Float like an inner tube, sting like a paper cut.
The boxing ring used to be the proving ground of champions - athletes who transcended mortality through sheer grit and determination. Yesterday's fighters radiated true desire and dedication, not to mention plenty of class and style.
But thanks in no small part to the cannibalistic tendencies of Mike Tyson and the 'effacationable vifficitude' of the grammatically impaired Don King, boxing has really gone downhill. Nowadays, the sport that gave birth to such historical icons as Muhammad Ali and Rocky Marciano simply adds grist to the tabloid mill with its ridiculous sideshow antics. I keep waiting for someone to carjack Prince Naseem on his way to the ring.
Sadly, boxing video games have followed a similar path. Most boxing games emphasize arcade goofiness over simulation depth. While Ready 2 Rumble Boxing and the archaic coin-op hit Punch Out are plenty of fun, they leave much to be desired in terms of authenticity and immersion.
In fact, the original Knockout Kings was really the first console boxing game to actually attempt simulation. Unfortunately, a premature release and some heinous gameplay omissions stopped it in the early rounds. Now we have Knockout Kings 2000, and while it certainly fixes some of the problems of its predecessor, it still fails to do for boxing what the other EA Sports games have done for their respective sports.
One of the biggest selling points of Knockout Kings is its amazing licenses. Where the original game had over 40 licensed boxers, this one has over 50. Just about all the big names in the history in the sport are here, as well as some fighters that only boxing aficionados will recognize. Plus, some of the more...colorful...fighters are here, like chubby wunderkind Butterbean. I prefer margarine.
The most noticeable change between the original and the sequel is the gameplay. Knockout Kings 2000 gives you much more punch variety. In addition to a myriad of hooks, jabs, and uppercuts, you can throw a plethora of preset combinations. These really come in handy and add some much needed oomph to the action.
You'll also find 16 boxer-specific Signature Moves. These range from special punches (Crashing Hook, Thunder Punch) to charged power-ups (Hands of Stone, Fury). While not particularly useful, these at least show some ingenuity.
Graphically, Knockout Kings 2000 both pleases and disappoints. The fighters look less doughy and are better defined than last year. Facial mapping has been used as well, so the boxers actually look right. On the downside, the boxers sort of glide around the ring. Their legs don't move when you punch, which creates a sort of Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots effect. If the fighters were motion-captured, I sure don't see it.
Exhibition mode is back, and for the most part unchanged. Slugfest Mode is a bit more arcadey, with light trails behind big punches and the ability to power up punches. New to this year's version is 'Classic Fights,' where you can try your hand at 9 famous fights, including the 'Thrilla in Manila.' Sting like a bee? Not this time...
One of the weakest parts of the first Knockout Kings was the Career mode. Things have certainly gotten better, but are still not quite where they should be. You have much more control over your character, including a wider variety of looks and more skills to improve (speed, power, heart, chin, cuts, etc.).
As you progress through the rankings, you'll have the chance to train. Unfortunately, the training mode is simply a matter of following the computer's instructions on how to throw basic and advanced punches - all of which are already in the manual. Frankly, the training mode in Ready 2 Rumble Boxing offered much more incentive and challenge.
The lack of a real training mode is truly a shame, considering the potential that it has to offer. What about actual sparring matches? Or having to actually push buttons to lift the weights and punch the bags like in Ready 2 Rumble? Other sports games have extensive managerial modes...why not here?
I have a few gripes about the gameplay in general as well. The combination punches are just too good; I climbed the rankings and won the title without losing once just by repeating the same combination over and over again. Not well-balanced.
The sound is fine, though the music is terrible. I may not be the world's biggest rap fan, but I do know good rap from bad rap - bad meaning bad, not bad meaning good (Run D.M.C., where art thou?). And the worst part is that they loop the same few lines, so you get to hear the lyrics more than you ever wanted. Throw your hands in the air, and cover your ears like you just don't care...
In the end, Knockout Kings 2000 is a mixed blessing. It improves over the original by offering more of everything, but still falls short of the excellence you'd expect from EA Sports. A good effort, but the title remains unclaimed.