KO Boxing, from Data Becker, is the latest in what is a short and
uninspired lineup of boxing titles for the PC. The sport just hasn't
been represented well on the PC. While titles like Ready to
Rumble thrive on console systems, the PC has yet to witness a
definitive boxing title. KO Boxing gets off on the wrong foot by
breaking the first cardinal rule of sports games, but tries to regain
it's composure via an 'ultra-realistic' boxing experience.
The result? Let's put on our gloves, hope into the ring and find out.
For those of you wondering what the first cardinal rule of sports
gaming is, allow me to quote it from 'The Reviewers' Guild's
Official Handbook', currently available at EB, Chapters, and all
1) Thou must obtain the official licenses for both the
individuals and teams involved in the sport in question.
KO Boxing fails to comply with this rule, and thus we are treated to
a bunch of no-name boxers defending their no-name
championships in no-name locales. To compensate for this huge
faux pas, Data Becker has promised an 'ultra-realistic'
boxing experience. Considering the circumstances, that being the
lack of boxing titles available on the market today, I'm willing to
overlook this glaring mistake as long as the game delivers on all
other levels. Unfortunately for us, it does not.
KO Boxing launches with a menu screen in need of a makeover. A
championship belt, rotating in the middle of the screen, gives the
gamer the opening options. Among them is the ability to create a
boxer. This is a nice feature that needs to be expanded. You're
very limited in creating your fighter. After choosing a name and a
birth country, you get to spread 205 points among three boxing
skills. Those three skill are Power Punch, Speed, and Condition.
Here's my first gripe with the game. Couldn't they have broken
Power Punch down into more skills; such as Jab, Uppercut, Hook,
etc.? Apparently not. If Power Punch, Speed, and Conditioning is
all you need to win a fight, you know this is going to be a shallow
match. After selecting your boxer from about a dozen different
profiles, you're ready to start sparring.
Kudos to Data Becker for including a training option in the menu.
With this option, you'll be able to enter the ring against a sparring
partner so you can improve your boxing skills. The sub menu
includes Sparring and Practice options. On to my next complaint.
What's the difference between Sparring and Practicing?
Personally, I know the difference, but I didn't see a difference in
the game. In both instances, it seemed as though I was just
practicing, because my opponent never threw a single punch. He
just sat there taking my punishing blows. The only difference I
noticed is that when I was sparring, my trainer/manager was
yelling out punches that I should be throwing. Either way, I would
have liked a training mode where the boxer actually throws a few
punches back, allowing you to practice your defensive tactics.
Enough practicing though, let's get reeeeeeady to rumble!
It's time to start boxing. Options include a Single Fight,
Championship, Arcade, Two Player and Network. A Single Fight is
self-explanatory. You face one opponent and no matter whether
you win or lose, you're brought back to the main menu afterwards.
It's basically the same as practicing, except against an opponent
who punches back. In other words, this option should have been
included in the 'Training' menu. The Arcade option leads to a
boxing match that is much quicker than the other modes. Offence
is the premium, defence comes second. The boxers go toe-to-toe
to see who can dish out the most punishment, or take it. The
Championship mode is the meat of the gameplay. You begin by
fighting a very weak opponent and continue to fight until you win
enough to face the American Champion. Upon winning that belt,
you'll continue on fighting for more gold, including International
and World belts. The fights occur in five different locals including
New York, Las Vegas and Paris. The fighters become increasingly
difficult as you advance further along, but if you're having difficulty
beating any of the opponents, you an always change the difficulty
setting. There are three levels of difficulty ranging from Beginner
The gameplay is what knocks out KO Boxing. Moving around is
simple enough, but throwing a punch involves a combination of
directional movement and pressing a button. For example, if you
press forward and hit the 'offence' button, you'll throw a jab. There
only seems to be three different punches you can throw though. A
hook, a roundhouse and a jab. There are three buttons in total,
one for offence, one for defence and one for combination.
Controllers nowadays have more than 3 buttons, and this game
needs to take advantage of that. It also needs to take advantage of
punch location. Is there a difference between throwing a body
punch and a head punch in KO Boxing? Personally, I couldn't tell
where I was throwing the punches, not to mention the punches
were being thrown about 2 seconds after I initiated them. How
does one throw an uppercut without throwing a combination? Why
isn't there a button for each punch selection? How come there are
only 3 different defensive stances one can take? How come jabs
are so weak? Although some might argue otherwise, boxing is a
sport of strategy and KO Boxing does a horrible job of representing
that. There's no strategy in KO Boxing at all. Throw punches until
you're tired, then defend until your strength is built back up.
Repeat this as many times as possible and call me in the morning.
There are two bars at the bottom of the screen, one for endurance
and one for strength. When your endurance bar is down to zero, it
means you're exhausted. The result is the inability to throw any
punches and the potential to actually fall down from exhaustion.
The strength bar represents your boxer's health. Once this is down
to zero, you've been knocked out. If your endurance and strength
are both down to nothing, you ain't getting up. Guess what? It
doesn't even seem to matter if your endurance is still high, as long
as you strength is down to zero, it's GAME OVER. Haven't these
guys heard of boxers getting up after getting knocked down?
KO Boxing uses a 3D-based engine entitled GX-Engine. That's
right, it utilizes your 3D accelerator card with fully rendered 3D
environments and objects. The boxers were far too blocky upon
close examination. When the boxers move around the ring, they
do so realistically, bouncing and swaying from side to side.
However, once the punches start flying, all the realism is thrown
out the window. The punches are far too stiff looking, not to
mention there's so few punch choices. During the fight, there is no
referee in the ring, hence no complaints about him. The referee
appears before the fight, to give his usual speech about a 'fair
fight', then disappears until the end of the fight to raise the
winner's hand. The environment is a mixed bag. The ring is nicely
represented, but the fans surrounding the ring are absolutely
horrendous. I've seen five year olds with better cardboard cutting
skills. A round of applause to Data Becker for including some
damage elements into the game. When you, or your opponent,
take a beating, they'll start to get black eyes and bruise damage
on their face and body. Little details like this are great, but the
game itself needs to be polished well before one can even
consider these details.
The sound... what sound? There's very little of it in KO Boxing.
When you enter the training mode, you will hear some speech
from your trainer / manager and when you're fighting in the ring
against an opponent, the referee will say a few words, but that's
about it. Grunts and in-ring effects are there, but none stand out.
The sound department is in need of a serious overhaul, including
perhaps some commentary during the fight. The game does
feature Network and Two Player modes of multiplayer. Two Player
mode involves two players at the same terminal. Both modes are
in working condition and both offer the same gameplay as single
player, which is extremely lacking.
I'll give credit where credit is due. Data Becker has an engine here
that looks pretty good graphically. What they need to do now is
focus on gameplay. They need to grab those official licenses, they
need to expand their punch selection and include body selection
when throwing punches. They need to improve game control,
include more strategy and create an overall boxing experience.
I'm unsure whether KO Boxing is going to become a yearly event,
but if it does I hope they'll address those issues for the next
version. If this is a one time offer, I'm afraid it doesn't make it past
the first round. KO Boxing is far from a knockout.