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   Tuesday, 14 January, 2003, 12:28 GMT
Let's play: Knockout Kings 2003

EA sports' latest offering should have been a classic, but instead suffers an early knock-out.

The big budget and the big names (Ali, Lewis) are all in place - if only there was enough to keep the crowd interested.

The loading screen offers a variety of options - exhibition, tournament, career (where you create a new boxer) and the new slugfest mode.

The latter is based around an idea of survival that we have come to love in the Tekken games.

You pick a fight with a low class opponent and try to knock him down three times before he does the same to you.

Knockout Kings 2003
Format: Nintendo Gamecube
Price: 39.99
Publisher: EA Sports
Genre: Boxing
Published: Out now

You can choose from a variety of punches, listed in a pie chart, with the crowd keen to give you their advice.

Once you have filled the pie you get a super punch, which, provided you connect, will usually floor your opponent for good.

Then you start afresh with a new adversary until you've worked your way up to the greatest (Muhammad Ali).

You probably won't get there as either your thumb will have dropped off by this stage or it just won't work anymore (or you might just get bored).

Career mode is where you get to create a boxer and attempt to win all three belts before you get too old. It's a pretty standard affair.

Lennox Lewis - KO Kings 2003
Some of the boxers are extremely life-like

Once you selected face, body, tattoos, boots, shorts, height and weight (by far the best bit in the game), you can start your career by challenging one of the boxers above you on the rankings ladder.

I had it on a normal difficulty level and proceeded to cruise through 17 fights with the odd scare using mainly two punches. Suddenly, next fight I got my head pounded in.

The difficulty level had risen but the game hadn't taught me how to how to box along the way, which is disappointing - and I still can't get any further.

This brings me to the controls. Why, oh why have they not been thought about?

Every punch, bar one, is on the A, B, X and Y buttons which means by the end of a really hard fight your thumb has seized up - never to be used again.

The sound is quite awful. The referee has about five different things to say when a character is knocked down and the second commentator is the most irritating bloke in the history of games.

Verdict
Graphics: 82%
Playability: 60%
Sound: 67%
Lastability: 35%
Overall: 58%

He always thinks it's one of the best rounds he has ever seen and how many times does he need to say "He's seeing stars now folks, and not the kind you see at the movies"? I'll let you decide.

The graphics are lovely. I suppose EA is the nearest thing we have to a Hollywood within the gaming industry and as you would expect they're very smooth and some of the characters are really life-like.

But graphics shouldn't sell games, playability should.

Should you buy this? If boxing is your thing and you really have to have a boxing game in your collection then you might get a couple days action out of this before the boredom kicks in.

Personally I'd rather face 15 rounds with Mike Tyson than play this again.


Let's Play..
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