When it comes to most of today’s modern competitive multiplayer games, I like to make excuses about my 30-year-old-plus reflexes not being able to keep up or the stress being too much when, in reality I just don’t like losing that much.
And when it comes to battle royales like “Fortnite” and “Call of Duty: Warzone,” where it’s a hundred players battling it out to be the one winner, there’s a lot of losing to go around.
So, you might be able to chalk it up to the fact that I’ve won more games than I’ve lost, but I really, really like “Knockout City,” a three versus three dodgeball game that is really the first competitive multiplayer game that I’ve found myself coming back to over and over again.
And, yes, it’s a dodgeball game.
There’s a big revolving set of gameplay modes, but the core mode pits teams of three against each other in head-to-head matchups where the first team to reach 10 knockouts is the winner.
You knock players out like you would in any game of dodgeball, by hitting them with a dodgeball. And it’s in those dodgeball mechanics — an impressive system of throwing, dodging, catching and strategy — that “Knockout City” really hits home.
“Knockout City” is more accessible to people who haven’t spent most of their lives in fast-paced shooters, skills that are critical for those do-or-die moments in “Fortnite” and others.
Beyond switching from target to target, there’s no aiming to be done because the game locks onto your target and thrown balls have a little bit of homing ability to track down your opponent (Which is much appreciated with my aging reflexes).
So, instead of fiddling with the analog sticks to make sure you’re landing your bullets, you’ll spend more time focusing on when to throw the ball, how hard to charge up the throw and your positioning to catch your opponents unaware.
As for defense, the game is still pretty much dodgeball.
You can catch the ball by pressing the left trigger, which activates a narrow window where you’ll catch whatever’s thrown at you, or dodge out of the way.
Caught balls don’t call the other player out but it does give you a charged-up ball to hurl right back.
It’s here that a lot of the nuance in the game starts to shine. If it’s just simple lobs back and forth, it’d be a stalemate.
Instead, you can fake out players by pretending to throw the ball or you can mix ‘em up by throwing a curve ball, an overhead lob or even a slow ball that practically floats toward your target.
And then there’s the whole team aspect.
It pays to team up and go into fights together because not only can you watch each other’s backs, but you can also ball yourself up and have one of your teammates throw you at the enemy but, beware, the opponent can catch you and throw you right back or even just hurl you right off the map.
I think that’s what I like so much about “Knockout City.” Where so many other games rely on some pretty tried-and-true mechanics revolving around shooting each other, “Knockout City” tries for something really different and unique and really pulls it off.
The level of strategy and mind games are a completely different set of skills — almost more fit for a tense game of rock-paper-scissors — that you don’t see in a lot of games.
And, most importantly, I can win every once in a while.
Matt Buxton is a freelance writer and gamer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If You Play
Game: Knockout City
Rating: 4 out of 5
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation, Xbox, PC (reviewed)
Price:Free through level 25, $20 after that
Internet usage: 8 GB download, internet required for multiplayer
Release Date: May 21, 2021
ESRB Rating: Everyone