing has to offer. The opponent immediately attacks you with punches, sending you into a short panic of how fast the action moves. Utilizing defensive skills and blocking mechanics is very necessary, as you must attack with jabs, hooks, and uppercuts. Various special moves have been included that coincide with the actual boxer. These are designed to be the most effective, but will often leave you open for punches from the opponent. EA has done an excellent job focusing on player technique and overall motion.
A large lineup of boxers have been included for you to choose from, with Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Robinson, Lennox Lewis, Felix Trinidad, Oscar De La Hoya, Evander Holyfield, and others. The number of venues offered is impressive, featuring Caesars Palace, Redwood Shores, Wembley Arena, Patriot Arena, Roppongi Palace, Northern Lights, and Dortmund Garden. EA has brought gamers an excellent recapturing of what it would be like to fight in the classic arenas of the past. I absolutely loved the retro feel of this game, as it was nicely blended with the fighters of today.
KOK is rather stellar in the sound department. Although the commentary becomes slightly repetitive, it is actually some of the better announcing I've heard in a title like this. The action is kept up-to-date and the commentators keep you nicely updated in how everything is going. Along with this facet of the game come the actual in-game effects. Jabs and uppercuts are landed with force and sharpness, as the sound effects are executed with precise directory. The amount of action that the sound category offers really puts this game in the rating it deserves. A slight variation in the sound given for each punch would have been nicely suggested, but all-in-all EA knows how to give boxing fans what they are looking for.
The characters in Knockout Kings controlled rather smoothly and responded with quick action and feedback. The use of the dual shock is portrayed to determine how well your character's health is. If the controls begin to shake heavily, you know you're in grave danger of hitting the floor; however, if your dual shocks are barely rumbling, it's apparent your beating up on your opponent with little damage to yourself. The one drawback of the game, though, is figuring out how to defend each character in the ring. It's almost impossible to win on a difficult setting, as the amount of punches that are thrown and landed is staggering. It is your task to master the bob and weave technique, while attempting to land a great number of blows to the enemy. This isn't terribly offsetting, for if you play long enough with one character you should be able to master the defensive technique. Even so, a heavy amount of emphasis has been put on the offensive side of the game and possibly too little effort was shown for defense.
If your curious to whether or not this game will stay in your PS2 for extended periods of times, be assured that Knockout Kings is absolutely addicting for anyone looking to play an action-packed title. I had a blast with KOK and the fun shouldn't stop with you. The tournament and career mode will keep players busy for weeks and allows for multiple character play. If you beat the game with Muhammad Ali it's just as exciting to return and make a go with say Sugar Ray Robinson or Oscar De La Hoya. I recommend any fan of boxing to play this title and experience an exciting thrill firsthand. I figured this game to be rather enjoyable, but never expected EA to pack as many features in as they have with Knockout Kings 2002.
6/15/2002 Matthew Stensrud