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     " ...I gave up. Couldn’t keep playing. Just wasn’t anything but aggravating. I think it gave me an ulcer. "

      Title: Knockout Kings 2001 by EA Sports

      Format: PS2 Boxer

      Reviewing Monkey: Dungapult

      The Hype: Knockout Kings, arguably the most successful boxing franchise in history comes to the PS2. So, does it land a hit or fall flat on it’s back? Read on, my Monkeys. Read on.

      What This Monkey Thought...

      Graphics: Visually, this game can best be defined by one word: "Rushed." Electronic Arts, famous for the high level of detail and cutting edge graphics drop their gloves and takes one square in the jaw on this title. Lifeless faces, heavy pixalization, jerky animations, massive clipping, barely interactive rings, and half assed background inclusions all serve to round out what is no where near a real effort. The boxers themselves aren’t too bad, but with their limited modeling and lack of detail they aren’t much better than what we got from EA as player graphics in Madden. Which, when you realize that in Madden they were rendering in excess of 30 people at any one time and in Knock Out Kings only 2, is a pretty sad thing. The rings, as I’ve said, are barely functional and have no ambiance graphics (scuffing shoes, vibrating ropes, etc.). The crowds are some amazingly poor 2D rendered sprites the likes of which we haven’t seen since some old N64 games. And, in my opinion, worst of all- there are no trainers or refs in fight. In Madden, you had extra players on the sidelines, refs, line refs, and press down on the field. In Knockout Kings, you have a choice- if you want to have a ring girl, you don’t get trainers in your corner. If you want to have a ref, you don’t get movement from your boxers. And, if you want to be fighting, you don’t get any of the above…Just 2 boxers in the middle of a completely barren environment. What kind of B.S. is that!?! This is a "next generation" system for poop’s sake. I want photographers on the floor, I want a ref to get in the way, I want a ring girl being grossed out on the sides, and I want trainers shouting to me from my corner. Instead I get jack.
          And, as if that wasn’t bad enough, the models they do give you are incredibly limited. There are, by my count, about 4 different types of trainers, 1 ring girl, 3 refs, and - most annoying of all, only 5 different types of boxers you can choose! Hell, even the old PSX games gave us the ability to fully customize our characters…And if you compare this with some of the kick ass editors in games like No Mercy on the N64 you’re left positively angry. Completely unacceptable. 1.5 out of 5

      Sound: Good news, bad news here Monkeys. The good news is that there are 2 good sound effects: punches landing and the announcers talking. The bad news is that even those aren’t great and that absolutely all of the effects are at least in part screwed up. Lag is the first problem…with many sounds coming what seems like days behind the action. This is especially bad if you try and base any strategy off of those sounds…like being told there’s 20 seconds left in a round when there’s actually 3. Interaction is the second falling. Half of the time they’ll say things that have nothing to do with what’s going on and the other half sounds like a bad electronic answering machine- "What a great right cross from…*pause*…Big Daddy…"
          To make matters even worse, what isn’t done well is compounded by what isn’t done at all. There’s no in game corner chatter, no real outbursts from they crowd (they occasionally cheer or boo…But so far off events that you really have no idea why), no ambiance sounds (like shoes scuffling or panting), and no real music to speak of. Again, as with the graphics, a definite half ass effort. 2 out of 5

      Game Play: The old Knockout Kings used strategy, cunning, boxer advantages, and intellectual fighting. 2001 uses speed and stamina- and that’s it. End of story. If you are faster, and if you can punch more, you will win. Power, technique, and the ability to take a beating are all nice…but are no real factor here. The game is so unbalanced that the heaviest, hardest hitting guy will have to lay down some ungodly combinations to drop the weakest, smallest guy…While that same small guy is more than capable of laying down a constant and relentless barrage of jabs that will never run out and never let the big guy get a shot in edge wise. Thus, super fast lightweights are without question the dominating force in the game- easily trouncing the most powerful of heavy weights. It’s absolutely pathetic.
          This glaring error is compounded by the ridiculous stamina system in the game. Where as most true boxing games reward you for boxing intelligently- sticking and moving, picking your shots, etc. Knockout Kings employs the simple and strict strategy of out throwing your opponent. In several times going through the single player career mode and in many, many bouts against the CPU, the only strategy to use is repeated smacking of the same button. That’s it. End of list. If you can average 200 punches each round you’re doing well and will never lose. In our again undefeated heavyweight career mode, with our speed and stamina max'd out fighter, we were able to achieve 8 first round knockouts in a row (probably 12 total) including against Muhammed Ali, Joe Frasier, and Sonny Liston. How sad is that!?!
          Further complicating matters is the unresponsive and sticky control system and unbalanced combo system. Combos, the hallmark of any boxer, are essential limited to holding down the "combo button" and tapping the same attack 4 times in a row. Though you can try and manually execute your own in the ring, they will never be as effective or efficient as the combo button and are best left ignored.
          And that’s just the first 3 paragraphs worth of problems. There are, believe me, many, many more. From a completely linear ranking ladder to an AI that doesn’t improve or have it’s rankings affected by its wins and losses. From an incredibly redundant and literally repetitive training mode (you will do the same 8 training lessons, complete with the same 8 sets of instructions and moves, umpteen times) to a personal advancement system that only rewards you for the time spent training (actually fighting never gives you extra character points). From useless trainers to completely non-customizable fighting styles…this game really has nothing to offer. I didn’t enjoy playing Knockout Kings at all…and it would surprise me if anyone did. 1 out of 5

