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Knockout Kings 2000 (N64) Review

Publisher: EA Sports

Background Info

The first boxing title on the Nintendo 64 comes from none other than the venerable EA Sports. Featuring a number of fighters past and present and a variety game modes, Knockout Kings 2000 serves up a good combination of fun and button mashing that will appeal to those looking for arcade style action. The game offers 25 real boxers in three weight classes that have the ability to end fights quickly. Fights occur in one of three modes of play: Quick Start, Slugfest, and Career Mode.

Presentation/Graphics : 85
While the graphics in Knockout Kings 2000 won't win any awards, they are solid. Each boxer has distinct features, ranging from trunks, gloves, and shoes, to body build and facial features. The lightweights look pretty wimpy compared to Butterbean, whose 300 plus pound frame takes up a large portion of the screen. The trunks have nice textures that give a satin trunk feel. Bodies feature bulging biceps and chests, as well as the addition of some body hair. Faces are similar in appearance to Goldeneye on the Nintendo 64. For the boxing fan, you should be able to easily distinguish between Ali, Spinks, or Holyfield.

The fight begins with the introduction of the boxers by Al Albert and Sean O'Grady. A simple introduction is offered for each boxer, although in Career Mode a grand entrance awaits you if you make it to the title fight. Referee Mills Lane offers up a few words, and even makes an appearance for title fights.

Faces change during the fight depending on the punishment each boxer inflicts. Black eyes are prominent as more headshots are taken by each boxer. Cuts, while not tremendously detailed, open up under the eyes and add a certain touch to the game. Of course, the cuts are caused by punches to the face, and the punches have realistic movements. Jabs and uppercuts have a natural appearance. However, at some times, especially when replaying the action, the collision detection has some problems. Uppercuts sometimes will go through the opponent to reach the face. However, in the middle of the action, the camera view is such that you don't notice the collision detection.

The boxing animations go a little over-the-top on knockdowns. If a fighter is cold-cocked, he may leave the canvas and spin in the air only to land face first on the canvas. Some knockdowns are shown repeatedly in slow motion as the boxer falls. The exaggerated knockdowns are well done and look great. As the boxer hits the canvas, the force of the impact shakes the ropes, and you really get the full boxing atmosphere.

Overall, the graphics are clean with nice textures and shape. While there is some slowdown in the game, it is very minor and does not affect the game one bit. In fact, you'll be hard pressed to find it at all. The collision detection is the biggest problem with some punches appearing to go through arms and chests.

Presentation/Audio : 70
The game sounds are a mixed bag. Punches sound great, and boxers grunt with hits and thrown punches. Mills Lane's 10-counts are clear, but the in-game commentary is virtually non-existent. If you are expecting deep blow-by-blow accounts, you simply won't find them here. Comments verge on the obvious and are sporadically introduced. The pre-fight audio, however, is excellent. Crowd noise sounds cheap; the cheers sound more like white noise than anything else.

Interface/Options : 90
Knockout Kings 2000 makes great use of the Nintendo controller. The analog stick moves the boxer around the ring and is also used for some punch combinations. Punches are thrown in several ways. The A button punches with the boxer's strong hand (right hand for right-handers, left for southpaws), and the B button punches with the lead hand. Special punch and punch combinations can be served up with the four C buttons. Boxers have four special moves that can be used. The Z button is the basic defense button. There are numerous punches available, and they depend on the button pushed and the direction of the analog stick. For example, jabs are a simple press of the A or B button, while an uppercut requires an up motion on the stick as well. Body punches are delivered with a down motion on the stick and the A or B button. Punch combinations can even be combined with the Z and R buttons for more variety. Defensive moves are limited. A high block is a simple press of the Z button, while low blocks are activated by pressing back on the stick and the Z button. You can bob and weave by pressing the Z button and moving the stick up and down.

Game options are easy to work through. The manual has a fair description of each option, although for the life of me I still don't know what the Flash Knockdowns does. I didn't notice any difference in gameplay whether it was set to none, low, or high.

Gameplay : 84
As stated earlier, there are three modes of play in Knockout Kings 2000. In Quick Start mode, the program randomly selects the two boxers and goes to the ring. SlugFest is really just an extension of the Quick Start mode. The only difference in the two is that you select the boxers. The boxers may be one of the 25 in the game, a randomly selected boxer from the 25, or a boxer you have created. The final mode is Career mode, where you can take one of the 25 boxers in the game or your own created boxer and move him up through the ranks. Users will most likely spend most of their time in Career mode, which offers the most gameplay. In Career mode, your boxer starts out at the bottom of the chart, ranked 20th in his weight class, where the three weight classes are heavyweight, middleweight, and lightweight. Prior to a fight, you have the option to train. Training will gain skill points which can be spread across power, speed, and stamina attributes. Offensive training involves your boxer connecting punches against a sparring partner. For each punch you land, you get a point. The goal is to reach 30 hits, but you only have 30 seconds to do it. Clearly if your boxer lacks handspeed it will be difficult to rack up points. Selecting defensive training, you must block punches from your sparring partner. Again, this is a timed event, and the goal is to block 30 punches, and you get a point for each punch blocked. Finally, there is a quick training mode where the CPU just gives you a random number of points. If you want to build up your boxer's skills, avoid this option. Also, probably the easiest way to rack up the points is with the offensive training.

Once you've completed the training, it's off to the ring. By default, you box the next highest ranked opponent, so your first fight will be against some stiff ranked 19th. If you have trouble with this guy, you might as well take the game back. Or if you think you'll have no problem with the guy, you can skip past a couple of boxers and fight an even higher ranked opponent. After a fight, you are awarded points based on your performance. Points are awarded for knockdowns, knockouts, wins, and punches. The points improve your rankings, where the goal is to become the champ.

