Knockout League is an arcade-like virtual reality boxing game that has come out for all the major headsets currently on the market. We are reviewing the Playstation VR version of the game.
A VR boxing game sounds great on paper, and Knockout League doesn’t take long to prove that this is actually the case. It also doesn’t waste any time showing its main source of inspiration, which is Nintendo’s classic Punch-Out!, which came out during Mike Tyson’s reign in the ring. So how does Knockout League play?
Not surprisingly, you use a pair of move controllers to play Knockout League. They turns your hands into boxing gloves that you can use to either block incoming blows or dish out some pain yourself. This can be done when an opponent lowers his guard, or when he tries to hit you but you move out of the way to deliver a painful blow on his now exposed chin. Controls are straightforward and intuitive, as they should be with a game like this.
Knockout Kings features a roster of nine different cartoon-like fighters, each with a style and personality of their own. They also have weaknesses that are often unique to them, and you’ll have to watch and study their moves to find out how and when to attack and when it’s time to evade or parry. In this sense it’s very much an arcade game, where you are looking at how to beat a level (or end boss) rather than out-boxing an opponent using your own personal style. As long as you don’t expect Knockout League to be a VR version of Knockout Kings or Fight Night, you should be fine.
Because of the nature of the game, you’re going to have a much tougher time getting through opponents during your first encounter with them. This is where they’ll be able to take you by surprise, but after your learn their tricks beating them becomes more of a routine. In a way, the difficulty level goes from hard to easy without much middle ground in between. Here, I would have enjoyed some kind of sparring/single match mode with a boxer with a more natural style.
Nevertheless, playing through the game’s campaign is a ton of fun, even during subsequent playthroughs. A lot of that is due to the physical nature of the gameplay. As a VR player, I mostly play my games while seated – but Knockout League quickly throws that option out of the window. You’ll need to duck, swerve and step out of the way if you are to evade incoming attacks successfully – and swerving to the right and then quickly landing a right hook after evading an incoming fist never stops to feel satisfying.
Each one of your opponents looks detailed and well animated – which helps convey their personality in an over the top kind of manner. There are also subtle facial expressions, like an “oh no!” face when they realize they just mistimed an attack and left themselves wide open for your counterpunch.
Besides the arcade/campaign mode, there is also a small array of minigames to play – which sometimes resemble a boxing training session but can also look like a Virtua Tennis minigame. Whatever the shape of each minigame, they’re fun in their own right and also help you hone some of the skills you’ll be using in the arcade mode. This especially applied to dodging for me, as I went into the game using a combination of just parrying and attacking first but quickly found that that wasn’t enough.
Knockout League is a VR game that is extremely easy to pick up, even for non-gamers, and a lot of fun lies in the experience of physically boxing against “real” opponents without actually getting hit in the nose. I would have appreciated a few more “boxing sim lite” elements for more lasting appeal, but I would imagine this is always going to be a great game to play with a couple of friends around as you take turns at unleashing your inner Tyson.