      Level and Environment Designs: The levels, as you might expect, are nothing but boxing rings. And, while I found that to be a bit of a disappointment (fantasy arenas are always fun), it was no where near the loathing I got once I actually started noticing how woefully lacking all of the environments were. There is no difference in the rings, no changing of the crowds, no action, and no interaction in any level with the environments. Hell, evidentially, even the same ring girl follows you around the world. There aren’t even home crowd advantages. Pretty much all that changes from place to place is the color. It would be sad if they weren’t making you pay 50 bucks for it. .5 out of 5

      Multiplayer: Multiplayer, as you might expect, sucks. It is, without question, more fun than single player- since where single player is only defined by speed, multiplayer is defined by speed and random button mashing. But still, the game is so massively unbalanced that the only way to get a decent match out of it is to have both players playing the same guy…and how much fun is that? It is most evident in "Bashing" mode (where you can play any weight and boxer against any other weight and boxer), where any lightweight can beat any heavyweight without breaking much of a sweat. Sheer and utter crap. 2 out of 5

      Replayability: Here at Game Monkeys, we have to play a game for 10 hours before we review it. Personally, I think the idea of "Replayability" doesn’t come into play until well after the 5th hour. The idea being, that if you’re paying more than 10 bucks an hour for a game’s entertainment value you’re being jacked. It took exactly 25 minutes for us to get sick of playing Knockout Kings. It took just shy of 2 hours for us to wish we could stop playing (since, by that time- in addition to several multiplayer games and some random fighting, we had already beaten career mode and were ¾ of our way to beating it again). By hour 4 I was angry. By half way through hour 5 I gave up. Couldn’t keep playing. Just wasn’t anything but aggravating. I think it gave me an ulcer. 0 out of 5

      Story/Dramatics: None. And, while I’m definitely hard on games that don’t have a story, I’m going to be more so here. Why? Well, 2 reasons. 1) Everything about this game is so half-assed (there’s that word again) that they must have had more than enough time to polish one up. A cool one…with you falling in love with Adrian and your old man trainer dying and…Well, you get the idea. 2) They make so many dry comparisons to Rocky (with the music being close, you striking the statue pose at the end, etc.) that they should have just gone all the way. 0 out of 5

      Instructions and Learning Curve: The good news is that the learning curve is small. The bad news is that it’s because trying to actually employ strategy is a waste of time. 3 out of 5

      Installation and Real System Requirements: You know, I’ve written about some bad load times in my day. Oni, Simpson’s Wrestling, Dragon’s Lair 2. But never, ever, did I even imagine that this kind of atrocity could exist. First and fore most, as was often exclaimed during our playing, the load times are often longer than the fights. Second is the sheer amount of them! Load before a fight, load after introductions, load before cutting to your corner between rounds, load when you get back from a round break, load before the winner announcement, load before cutting back to the menu, load before training, load after training…Ye Gods! It’s insane! If you spend 1/3 of the time playing that you do sitting through loads you’ll be doing well. Makes you want to drag fights out the distance just so you’ll be spending less time looking at the 2 stupid load screens. And, that’s another thing. Madden, for example, peppers various controller configs at you during load screens-, which is very cool. Check out the passing controls, running controls, defense, etc. Knockout Kings shows you 2 (and always in the same places respectively). 1 is a black screen with the logos. The other is a picture of the controls, but there’s only 1 and it’s only for the most basic controls. It shows you nothing advanced. In-Frickin’-Credibly Irritating! -2 out of 5

      The Verdict:

       No. Dear god no! You’re better off paying someone your precious bananas to beat you up for real than you are spending them on this game.

      The Good: Really, nothing. I guess maybe that it’s a boxing game…

      The Bad: Everything from graphics to game play. Hell, you read the review…you already know.

      The Overall Ugly: This game. It is definitely overall ugly.

      What it's Worth: Not even rental.

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