Whether you play Career mode or one of the other two modes, once in the ring, the boxing basically plays the same. The object is obvious - beat the living daylights out of the other guy. Of course your success depends on the skills of the boxer as well as some of the physical attributes. A boxer with a long reach is highly effective from long range and can do a good job at keeping the opponent away with jabs. But inside they may find some difficulty. Likewise, especially in the heavyweight class, lighter weight boxers are more spry than the slower, heavier boxers. It's rather easy to pummel Butterbean even if you box as a lightweight. His size limits his speed, but I must say it's rather entertaining whaling on him.

A health meter is displayed at the top of the screen, and your health is a function of the hits taken and the punches thrown. As mentioned earlier, the C buttons offer special punch combinations, usually with four or more rapid fire punches. While the combinations may be effective in bringing the health of your opponent down, they can not be used without detriment to yourself. Each time you throw a combination, your health decreases. Repeatedly use the combinations and you'll find yourself with no gas in the tank and vulnerable to attack.

If you stick to one or two punches the entire round you will have little success. The AI boxers adapt to your punches if you don't mix them up. Likewise, they throw a good mix of punches at you, and at times you must play defensively. Unfortunately the offensive play is much easier to get a hold of than the defensive game. Even with only four defensive blocks available, the speed of the game can be too fast to plan a decent defense. Unlike real boxing, you can't tie up the other boxer if you get in trouble. However, one great feature is a shove move. If you find yourself getting the lesser of the inside game, just hit the A and B buttons simultaneously to shove your opponent back. This stops the flurry of punches and gives you a little time to rest. Another decent defensive move is to bob and weave, although the AI gets wise and will hit the body. If you put up a good defense, any health points you have lost begin to replenish.

A "punch meter" located at the top of the screen is a gauge of your offensive prowess. If you land a few good combos or connect on some normal punches, the meter fills up until it eventually flashes. At this point, you can execute a super charged punch by pressing the R, A, and B buttons. If landed, the punch easily drops the opponent to the canvas. If you miss, the meter is emptied and it starts over. Unfortunately, pressing all three buttons at the same time does not always invoke this punch. You'll swear you've pressed them all but you just throw a regular punch, which in a way leaves you wide open to attack. The game should have had a little less sensitivity to the pressing of these buttons.

If you are the recipient of a supercharged punch or just a great hit which floors you, you are sent to the mat and the count begins. To get up, you must toggle the analog stick left and right rapidly to fill an energy bar. This is easy for the first couple of knockdowns, but with each successive knockdown, it gets more difficult, to the point that no matter how quickly you move the stick, you just lie there in a pool of your own sweat.

Round-by-round stats are flashed at the conclusion of each round, which state how many punches you've thrown and landed and the percentage landed. This is an excellent guide to let you know if you need to take it easy and be patient. Following the fight, the total stats are displayed.

The Create Boxer mode is a nice feature. You can assign a nickname and last name to your boxer as well as skin color, boxing stance, skills, and special punches. In addition, you can select among 15 different faces, 8 types of hair (including afros, mohawks, and half-bald heads), hair color, facial hair style and color, body weight and height, and the colors of your trunks, shoes, and gloves. The skills selection allows you to divide up skill points between the three boxing attributes, so you can create a powerful puncher who tires quickly or a speedy but weak lightweight.

With all that is good with the game, there are a few complaints. For starters, some fights are easily won by just throwing the special punch combinations. By repeatedly pressing the C buttons, you can win fights, and in Career mode, the use of the combos are rewarded with extra points, so the Career mode can lead to bad habits. At this point, the game turns into a mundane task of pressing a couple of buttons to advance. But if you are disciplined enough to avoid the combos except for a few times a round, the game's value is extended.

Another problem with the game is the quick career mode. Even though you are ranked 20th at the start, each win moves you up quickly. You jump one or more spots with each win, and you can find yourself in the championship fight with only five or six fights under your belt. Thus, the realism in this mode goes out the window. I was expecting more Lions Club hall and local hotel ballroom fights before reaching the contenders. Also, if you lose a couple of fights along the way, you keep going back to the training mode, where you increase your stats. If you go through training enough, you get to the point where you've reached the maximum skills points, at which point you are almost unstoppable.

Finally, there doesn't seem to be a large difference in gameplay between easy and hard. Once you get the hang of the game, it's a rapid climb to the hard setting, where you'll find yourself being very competitive in each fight and winning many of them.

Replay Value : 70
So will you retire once you've become champ or will you defend your title? It depends. I can't see most gamers playing Knockout Kings 2000 exclusively for long periods of time. It's one of those games you pull out every now and then and just have fun with it, which it is. The game definitely scores high in the fun factor, but its relative ease makes it more of a checkers game rather than a chess match. As such, the game may be more suitable to the rental market, where you can play it for a few days and take it back. When you're in mood for a little fisticuffs, lace up the gloves and head back to the rental store.

For those who are goal-oriented, you can always extend the play by taking all 25 boxers through the Career mode and making it to the top. And of course the boxer creation feature can also be used to extend the game the same way.

If you've got a buddy to play with, the two-player mode will give you hours of play. Once you learn their characteristics, computer opponents can be easily defeated, but with a human opponent, there's more unpredictability involved.

Overall : 80
Knockout Kings 2000 is a fun game. It's not the typical fighting genre game since it tries to simulate the real sport of boxing, and it does a decent job at it, although it is more on the arcade side of the sport. For gamers like myself who just don't get into the whole fighter genre with all its kick and jump moves but who love boxing, the game is easy to grasp and enjoy. The lack of depth may turn some off, and because of that, rent before buying.

By: James Smith 11/1/99

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