Knockout City is a frantic and fast-paced arcade multiplayer dodgeball arena experience that is tight and wonderfully designed. And it’s been able to deliver some of the most fun I’ve had in a multiplayer game since I first played Rocket League. That is high praise. It’s got the same level of focus, with a few key gameplay elements that seemingly never get old. With just slightly more content, which will probably be added in updates, it could be that this rubber ball throwing battlefield might just be one of the best games of the year.
The lack of fluff is apparent right from the main menu; there is a hideout where you can practice your throws and then a screen with the selection of choices. Play the game, unlock cosmetics, clans, options, and quit the game. It’s clear that Knockout City wants you to get right into the thick of things because that is where the magic happens.
It’s refreshing to see such a clear-sighted title, especially with so many games now insisting on having a multitude of features, payment plans, unlockable DLC and a variety of game modes. Many of them lose sight of what makes them special. However Knockout City knows exactly what you are here for – throwing some balls in peoples’ faces.
Boy, does that throwing feel good too. The gameplay is mostly pretty simple; you spawn on the map, and there are balls scattered about, some regular dodgeballs while others have unique properties. The sniper ball can shoot like a bullet across the map, the moon ball makes you float while holding it, the bomb ball is a ticking explosive that you have to throw quickly, etc. You can also throw a teammate which is an instant kill if you land it, or you charge up your throw, making your partner essentially an airstrike slamming down on enemies.
You also have defensive abilities like sprinting and dodging. It seems like balls have very light tracking, but they can be avoided with the right moves. Crucially however you can also catch the ball mid-throw and then chuck it back at a faster speed. It’s essentially a parry that takes some good timing. The catch window is large, but the closer the ball is when you catch, the faster you can throw it back. This means there is a tense choice of deciding whether or not to go for the perfect shot at the risk of being hit.
There is a selection of game modes, with rotating modes that change occasionally. There is the core 3v3 team deathmatch and free for all options as you would expect. But then there are wilder modes that take advantage of specific parts of gameplay, like one where you can only use other teammates as balls or one where there are only specialized balls that spawn on the map.
Map selection is scarce and one of the major complaints that I have about Knockout City. That’s not to say they are bad, and in fact all of the ones available now are quite good and intricate. However there is a feeling that there needs to be more here to justify the price point of the game.
That’s because unlike a lot of its contemporaries, Knockout City is not a free to play game as one might expect from the premise. It has a battle pass progression of sorts but everything is unlocked through progression, with the option of a premium store that has some unique items. I really appreciated this and I think it will help the game in the long run. You always feel like you’re working towards the next cosmetic or item.
There is also ranked play across either team deathmatch or solos, and both are great fun and allow players to really show off the skill ceiling. There are already those who can pull off miraculous dodges and hits that would make your head spin. It’s kept me motivated to keep playing as I always feel like I’m getting progressively better. If there’s one major takeaway, Knockout City is simple to learn, but very hard to master.
Knockout City is basic on the surface but its core mechanics are able to provide so much fun that you may well struggle to put it down. It’s got all the fundamentals right and with just a bit more content added in, this could be something really special. If you’re looking for a unique spin on the competitive multiplayer angle, it’s absolutely worth a look.
Brawl up with Knockout City on Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One now!