Punch your heart out and have your breath taken away, Knockout League is in its own weight class – Knockout League Review [Rift]
I’m just going to say it, Knockout League is VR at its best. Full immersion of mind and body, engaging gameplay, and physical activity! I knocked myself out after the first time I played- knocked myself out from exhaustion not punching myself in the face from lack of coordination. My god is this game a workout. Knockout League is developed by Grab Games in partnership with HTC’s Vive Studios, and is a masterpiece of gaming and technology. If you like boxing, Punch Out, Ready 2 Rumble, cardio exercise, I highly recommend getting this game now.
Knockout League is an arcade-style boxing VR game, that gives players an amazingly intense experience. In the heat of gameplay, it really does feel like you’re in an actual fight. Story-wise, it’s not very deep. It’s no Rocky or Creed in terms of story. Basically, you’re a boxer being trained by a retired boxing champion, and you fight your way through the ranks to become the champ. It’s linear, direct, and honestly the perfect amount of story. No drama, no twist and turns, outside of your own personal experience. Me personally, I won the first match no problem but lost the second match because I completely ran out of energy. I felt more emotional connection in that moment of getting knocked out in the game than I did when Dom died. And I yelled profusely when Dom died.
Gameplay is flawless. It’s boxing. You throw punches to hurt your opponent, you block attacks by raising your fists, and use your body to dodge. It’s as close to actual boxing you’re going to get without actually boxing. It’s phenomenal! There are two general modes of play, training, and against an opponent. The training modes are essentially boxing drills that allow you to perfect your moves, reactions, and burn calories. There are 3 training exercises, Speed Bag, Reaction Training, and The Mits. Speed Bag is my least favorite, mainly because it’s hard to gauge yourself without actual feedback of the bag. I have an actual speed bag in my room, so this is where VR’s limitation becomes painfully obvious. If there was more of a rumble in the controller I think it would work better, but the contact will forever be lacking. Reaction Training on the other hand, is a fun way to burn 50 calories in about 5 minutes. There are three machines set up to you front, left, and right. They will launch either a red or blue water balloon, a ball, or a dumbbell at you. Punch red balloons with your right hand, blue with your left, block balls with your mits, and dodge dumbbells. This game will have you dodging and swinging like your life depended on it. Even with its cartoonish design, having a dumbbell fly at your face is terrifying. My mind feels pain every time I’m hit by one. Not a lot of pain, but enough to make me really aware of dodging the next one. Then there are The Mits, which is real boxing training. Your trainer calls out a sequence of numbers and side, which dictate the punches you throw, and which side an attack is coming to dodge. This is a lot of fun and pretty difficult to master.
Fighting against an opponent is where the real fun is at though. It’s great to get some training sessions in, but nothing compares to fighting an opponent. You don’t know what they will do, and you don’t know what will be most effective against them until you actually fight them. The intensity of a match is exhilarating. Each opponent is a character, much like in Punchout and Ready 2 Rumble. They’re fun, very animated, and a pure pleasure to punch in the face. What I found particularly exciting, are their distinct fighting styles. A lot like Punchout, each opponent has tells that will help you win the fight. They’re not as obvious as say a photographer’s flash, but being able to recognize is a game changer.
The game’s mechanics really tie it all together. Even with the cartoon-like design, you will become fully immersed in this world. When you’re in the ring, you’re in the ring and it’s easy to forget you’re probably in a room with stuff that can be knocked over- or your friend is trying to record a funny video of you and your shoulder into them as you dodge a haymaker. The calorie counter is a great feature that I really hope is accurate. It’s pretty easy to knock out 300+ calories in a couple fights, and compared to the 100 calories you burn in a mile it is way more fun. The only thing I wish the game was able to incorporate is footwork and stance. Granted there are no feet tracking devices, so it would be hard, but even having a reference model to help you improve your form would be a great addition. Granted if you care that much about boxing, you should probably just take a class. The only real downside in the mechanics I found, is the lack of focus on your preferred hand and lack of power gauging. I have no idea how it would gauge the power behind your punch, but the game really relies on timing instead of the speed of your punches. I’m not sure if it’s my system or just something out of the realm of possibilities. It doesn’t affect the game much, but I get the feeling it wouldn’t be too hard to really game the system in a similar fashion to humming in Rock Band. Probably not to that extreme. Mainly it just hurts my feelings that sometimes I have an opportunity to throw what would no doubt be a knockout punch, but because of the limitations, it just registers as a regular punch.
Knockout League is an incredible game and one that validates the purchase of a VR system. In terms of boxing games, it should unquestionably be in the same category as Punchout, Ready 2 Rumble, and Wii Boxing. It is a fun and immersive experience that will keep you entertained, and probably help get you into better shape. It’ll sharpen your reflexes, get the blood and adrenaline flowing, and just provide a really fun experience. I mean, where else are you going to box an octopus? Or more accurately, get knocked TF out by an octopus. Bobbing and weaving against that thing will definitely help you shape those V-shaped abs. If you own a Vive, Rift, or PSVR, do yourself a favor and pick up Knockout League. My Knockout League Review gets a 9/10