Where other games like Rocket Arena failed to grasp an immediate audience, EA’s new ‘dodgebrawl’ battle game, Knockout City, has garnered a massive player base in a short amount of time since launch. Why is this, though? The difference is that, like Fortnite, Knockout City has managed to find the perfect balance between being accessible while still having enough depth and strategy to get you engrossed. The immediate pick-up-and-play familiarity of dodgeball (no matter where in the world you’re from, you know dodgeball) mixed with some fun and dynamic environmental mechanics, means that you get an experience where you already know the rules before you’ve even discovered the game.
Of course, the fun is adapting to the curveballs that the developers have integrated into that tried-and-tested formula. Much like Rocket League emulating a vehicular-football set-up, Knockout City works on the same premise with everyone’s favourite rubber-balls-to-the-face pastime, but the real fun comes in with the tricks and twists that you have to capitalise on (and watch out for).
The game sticks with a simple set-up. 3v3 battles mean that the game isn’t overwhelming, it’s easy to find people to play with thanks to quick and levelled matchmaking, and you’re able to coordinate with your smaller team rather than a horde of random people going AWOL. You also start each match with nothing, leaving everyone in a mad scramble to find balls to attack with, so there’s a great level playing-field from the get-go.
The mechanics in Knockout City keep it simple too — you’re able to throw, pass, and catch; and these three principles make up most of what you’ll be doing across Knockout City’s handful of colourful and different maps. The game utilises an auto-lock on feature when throwing at opponents, but you’ll have to be within a certain proximity and trajectory, of course. On the defensive front, you can dodge if your timing is right, but even better, catch the ball being thrown at you with a perfectly-timed pull of the left-trigger.
This risk/reward of throwing and risking a catch, or anticipating a throw from an opponent only to try and nab it back is exhilarating, and gives players who don’t want to dive into a world of customisable weapons and XP something more simple to enjoy. With that said, though, Knockout City’s straightforward approach has a lot of tricks to master.
Firstly, you can add in lob shots or curve throws (to hit players hiding behind cover or around corners, respectively) using acrobatic moves before throwing. You also don’t have your normal run-of-the-mill dodgeballs in Knockout City too. The game features a handful of ball-types to mix up the gameplay and give you some options when attacking. From the Moon Ball, which allows the player holding the ball to jump higher, to the Bomb Ball, which is a time-bomb that explodes on impact, there’s a lot of variety in the way you want to play. There’s even a sniper-shot ball to launch a fast, almost undodgeable direct hit!
On top of that, you can use your teammates, literally! Knockout City not only gives you the option to use a variety of ball-options, but also throw your own teammates. If you’re stuck in a position without any balls and need some ammo ASAP, you can request your teammate to bundle into a ball and launch them at the opponent. It’s an ingenious way to balance the gameplay even if you can’t get your hands on any balls, and adds an unpredictable element to your strategy. Of course, this has a risk too, as you can easily be caught and used against your own team.
The levels themselves are also a highlight, where traversal and mastering your jumping becomes a must if you’re going to survive a few rounds. Gusts of wind, quick-travel tubes, and even moving cranes can be capitalised on in order to get to higher ground and take advantage on the game’s impressive verticality — you really never know where a ball is going to hit you from.
If you’re tired of shooting your friends in the face, Knockout City will give you the chance to throw a ball into them instead. A variety of outlandish ball types, locations, and game modes keep it exciting. Plus, each season introduces new maps, ball types, rewards, events, and challenges; and things are already off to a good start. If you’re looking for something fun and different, yet oddly familiar and nostalgic, Knockout City is a must-try for anyone with an inkling of interest.
Knockout City is available on Xbox One, PS4, Switch, and PC, with next-gen support. There’s even a full trial for all platforms, so you can try before you buy. You can check out more on Knockout City on EA’s official website.