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‘Knockout City’ game review

Michael Tracey, Reporter

In a sea of free-to-play games and competitive sports titles, it’s easy to let another one pass by without a glance. After my time spent with EA’s “Knockout City,” I’m glad that I paid attention. Velan Studios, the game developer, has turned the simple fun of dodgeball into an exhilarating yet chaotic experience that leaves me wanting more. 

“Knockout City” isn’t your ordinary game of dodgeball, and it shows players that immediately in the tutorial. Before I dip and dive into the gameplay, I want to break down what type of game modes you can expect when playing “Knockout City.” The street play section has four unranked game modes with 3v3 and 4v4 matches: team KO, ball-up brawl, diamond dash, and party team KO. I have yet to venture into the ranked section called league play, but it has two playlists: 3v3 team KO and 1v1 face-off. There are many options to keep you entertained, and the introduction of new modes in the future looks promising.

Photo courtesy of Electronic Arts.

“Knockout City” presents five maps that are all unique and interactive. One map is a large circle with a highway of passing cars crashing into both teams as they hurtle balls at each other. Another arena includes huge pipes that allow players to travel quickly to the opposite side and come up behind the opposing team. The game’s look is similar to “Fortnite,” but it works for what Velan Studios is going for in “Knockout City.” The customization is off the charts and has many options ranging from robotics to a complete greaser outfit in the spirit of the 1950s era and the hit sitcom “Happy Days.” The developers combine the look, the music, and the customization options to target audiences from all generations with style. 

Photo courtesy of Electronic Arts.

The gameplay has what you would come to expect from playing dodgeball, such as throwing, passing, and catching; the rest of the mechanics featured aren’t as straightforward. Although Velan Studios has added many mechanics that make the game feel fresh and exciting. There are jump pads laid out to give you an extra boost and a glider that activates when you jump, letting you throw while gliding too. Having height advantages as much as possible will lead the team to victory. Players also can perform two trick shots that maneuver the ball in a different direction depending on the button. The game has a border that appears on the edges of the screen and shows you where the ball is coming from to avoid incoming fire. There is also a dash button used to get around fast or to dodge swiftly behind any cover. 

One of the more interesting dynamics of the game is that players can roll into a literal ball themselves. While moving in a ball, players picked up by teammates can change the tide of a match. Holding down the trigger until the overcharge happens will catapult your teammate into the sky and come crashing down into an explosion. Doing so has a chance to KO multiple members of the opposing team at once. However, it takes timing and accuracy to pull this off, and rolling into a ball isn’t always the best idea. While cruising in a ball, you cannot pick up any of the dodgeballs laid out around, so choose wisely. Regular dodgeballs are always strategically placed in each match, but more options can give the winning edge.

Photo courtesy of Electronic Arts.

Here’s a list of the five specialty balls players can find around the arenas in “Knockout City.” 

  • The sniper ball can launch at the furthest distance but make sure to hold the trigger down as long as possible to overcharge the shot.
  • The cage ball locks opponents inside a cage for a few moments. They can escape by pressing a designated button fast enough. 
  • The moon ball gives the player the capability to launch an opponent into the sky. If timing precisely, sending an opponent flying off the edge of the map could mean a KO. 
  • The multi-ball is as it sounds. Picking up this specialty ball lets you throw three balls at once, allowing multiple knockouts. It also notifies the rest of the players on the field by a “multi-ball” announcement, so it is sometimes best to try another.
  • The bomb ball explodes on a timer, so players pass the thing around like a hot potato. Players have two chances each time they’re alive before being knocked out, so this is a great option to get one of the tallies down as quickly as possible. 
Photo courtesy of Electronic Arts.

“Knockout City” was released on May 21, 2021, on all platforms and had over two million players after a couple of days. The new game could be the first big smash hit of the summer that’s cross-play, letting all players from every gaming ecosystem get in on the dodgeball action together. It has a $20 price tag, but EA offers a free ten-day trial period from May 21-30. The game is entirely free if you have a game pass ultimate subscription on the Xbox consoles. 

There’s a lot of fun to be had in the world of “Knockout City,” and I can’t wait to get back. There are raving reviews from players and critics alike, but I’m not sure if it’s enough to reach the level of hype of other competitive sports games like “Rocket League.” None of my friends on my Xbox social network were playing the game. I haven’t heard it mentioned in passing by fellow gamers I know outside of Xbox. I received no mention from the UNF Esports club when asking whether or not the game could be the next big thing for tournaments. It’s unfortunate because it has some pleasant social aspects, such as running with a crew and finishing out contracts together. I highly recommend giving it a shot if this experience seems enjoyable. Only time will tell if “Knockout City” is a worthy addition to the history of competitive sports games or another forgotten title lost in the mix.

Rating: 4 / 5 Spinnaker sails.


For more information or news tips, or if you see an error in this story or have any compliments or concerns, contact [email protected].

About the Contributor
Photo of Michael Tracey
Michael Tracey, General Assignment Reporter

Michael is finishing his last semester and intends on using his degree in communication to continue his work as a writer, host, and podcaster. His passion...

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