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Knockout City Review

First Impressions


When Knockout City was announced by Velan and EA in February and when its beta was released, it seemed like a cute idea for an arcade-like multiplayer experience that might have some potential if it reached a wide audience. Then, as we saw with Outriders, dropping day one on Xbox Game Pass meant reaching that audience and potential. This was amplified even further by dropping with a 10-day free-to-play “block party” event and continuing to be free-to-play for everyone for the first 25 levels. With full cross-play there was and is no excuse to try this with friends.


The ascetic of Knockout City is fun and cartoony, with the graphics and lighting being nothing to write home about, but the sounds and animations really bring it to life. The sound effect of hitting an opponent with a dodgeball is perfectly satisfying, as are sound effects for jumping around the arena and throwing each special ball, with the sound design of the bomb and sniper balls especially being excellent at letting me know what is happening in the game through my ears. The DJ and music add that “block party” tone in this futuristic metropolis that adds to the fun.

Initial Thoughts

Being multiplayer-only gave me a little apprehension, as there is only a brief tutorial before I was forced to learn the hard way online. Thankfully, Knockout City is much more approachable than modern competitive shooters and there was so much fun to be had even while I was losing often and learning the ropes. It is more of a cross between a third-person shooter and an arcade sports game bringing all of the fun and depth from both genres. I noticed quickly that the pacing of the gameplay was slower than expected, and it was only as I started to improve that the pacing started to make more sense and be more fluid. It was certainly fun from the start, but I saw quickly there was deep gameplay underneath.


Throw, Catch, Pass, and Dodging

The gameplay in Knockout City is simple-yet-effective, it is approachable to everyone and deep enough for highly skilled players to grow and dominate, finding so many little ways to edge out competitors. Players have the options to run, jump, throw, catch, dodge, pass, and glide around each map in an attempt to knockout opponents and avoid be hit.

Throwing is key to making this game approachable, as aiming a dodgeball is lock-on, meaning this isn’t the same type of skill test as a typical competitive shooter. The difference between good and great players won’t be their aim, but more their movement, their teamwork, their positioning, and their timing, while being creative to use different curved throws to take advantage of surroundings. Even things like positioning the camera thoughtfully while running around to give a better view of balls around me was a huge level-up moment.

To combat the auto-aim throwing, the catching mechanic is pretty forgiving. A red border would appear when an opponent was locking on to me, with an indicator guiding me where to look. From there timing a catch takes practice and is key to improving at the game. This isn’t gym class dodgeball, either, as catching the ball doesn’t end the exchange, and sequences of throwing back and forth at an opponent as the ball speeds up only to mess with their timing using a pump-fake leads to exhilarating gameplay moments.

As an alternative to catching, I could evade those scenarios by dodging with a well-timed dash mechanic, which is useful in many ways also giving me platforming choices and the option to tackle balls out of my opponents’ hands.

Again, though, the pacing of the game takes some getting used to, with characters not being very speedy and dodgeballs not being thrown nearly as fast as expected. I often found myself either standing around without a ball or chasing down an opponent with no good opportunity to hit them. As I got better, though, I learned to avoid those scenarios by positioning myself better, turning into a ball when necessary, and passing with my teammates to make fluid, quick, catch and throw plays instead of standstill moments of walking and charging the ball while an opponent awaits the catch.

Maps and Game Modes

The game launched with five maps and a couple of different game modes, the main mode being 3v3 Team KO, but 1v1 KO and 4v4 ball-free KO added some variety. The team seems to be committed to keeping content fresh though, releasing new game modes that rotate.

The maps at launch have a variety of quirks, even though they are all a similar scale and have a similar feel. Most have moving elements like trains, cars, or barriers that shift to change the landscape of the game. They are certainly well thought out, each having platforms and walls that can be used to avoid balls and get a better angle on other players.

Even so, I wish there were a wider variety of maps and hope to see more come post-launch. Even with only a limited number of maps, having a different “special” ball each game (bomb, sniper, multi-ball, cage ball, moon ball) means there will be a large number of different game combinations that can be experienced. Still, I feel like after a while many rounds can start to feel similar to each other.


There are ranked modes and open play modes, with each allowing me to unlock new clothing, gear, emotes, etc for my dodgeballer. Moving up the ranks is not quite as satisfying or have quite as clear of goals as the proven battle pass system in Fortnite. There are plenty of ways, though, to customize my baller which feels great, and microtransactions can only buy cosmetics which are all also purchasable with currency acquired from leveling up which is great to see.

Lasting Impressions


This is a multiplayer only game, so replayability is absolutely vital. From what I have experienced, this game is pure joy and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. Although more maps and game modes will be key in keeping the game and the community alive past its first month. Again, there are so many opportunities to improve both as a single player and as a team, from timing catches better to getting to know the spawn points better, and every game is so quick and fun, while giving that opportunity to work on my skills, there is not much more I could ask for out of a team deathmatch.


Knockout City has the approachability of an arcade sports title with enough depth to keep competitive shooter fans occupied. It is a simple title that nails what it does, without trying to do too much. The game is designed to be easy to pick up and play with lock-on aiming and small-scale 3v3 matches. There are so many ways to improve and teamwork certainly rises above the rest, with communication, passing, and positioning paving the way to greatness.

Knockout City was set up for success by dropping on Game Pass and being free-to-start on all platforms with cross-play and cross-progression. Content is lacking at launch, though, with no single-player or local play options, fewer game modes and maps than ideal, no custom games options, and little reason to rank up. I am hoping this game grows with more features over time but as of now I would still recommend this game as it hits as a team-based competition for family-friendly gamers, a market too often overlooked by game publishers.


Approachable action

Deep team-based gameplay

Fun, family-friendly ascetic


No single-player

Few maps and game modes



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