Knockout Kings 2003 - GC - Review
There’s been a multitude of boxing sims and games out on the market, dating all the way back to Atari 2600 days of the early 80’s. In more recent times, however, Nintendo’s “Punch Out” set the standard for arcade boxing in the 90’s. Up until recently, it was tough to find a really good boxing game that was a little more realism based, until EA hit the PSX scene with the original Knockout Kings. Now, EA brings it’s best selling boxing title to the Gamecube, and the results are a heck of a lot of fun.
Knockout Kings 2003 has a really easy control style, as do most EA games, so it’s pretty simple to get in the ring and start knocking opponents around from the get go. Each punch has only one corresponding button, with the exception of an uppercut, and each boxer has a special move that he can performed with the touch of a button. Up front, there are also multiple game modes to choose from, including career, exhibition, and the new add in mode, Slugfest. In addition, it has a long list of current and older boxing champions, including some like Evander Holyfield, Lennox Lewis, and Rocky Marciano to fight or fight with … or create your own fighter and duke it out with the best of them.
Career mode is the basic main structure of Knockout Kings 2003, and as the mode title suggests … has you create a boxer and work your way up the ladder in his career to ultimately get the championship belt. Along the way, you will fight real or made up opponents that earn your boxer points. Points are used to increase a number of stats, including power, speed, stamina, or endurance … and help you get bigger, badder, and faster on the way up. You’ll need it, since top championship fighters like Ali or Sonny Liston aren’t gonna be easy, and defeated opponents many times will pop back in to challenge you even after you’ve mopped up the ring with them before. The next time you face them, they won’t be so easy.
The newest mode, called Slugfest, is a faster and more furious boxing challenge based on points rather than moving up a ladder. The biggest difference here is that the rounds are not divided up into rounds, but instead rely on either you or your opponent getting knocked out three times before a new boxer comes in … and in a way it’s kind of like a survival mode, and is more of an arcade style gameplay than the career mode or tournament modes are. Things like flaming gloves, super speed, or double damage modifiers are used in Slugfest, and health is awarded back for hitting a certain point score or blocking a certain number of hits without getting popped. In addition, it has a “hit tracker”, which fills up depending on where your punches land. Once a certain area gets filled, you can execute a “tracker hit”, which will KO your opponent in one hit. It’s a lot of fun, and a lot of challenge as well.
While Knockout Kings 2003 is a great boxing title which looks to be a little more realistic than Punch Out or Ready to Rumble, it still has somewhat of an “arcadey” kind of feel to it. At times, the game seems to revolve more around just standing and hammering back and forth with an opponent, rather than blocking or using a whole lot of strategy to KO or win the bout. On a brighter note, it makes it a lot more fast paced and exciting than what you see on television … which is kind of what is needed to retain interest in the game.
From a difficulty standpoint, Knockout Kings does a good job in setting not only the overall difficulty to a small learning curve, but the AI opponents that you fight are also set in the same manner. Even on a harder mode, for example, the first contender you come out against will be challenging, but not frustratingly impossible, and it will just get harder as you continue up the ladder. On the other side, if the game is too easy on what you are currently playing to, switch it up a notch or two to make it more challenging. Trust me, when you hit Championship difficulty, you will be in for a challenge … no matter how good you think you may be.
Knockout Kings 2003 also contains a create your own boxer option as well, which I was a little disappointed with overall. The boxers that you create are mostly kind of “pre-created” for you, since mostly it consists of changing outfits and facial looks … and I was hoping for a way to add or remove facial hair, and I always thought it would be funny to put “Afro Thunder” into a match with Sugar Ray Leonard … just for the heck of it. Oh well, create your own boxer mode aside, it doesn't take too much out of the whole experience, but it would have been a lot more entertaining.
Overall, Knockout Kings 2003 provides a rough, hard hitting good time for any Gamecube owning boxing fan out there. It provides a great looking, challenging boxing title which has enough challenges and difficulties to keep you coming back to get drilled on some more. Not only is this a long awaited boxing title for the Gamecube, but it also is one of the best ones out to date … and EA Sports shows once again why it will knock any competitor for the sports game title down for the 10 count.
The controls are great, and most punches and combos can be executed with the press of a button, allowing for easy pick up and play style. The game has an adjustable challenge which ensures that it won’t be too hard or too easy, and Slugfest mode was a great add in.
The character models look and move great, and everything from the bodies shining under the lights from sweat to the agonizing, contorted looks of pain and flying spit or blood look realistic. The replays show each painful knockdown shot in excruciating detail, but have some weird collision detection at times.
The sounds of fighting were accurately captured, and the accentuated shot during a knockdown just adds to your flinching while watching your opponent or your player get their teeth or stomach nearly knocked out on a replay. The music consists of original rap/rock mixes during selection screens, and hey … Mills Lane is in it!
It’s easy enough to pick up and play, but each mode will present it’s own challenge depending on your skill level. Watch out for the higher difficulties, however, since they can be frustratingly hard if you’re not ready.
A great boxing title which makes some improvements over 2002, like the addition of Slugfest mode and updated graphics.
What’s better than beating up an AI opponent? Well, firing jaw shattering hits at a friend or loved one … all behind the comfort of a game system.
Any boxing fan will enjoy this game, and while it may seem more arcade style than real life … it really is a lot of fun and fast paced boxing action. At last, Gamecube owners … the wait for a fun boxing title is here, not to mention the best boxing franchise in the console market.