Nothing in gaming beats the feeling of eeking out a close win in a match with friends. EA and Velan Studios are banking on this sentiment with the upcoming release of Knockout City. It pits teams of dodgeball hurlers against each other in a variety of environments and is really easy to pick up and learn. Will it have the chops to become the next big thing in your gaming group? EA wants to get it in as many hands as possible with limited barriers to entry and will be launching a crossplay open beta session that runs from April 2 through April 4. During a preview event held last week, I got to experience the new open beta build firsthand.
On the attack
Knockout City is built around the core concept of the classic dodgeball game we all know from our youth physical education classes, but with several important changes. The main objective is to hurl balls at your opponents. Rather than eliminating opponents, successful hits earn points for your team and remove the successful target from the field of play for a few moments. Unlike conventional dodgeball and its plain, rectangular playspace, Knockout City offers a variety of environments that are custom-built for maximum enjoyment and to take advantage of the abilities granted to virtual competitors.
While in traditional dodgeball you would be beholden to your own physical limitations, the avatars in Knockout City are juiced up and have endless tanks of energy. Running, jumping, hang gliding, flipping, and air-dashing are all on the menu. These movement options are not only for avoiding knockouts but for quick traversal of the stages. They also directly affect the trajectory of your throws.
Grabbing one of the balls during a match is simple enough. Throwing them is straightforward, where holding down the attack key charges up shot velocity. Should you add in a movement command such as the front flip or spin when releasing the shot, the path to the target will be altered. Sometimes, a straight throw is the best option (particularly if an opponent isn’t looking your way) but when you are caught in a staredown, having the option to alter the path of the throw can confuse your target sufficiently enough to score the hit.
All incoming shots can be caught if you time a ball grab command just right. Additionally, incoming shots may also be deflected with a bull rush maneuver. This move is also incredibly helpful in situations where you aren’t evading the ball. You can freely charge opposing players to push them off of ledges, to position them for a teammate's throw, or to prevent them from picking up a loose ball.
The play environments vary from a roundabout full of moving traffic to a high-rise still under construction. There are usually more than a few ways to reach any specific spot on a map which is great for flanking or positioning certain coordinated attacks. Some maps have jump pads and one of the stages I played on had warp pipes to carry combatants across the map at high speed. I particularly enjoyed the high-rise construction map as I became more adept at using the bull charge on the opposing team, sending them flying off the building and notching another point for my team.
At the end of matches, XP is awarded and is used to unlock cosmetics. Unlocking these items is a big part of the progression in Knockout City. Why even bother competing if your team doesn’t look like a million bucks (or a Jackson Pollock)? The crossplay open beta offers these unlocks as well as cross-progression across the various platforms.
The 72-hour open beta period kicks off on Friday, April 2, and runs through April 4. It will be available on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, PC via Origin or Steam, and Nintendo Switch. It will allow for Street Play, character customization, daily items, and contracts.
The maps available in the beta session will be Hideout Lobby, Rooftop Rumble, Concussion Yard, Knockout Roundabout, and Back-Alley Brawl. Back-Alley Brawl is new for this beta session. Five different ball types will be available, including the Sniper Ball that is new for this beta. Epic-tier cosmetics will also make their debut, joining the Common, Uncommon, and Rare tiers from previous play sessions.
You can pre-load the beta now and the official Knockout City website has all the important details.