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Knockout Kings (PSX)
Hands-on Preview

Publisher: EA Sports

Sports fans have a lot to be thankful for in regards to the Playstation. Football, baseball, basketball, hockey and soccer have all been well represented on the PSX, with major developers such as EA Sports and Sony providing quality titles for each of these sports. But what about boxing? Boxing has been virtually ignored on the Playstation. Perhaps this is due to the wealth of popular fighting games available (the Tekken series, for example). Whatever the reason, fans of the "sweet science" have been largely ignored by PSX game developers...until now. EA Sports plans on making the first major splash in the PSX boxing market with it's upcoming "Knockout Kings."

EA is billing this game as a simulation, something which should be pleasant news for all fight fans. Knockout Kings comes with a tremendous number of options and play modes which virtually assure long-term replay value. In what is surely a fantasy of many boxing fans the world over, you will be able to compete with 38 legendary fighters from different eras. The list of names EA has come up with for Knockout Kings is truly impressive; imagine what it would be like to pit Sugar Ray Leonard against Jake La Motta. Or how about the Joe Lewis, the "Brown Bomber," against the one and only Muhammad Ali? The list goes on and on; from such current champions like Evander Holyfield and Oscar De La Hoya, to warriors of yesteryear like Sony Liston or Jack Dempsey, everyone should be able to find some of their all-time favorites in this game. EA is also promising these legends will fight like their real-life counterparts. So while Sugar Ray Leonard will stick and move, Marvin Hagler will bully you and try to go toe-to-toe. The boxers are modeled with polygons and for the most part resemble the real fighters very closely.

The control, as it is right now, is pretty solid. There are buttons for heavy attacks (uppercuts and haymakers), Medium attacks (straights and hooks) and light attacks (jabs). One button is used for defense, while the R1 and L1 buttons are used to circle the boxers in either direction. Finally, the R2 button is used for combos and the L2 button is used for "dirty moves", such as the kidney punches. These controls seem to work fairly well, and there are 3 preset controller options available. Hopefully EA will incorporate a custom controller setup in the final release. Vibration is also available for players with the appropriate controllers.

The game comes packed with plenty of options. The number of rounds can be set at 3, 5, 10 or 12. The "saved by the bell" rules, which some states employ while others do not, can be toggled on or off, as can the 3 knockdown rule. The clock speed can be set to fast or normal, which will make 10 or 12 round fights less time consuming. The best option of all, though, has to be the Career Mode. Here you create your own boxer, train him and try to take him up through the ranks. You can pick from an amazing array of physical characteristics for your fighter, as well as whether you want him to be a slugger or a boxer. This portion of the game was not finished in the copy I have, so I cannot accurately report on how this mode ultimately works. Suffice to say at this point it looks very, very promising.

Sounds are well-done, with referee Mills Lane handling the in-game action. Commentators also present and make relevant observations throughout the fight. The sounds of the punches landing, as well as the crowd are handles equally well. Atmosphere is further enhanced by the different rings and locations available. Players will be able to duke it out at such legendary venues as Caesers Palace and Madison Square Garden.

With Knockout Kings, EA Sports looks like they may very well have another blockbuster sports franchise on their hands. The preview version is already impressive; by the time EA gets this title ready for release, it may be the game boxing fans have long been craving.

By: Jim S. 9/7/98

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