Boxing has become a mere shadow of its glory days when fighters like Ali, Norton and Frazier used to duke it out in the seventies. Today, fighters are in it for the quick cash and notoriety, then they fold like cheap lawn chairs for the most part. As you might have guessed by now, I grew up watching Ali in his prime. I was 10 to 13 years old at the time. I'm hardly an expert at the "Sweet Science" but there was something about boxing in those days that was so real and compelling. I didn't like Ali then, because I thought he was too arrogant. I can appreciate his skills more now as I look back on it. Today, boxing and boxers are looked upon with a considerably less amount of respect compared to their latter day counterparts. Perhaps that goes some way towards explaining why the sport isn't given much serious consideration in the gaming community. No body I know waits breathlessly for the next Boxing 2000 to be released. Boxing games come and go with little fanfare. In my opinion, there hasn't been a decent boxing title since EA's 4D boxing. Well, folks there still isn't.
Presentation/Graphics : 50
KO Boxing has the look of a late Amiga title or early 3Dfx game. To say the graphics engine is dated is an understatement. The game offers a choice of either 640x480 or 800x600 resolution in 16-bit color. Three levels of detail from low to high can be set in order to enhance the gaming experience. They don't help much. No matter what resolution or detail setting, KO's graphics are a bit washed out and unimaginative. Perhaps three years ago this type of graphic representation of a game would be acceptable.
Presentation/Audio : 60
Sound effects in KO are utilitarian at best. Obviously, you have the sound of punches being thrown and landed and some crowd sound effects. All in all the sound leaves one wanting. The music seems disconnected from the game in a way I have rarely seen in all my years playing games. It seems like it was made for an entirely different game and just thrown in KO for lack of any other available music.
Interface/Options : 45
The game controls are made to be compatible with two button joysticks. Basically, one button is for offense and one button is for defense. While holding either button down, and positioning the joystick at one of its eight different positions, your boxer will perform an offensive or defensive move. As often happens with these type of imported games, this manner of control is implemented due to the wide use of keyboards as controllers. I didn't have too much trouble getting used to this method of control, but I feel a much better scheme could have been implemented for the now widespread multi-button controllers. Unfortunately, the controls are as sluggish as they are archaic. It felt like my fight was in slow motion. Response times to joystick input are way too slow for any kind of conceivable rhythm to happen.
Gameplay : 50
On the surface KO looks to have a lot going for it. The game has four major modes of play: Single Fight, Two Players, Championship and Arcade. I had little fun with any of the modes of play. Each boxer has two meters that gauge his current punch power and his fatigue factor. These are pretty standard fare for most boxing games and work relatively realistically. The game's AI is sufficient to keep one challenged for a good amount of time if one has the patience to endure the lackluster play, graphics and sound. For each of the three difficulty levels, the computer rises admirably to the challenge.
In this mode, you can choose an opponent from the general boxing pool of eight fighters. Choose your fighter, the difficulty level and number of rounds and you are whisked to the arena for the main event. This is a useful mode in order to get acquainted with the game and if you want to just get a quick game in. The one disappointing thing is that you can't change the length of each round.
Tired of beating the crap out of the computer? Or vice-versa? In this mode you and your "victim" can choose between all 20 boxers in the game, unlike the single fight mode. Choose the number of rounds and their duration and you are on your way to head to head action. Unfortunately, the boxers still react very sluggishly, the graphics are still antiquated and the game still has no personality. If you don't want to share the computer and are lucky enough to have a LAN set up then you can play via TCP/IP and IPX too. I have a LAN but I couldn't find anyone interested in playing against me.
The "heart" of KO Boxing is the Championship mode. This is where you take your fighter and try to win the tile. The number of rounds and round duration is fixed in this mode. Opponents in this mode are faster, and more highly trained. This is perhaps the only tolerable mode in the game and provides for moderately interesting gameplay. The fighters have different strengths or weaknesses if not much personality.
Practice & Sparring
KO allows the player to hone his skills in two special modes, practice and sparring. In the practice mode, you are guided by a trainer who gives you instruction on how to become a better fighter. More interestingly, the sparring mode allows the user to "store" combos that can be unleashed upon opponents during fights. In this mode you are allowed to record macros of different combos that can be used by pressing one button during a fight. While this is an interesting feature, I would rather be challenged to do combos during a fight than just use "canned" moves that were defined previously.
Create a Boxer
Reminiscent of 4D Boxing, players are allowed to create their own persona to guide to the title. This portion is limited to only a few options compared to 4D Boxing (and other boxing games). Basically, you can control your fighter's name, nationality, punching hand, punching power, speed, conditioning and how your boxer looks. This option is functional, but uninspiring. It lacks the personality that the whole game lacks.
This game was really intended to be a solo game. The object being to take your fighter and advance through the ranks in order to become the heavyweight champion. The championship mode is perhaps the best part of an otherwise mediocre title. However, KO lacks any degree of personality and its controls are so sluggish that it makes one not want to play. I spent a long time trying to get into this game and become good at it. The fun factor was so low, that it became a chore just to play.
Replay Value : 45
One of the most difficult things in creating sports games is to make a believable and fun computer opponent that gives that player a good solid challenge without cheating or being to difficult. Better attempts at creating good competitive AI include Madden 2000 and to some extent NFL 2K for Dreamcast. Madden has many different ways to adjust the game's difficulty through the use of sliders or other settings. KO Boxing has three basic difficulty settings: beginner, intermediate, and expert. This is a typical breakdown for most sports games and in some instances works relatively well. I can't imagine anyone playing the game long enough to be good enough to compete successfully on the highest level. The computer dispatched me very quickly in this setting. The combination of a poor control scheme and unrealistic difficulty levels makes KO Boxing fall far short in this category.
Overall : 55
I really hate to be too hard on games, I know that sometimes "beauty is in the eye of the beholder." However, I can find no redeeming qualities to recommend in KO. I would advise against buying the game. Your money is better spent on other things.