Knockout City first impressions: Getting hit in the face never felt so fun

Knockout City previewEA / Velan Studios / Dexerto

Velan Studios’ new team-based multiplayer brawler, Knockout City, pits players against each other as they vie for control over the city, run by the elusive mogul, Malcolm Magpie. It’s a familiar experience with one major, defining feature: dodgeballs. 

Back in its April crossplay beta, the game reached a monumental milestone of a whopping one million downloads, and it’s not hard to see why. Helmed by CEO Karthik Bala, and featuring veteran games designers with 20-30 years of experience with live service components, players will feel right at home in Knockout City.

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During its creation, the devs realized that dodgeball hadn’t really been done in gaming before, and thought why not? Turns out, creating a smooth dodgeball experience that takes into account latencies isn’t the easiest thing to do.

Now, with an engine built from the ground up, Velan Studios are aiming to reach people all around the world in the hopes that Knockout City resonates with them.

Knockout gameplay

In terms of gameplay, Knockout City is a blend of elements from shooters, fighting games, and sports, and is chock full of humor, personality, and sound. Featuring up to 60fps, even on the Nintendo Switch with Performance Mode, the devs aimed to create a smooth experience for everybody.

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This is achieved ten-fold, and the silky-smooth lock on the homing system prevents one platform from having the upper hand over another.

Typically playing together in a 3v3 matchup, (with 4v4 and 1v1 modes also available) you’ll use every tool in your arsenal to smash through each match and take home the win. Each victory gives you experience to level up, and really cool rewards, with the option to complete challenges to help you rank up faster.

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Gameplay is lighting fast, and you’ll need to have your wits about you at all times to stand a chance at coming out on top. As someone who is relatively inexperienced in this type of game, I was easily overwhelmed at how quickly everything moves — but it’s all part of the fun!

Set in a world where guns weren’t invented and people battle it out with dodgeballs, the quirky music, art style, and theme feels along the lines of Jet Set Radio and its sequel. Even the game’s commentator lives way up on the moon!

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During our time playing, we jumped into all 5 maps available on launch day. From the deadly Knockout Roundabout full of moving vehicles to hitch a ride on and use to your advantage, to Concussion Yard’s giant wrecking ball that knocks you (or your enemies) flying, Knockout City uses a myriad of mechanics to keep things fresh.

Ball types

Knockout City Multi BallEA / Velan Studios
There’s a slew of ball types to aid in play.

One of the game’s most unique features is that of ball ‘types’. Aside from the standard dodgeball present in every match, players can also utilize a range of other balls, with one other of these special types spawning on every map.

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These are crucial to giving the game replayability, as it allows you to combine map layouts and each ball’s unique feature to create some truly devastating outcomes. At launch, the balls available are:

  • Bomb Ball – A ball that explodes after the timer runs out.
  • Cage Ball – While this ball doesn’t deal damage, it traps the opposition, and you can use it to throw them off of ledges!
  • Moon Ball – Grants higher jump speed, slower fall speeds, and longer glide speeds.
  • Sniper Ball – Only able to be thrown in a straight line, it has a higher range and damage output.
  • Multi-Ball – Grants the player three balls at once!
  • Ball Up – Ball yourself up and be thrown by your team members instead, causing a huge explosion upon impact when the throw is charged.

While these special balls are fun, it doesn’t make the game any easier. Knockout City may seem like a walk in the park, but as Game Director Jeremy Russo states: “They say it’s all fun and games until someone gets hit in the face.”

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Don’t be fooled by the lock-on targeting system, either. You’ll need to dodge, tackle, and time your throws perfectly to be in with a chance of taking the upper hand. It’s true that the game can be played by anyone, sure, but the game will truly shine when you master all of the balls, levels, and mechanics to flatline your opposition.

Knockout City mapsEA / Velan Studios
Each map has its own unique mechanics you can use to turn the tide of a match.

Character Customization

Knockout City features an expansive customization system, too, with hundreds of options to be unlocked to create your perfect brawler. Utilizing a non-binary body and face-type system, players can create exactly what represents them best.

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You can unlock hairstyles, outfits, emotes, match poses, and more – with some options like clothing being able to be hacked into new styles with Style Chips that you unlock as you level up. The cosmetics are all incredibly unique – from Rockabilly styles through to futurism and Cyberpunk.


Taking customization one step further is the game’s group system: Crews. Up to 32 people are able to join a crew, with the expected features of a Crew banner and logo.

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All members’ owned cosmetics are shared with the Crew’s captain, meaning that they can assign a cosmetic they and other players might not have to the other members in the group.

3v3 Knockout CityEA / Velan Studios
The game’s 3v3 mode will allow players to hone their skills in preparation for the upcoming 4v4 mode.

Game modes

Playlists feature different game modes that test the mettle of everyone involved. The 3v3 matches and 1v1 matches feel exciting, but the additions of modes like Diamond Dash seem like a novelty at best, detracting from the main focus of the game.

Seasonal Content

Knockout City’s seasonal approach feels familiar, a mash-up of all of the good stuff from games like Apex Legends, Fortnite, and Valorant. With 9-week long seasons that feature daily, weekly, and season-long contracts to complete, you can unlock unique rewards to stand out from the crowd.

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Season 1 kicks off just a few days after the game’s May 21 launch, with a new map, 4v4 modes, crew-based contracts, and ranked League Play all being available from May 25.

When all is said and done, Knockout City is a quirky, well-designed game with mechanics to keep even the most pro player on their toes. The key to longevity for Knockout City is undoubtedly going to be its seasonal content.

After a while, it’s easy to see how the game could become stale for players, but Velan Studios seem to have thought of everything to keep the game alive as the game moves into the launch and beyond.

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