Previews

Knockout City Preview: A dodgeball game from Mario Kart AR devs

A cool premise... but can a paid title like this compete against a bevy of free-to-play multiplayer games?

Knockout City was today announced by Mario Kart Live Home Circuit’s Velan Studios, a multiplayer dodgeball title that will be published by EA as part of its EA Originals label.

Velan co-founder Karthik Bala told Stevivor that the dodgeball game — or, rather “dodgebrawl” according to the developer — started off as a prototype around four years ago, built around a “deceptively simple mechanic that showed the promise of depth, skill [and is] something we’ve never tired of playing.”

Play is based around the principles of dodgeball — throwing and catching the ball — and is further videogameified with power-ups, hang gliders and special balls that change the state of play. Rather than playing in a gynmasium of the like, Knockout City takes place on large, sprawling multiplayer maps, with five available at the game’s launch in May of this year. Despite maps that might look like they belong in the likes of Rocket League, Apex Legends or Call of Duty, Velan Studios says its title is less of a multiplayer shooter and more of a fighting game or brawler, relying on timing rather than just aiming and shooting. Emplying perfect timing while catching a ball that’s been thrown at you, as an example, will provide a boost to the ball’s speed as you throw it back at an opponent. Trick throws can also be employed to curve the ball around obstacles, striking a foe who literally couldn’t see it coming.

In addition to straight-up throwing and catching, players on a team can also pass balls — because there are multiple in play — to one another. If a ball isn’t nearby, players also have the option to curl up into one themselves and have another player throw them as well. In addition to player-as-ball, Knockout City will also offer up special balls with power-ups. These include one that will cage players (the Cage Ball), another that will impact gravity (the Moon Ball), an explosive Bomb Ball, and three more, as six are planned for launch.

At launch, Knockout City plans to include the aforementioned five maps and six special balls alongside five different game modes; already, we know that a 3v3 mode, a Kill Confirmed-style mode and a 4-player free-for-all will make up most of that list. Games will be offered as casual, ranked and private matches, with the first two types drawing in players using skill-based matchmaking.

Players will have a ton of customisation options available — and can earn currency or simply buy it with real-world money to change up their characters — and the same is true for Crews, Knockout City‘s clan system. Up to 32 people can be part of a Crew, and that grouping is free to expresss themselves with a variety of additional customisation options too. Seasons will factor into the title quite heavily, rotating every nine weeks and offering up new content with each one. Velan is adamant that the title will never be pay-to-win, with only cosmetic options available and nothing that could give one player an advantage over another.

While all this sounds novel, Knockout City isn’t going the free-to-play route and instead will ask for a one-time fee of $19.99 USD to play. That said, a free trial will be offered to all, and while it will provide full access to the game, it was unclear how long one will get to play for free. Simply put, we’ve seen another multiplayer EA Original title, Rocket Arena, go the paid route and fail miserably, up against free-to-pay multiplayer juggernauts like Apex Legends, Fortnite, Rocket League, Call of Duty Warzone and more. I can’t imagine Knockout City will fare any better.

Knockout City is planned for a 21 May 2020 release on Windows PC via Origin and Steam, Xbox One, Xbox Series S & X, P4, PS5 and Switch. Cross-play and cross-progression will be offered between all platforms. Furthermore, a PC-only public closed beta will be offered over 20-21 February and will offer 3v3 play across three maps and with three special balls available.

Knockout City

21 May 2021
PC PS4 Switch Xbox One
 

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About the author

Steve Wright

Steve's the owner of this very site and an active games journalist for the past ten years. He's a Canadian-Australian gay gaming geek, ice hockey player and fan. Husband to Matt and cat dad to Wally and Quinn.