April 29, 2002
Knockout Kings 2002 - Review
Release Date Distributer Developer Players Rating Difficulty
22/3/2002EA SportsIn-House1-2M15+Medium
Save Size Sound Format Vibration 60Hz Mode 50Hz Border Widescreen
75KBDolby SurroundYesNoNoneNo

Click To Enlarge Image
Butterbean in all his (large) glory.
As one of EA Sports' latest offerings the Knockout Kings range games have come a long way in only four years. Last years Playstation 2 offering of Knockout Kings 2001 was an admirable game that lacked a couple of knockout punches to make it a winner. This update includes many new options, improved graphics, and most importantly, slicker gameplay. Electronic Arts have trimmed some of the fat from last years game to make it more arcade like, but is this game a real improvement on last year? Is it really worth the upgrade?

One of the first thing that will hit you about Knockout Kings 2002 is the completely re-developed game engine. Gone is the sluggish controls and stop-start action of the previous game as the developers have not turned the boxing matches into an all-out slugfest. That's not a bad thing either as it adds so much excitement and drama to the fights. The 45 boxers available include legends such as Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, Roberto Duran, and Sugar Ray Leonard while current fighters including Felix Trinidad, Lennox Lewis, Oscar De La Hoya, Bernard Hopkins, Floyd Mayweather Jr., Fernando Vargas, among others are also available.

Click To Enlarge Image
Detail on the boxers is improved.
Not much has changed with regards to the game modes over last year. In fact the game has been trimmed by removing the Training mode. The game now features the Exhibition, Quick Fight and Career modes. The career mode will still hold the most interest to most gamers as you start from scratch by creating your boxer with almost every stat including height, skin colours, strengths etc. While there is no training mode to practice the speed bag etc your fighter earns points by competing in more fights. As you move up the ranks you will need more experience to defeat the enemies. Other game modes include the quick fight and an 8-player tournament mode. The fights take place across 10 boxing venues including world famous arenas such as Caesar's Palace and Wembley Arena.

Problems with Knockout Kings 2002 are few and far between. More detail in the career mode such as prize winnings and the ability to upgrade training equipment would be nice. The increase game speed is wonderful, but the opponents often manage to land many more punches then yourself. Sadly, the biggest problem is the difficulty in ducking and weaving which can be extremely sensitive. Another niggle is that the health meters default to be off meaning that every time you start a fight you have to go into the menus and turn them back on. I can see EA's point that they want to focus less on the stats, but many will be lost without it. Fortunately if you decided to leave the health bar off the rumble feature on the Dual Shock 2 is used to brilliant effect as it vibrates harder and faster as you are inflicted with more damage.

Click To Enlarge Image
Check out the deformation on faces.
Graphics are yet another area where EA Sports have really improved this game. The fighters look a lot more realistic with much better texturing while the animation has also improved substantially. By far the most impressive aspect of this game is the way in which the fighters get bruises and cuts as the fight progresses and watching the blood and sweat fly in intense moments. The more damage you take the worse you'll begin to look. Also impressive is the physical attributes of the fighters. Each is represented as physically accurate as possible on the Playstation 2 with some wonderful details. Just wait until you see Ali dancing around the ring thanks to EA's motion capture technology and the facial animations. The only downer is that EA have cut back on the player entrances and also the replays after each round only show one small highlight. It would be nice to have an option to view the entire round again, or several highlights.

Sound includes commentary and analysis from Larry Michael and Max Kellerman who do an admirable job with the action on screen. The enthusiasm is high and while phrases can be repeated it's usually only due to repeating the same punches continually. Sadly the background noise (meaning the crowds) aren't that impressive at all with very muted sounds and none of the shouting out which you would expect. The music is a mixture of hip-hop style tracks with LL Cool J. being the most notable performer. While the game doesn't include DTS sound like many other current EA titles the Dolby Surround is quite impressive and will suffice.

Knockout Kings 2002 is a great game with many improvements over last years version. The action is a lot faster, and more fluid, which gives the game a whole new feel to it. With little competition in the boxing arena at the moment this game is, fortunately, not going to let you down. Knockout Kings 2002 may not be a complete KO, but it's a TKO at the very least, and thats more then enough to back this winner.

GRAPHICSA lot smoother and crisper then last years already very solid effort.
SOUNDAlso improved from last year with crunching effects and commentary.
GAMEPLAYThe game is now a lot faster and more fluid. You'll really feel the pain.
VALUEThe game still lacks modes and some detail such as training in career.
OVERALLStill not quite a "must have" game but it's easily the best boxing game available. Plenty of improvements over the 2001 version, but Mike Tyson from Codemasters is just around the corner.

Talk about Knockout Kings 2002 in this forum topic now.