This game is fun. It’s a hella lot of fun. It’s a breath of fresh air from multiplayer games due to its innovative nature as a dodgeball game and easy-to-learn mechanics. A strength of the game lies in the perspective that anyone can be an exceptional player simply by playing. No status, no attributes, nothing to unbalance matches besides your own skill (but having a friend on the radio sure does gives an edge.)
KO City is pure style and personality. The game has its own fashion: it’s flamboyant, colorful, and vivid. The aesthetics, to the music, and the DJ, an omniscient narrator who gives us bits and pieces of KO City’s history throughout matches and loading, and who seems to have a particular grudge against Malcolm Magpie, millionaire real estate developer. DJ is cheeky, sometimes corny, but never boring.
Hopping in the game is as easy as messing up the pass and grab buttons and getting hit in the face. Start the game, press one button, and boom, you’re in. Your brawler is on a rooftop, the best hangout place for the best crew in the City. The game strongly suggests you do some training before jumping in some matches. Personally, I would love if at least the basic training was mandatory since a hot-headed anxious player jumping directly into the fray may ruin the experience for their crew.
The training is divided into six parts, from basic movements to throwing tricky shots that curve like the Saturn ring or lob as if Nadal was on the court. All that after bluffing your throw and watching your opponent spam the grab animation. Albeit the training teaches you how to use lob shots to go over obstacles or curveballs to go around a structure and hit your opponent in their flank, plays will abuse them even when the field is wide open. It’s easy to use tricky shots and harder to dodge, so there’s really not a reason why not to exploit them.
Easy to Play, Hard to Master
KO City thrives in its simplicity. You throw, you dodge, and you grab, that’s it. But the training oversimplifies its gameplay. When you are standing in a circle, knowing that a ball will hit you in the face, it’s simple to dexterously block it. Now when you are surrounded by three enemies passing the balls around like a hot potato, and suddenly the corner of your screen is redder than my bank balance, it gets a little tricky to dodge or get away unscathed.
And this is where Knockout City stands out. In dynamism, in collaboration, in the heroic last launch that takes your crew to victory and consecrates you as the MVP of the match. As someone who enjoyed the Team KO 3×3, the bread and butter mode of KO City, I can say that collaboration is essential but somewhat lacking. Although there is voice chat built into the game, it’s easier to find a unicorn mowing your lawn than to find someone connected to it that won’t curse your family after you make a mistake.
The game offers a quick chat that boils down to messages like “Pass” and “Throw Me,” which is slightly effective. But it needs to be constantly practical. You will hardly endure when you are on an inequality footing. Dealing with two uncoordinated opponents is troublesome enough; now, when they look like Olympic synchronized swimmers, expect a visit to the dentist to rebuild your dental arch. The minimum delay after capturing a ball will be your demise if they fire simultaneously. Don’t even let me stary if they both play curved balls on each side. No balls around? One of them can simply turn into a ball and target you. However, if you manage to block, just throw the poor guy in the abyss and guarantee a point for your crew.
However, on the flip side, you can also crew up on opponents. The easiest and most efficient strategy I’ve devised, and 98% of the players who have more than 39 IQ, is feinting a throw, passing the ball to your ally so they can blast off the competition. And damn, it feels so good when you pull it off. I played some games with a friend on voice chat, and it’s undoubtedly the high-point and how the game was designed to be enjoyed. And I know that by now, you must be reconsidering the facts of this review; after all, what gamer has friends, right? Bear with me. Whenever I said, “throw me in the sky,” and I ram down like a meteor in an Ultimate Shot, he was tackling enemies in the ground, so they were hit in by my crash radius.
Different Game Modes, Different Feelings
You know those games with many different modes, but it’s harder to matchmake because the majority only plays the most basic? Well, I guess KO CIty falls into that category.
When you want to play other modes, just select them via the main menu. Besides the traditional Team KO 3×3, there’s also the mayhem of 4×4 where the only balls available are your teammates; Diamond Hunting, where everyone defeated drops diamonds, and you need to get your opponent’s while saving the ones made from the blood of your fallen allies. Last, a mode where all the balls are special, entertaining if you want to train your reaction skills as if you were The Flash.
The traditional mode gives you a range of possibilities, strategies, and maneuvers that match the game’s pace. That’s why it’s the mode used for ranked matches. While the others are a nice change of pace, I didn’t enjoy them as much. The 4×4 gets a little messy after a while. You don’t know if you should be the ball or the baller, and it is really awkward when a rival grabs you. The Diamond Hunting is fun and has potential, but it gets old fast, and the mode where you only have special balls is just as turbulent as it sounds. It’s demoralizing to have a moonball to face someone with multiball loaded.
About ranked games, the system is conventional. Win multiple victories, and you will raise your rank to the top. After rank silver, you start to lose points for every loss. There is a unique ranked game mode called the Face-Off, a 1×1 duel. It’s an excellent mode for those who are exhausted from relying on unreliable allies.
Crew Up, Level Up, Makeup
KO City has a crew system that functions as the game’s guild. You can create a crew on the spot or join another one, making it easier when you want to play with your friends and allowing for easier crossplay. Not to mention that the car that drives your crew at the game’s beginning can be styled according to the skins you have.
One of the features I enjoyed the most is collecting items. Unlike other multiplayer games, the items you get in the street rank – the battle pass equivalent – are random. That is, if you receive an outfit or taunt, it can range from uncommon to legendary, diversifying from player to player. Not only does this add dynamism to your appearance (I had a legendary badass jacket with an ethereal wolf tail, and my friend looked like a pimp in Paris), but it gets you excited to level up in hopes of getting some chic items.
You level up generally by playing the game and being good at it. Still, you can earn more experience by completing contracts that extend from defeating enemies with tricky shots, playing with friends, or event-only contracts. Every 100 levels, your dodge brawler tier increases, up to tier 9, so you can keep accumulating more and more items until you become a hoarder and have to pay for therapy.
You Can Dodgeballs, But Can’t Dodgebugs
Not everything is perfect. It has become a reality to expect some problems in matchmaking and stability in a trending online multiplayer game. In some post-match sections, the game would simply hang on the results screen while the matchmaking kept running in the background. I could hear DJ narrating the commotion and my friends struggling while still staring hopelessly at the outcome interface. I had to reset the game, and when I did that, they labeled me a quitter.
In another bit, I joined a ranked match that literally started in defeat. I didn’t even play. I dropped straight into the results screen and lost a rank point for solely existing. I have a low rank, so I was okay with it, but I imagine that this can be frustrating if you engage in the high classes. Not to mention the times I connected on international servers, and my latency was dreadful. In a game where your reaction skills can define victory or defeat, having an impairment on exactly that aspect is heartbreaking.
If you like fast-paced, multiplayer games with good visuals and the possibility of being a hero every match at the risk of undoing your friendships after mistakes and screw-ups, Knockout City is for you.
Each match is unique. In one, your bluffs and lob shots may repeatedly work; in others, you have to be faster than Neo dodging bullets. But if the function of a game at the end of the day is to entertain, KO City passes the test with flying colors. And seriously, the sound of your ball slapping an opponent is so satisfying that I’m thinking of putting it as a message notification on my cell phone.
This review is based on the PS4 version of Knockout City. The key was provided by EA Originals