March 23, 2001
Boxing is such a brutal sport. Punching someone in the head until they pass out or don't know where they are isn't something that can be called a safe sport, and there are quite frequently opponents. However be it our violent nature, or our need for entertainment one thing is certain, boxing generates a lot of interest among the human race. Strangely, boxing games are few and far between these days, with Ready 2 Rumble: Round 2 being the only other boxing game on PS2. Instead of over the top cartoon styled action, Electronic Arts have opted for a realistic simulation of the sport, albeit without the ear biting.
Boasting a wealth of gameplay modes Knockout Kings 2001 will keep you entertained for days. As well as standard game modes such as a career mode, exhibition and slugfest matches (instant fights) the developers have included a Fantasy Fights mode where EA have paired up two fighters, who have never fought together, but which every boxing fan would love to see in the ring. Prior to the fight it is possible to go to a press conference where each boxer has comments about the other to spice things up before getting in the ring.
The career mode in Knockout Kings 2001 is also quite impressive. Beginning in mode will see you building your boxer from scratch by selecting his height, weight and attributes such as physical strength, stamina, speed etc. Unfortunately, the training mode is merely a formality and while it can be hard to complete some of the tasks, such as sparring with an opponent and hitting them with a combination, it never really excites. The training mode in Midway's Ready 2 Rumble: Round 2 is much more exciting with punch bags and weights. There is a good side to the training mode in Knockout Kings 2001. If for instance, you were hammered in a previous fight the CPU will modify your training to focus on your weaknesses during the previous bout.
Possibly one of the most enjoyable aspects of Knockout Kings 2001 is the control of the fighters and wide range of fighting moves. Jabs, uppercuts and hook shots are performed with the press of a button while combinations and stronger punches are performed by pressing several buttons simultaneously (it's even possible to head-butt or elbow your opponent). Victory in fights is quite often about mashing the buttons quicker then the opponent, soon enough you will land enough punches to get a knockout. As you move up in the rankings however it becomes more important to time the punches when your opponent is open and to block as many of his swings as possible. Moving around the ring is done with the analogue (or digital) controls however the boxers seem quite sluggish and no where near as nimble on their feet as you would expect.
Knockout Kings 2001 is definitely one of the most intricately detailed games ever. During the fights sweat will fly off the boxers when a punch is landed however if a cut is opened up on one of the boxers the blood will fly. If you manage to land a punch on an opponent and knock him out his mouth guard may fly out and land on the ring next to him. Cuts and bruises begin to appear on the boxers as the fight progresses and the knockout animations are superb. Sometimes the boxers will crumple and fall to the ground while a strong uppercut will see your opponent fly through the air before crashing to the canvas for the count.
Graphically, Knockout Kings 2001 is good, but never brilliant. Each boxer is made up of several thousand polygons and the texture mapping is very good, although the boxers have absolutely no facial animations at all. In this day and age this is unacceptable. The animation on the boxers is excellent while their range of moves is as complex as their real life counterparts. Unfortunately the backgrounds and crowds are rather uninspiring. The developers are still using flat 2D sprites for the crowd that look out of place next to the 3D models of the fighters. Another problem is that the collision detection isn't perfect. At times the boxers seemingly have the ring roped passing straight through them.
Unfortunately one of the least exciting aspects of this game is the commentary. The commentators are very repetitive often saying the same phrase several times in a row. The variety of speech is also lacking while there distinct lack of people shouting from the crowds and the corner men are strangely quiet. On a brighter note the music is varied with styles ranging from hip-hop to rock and it is exactly what you hear before and after real boxing bouts.
Knockout Kings 2001 is yet another solid title from Electronic Arts. The number of options is impressive and while everything is adequate nothing really makes this a stand out title. The graphics, while good, aren't anything to shout about and the game seems a little tame when sitting next to other EA Playstation 2 titles. Still if you're after some boxing action with legends such as Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, and Julio Cesar Chavez you really can't go past this title. This is the only realistic boxing title on the market at the moment and should keep fans of the sport very happy.