Knockout City took me back to childhood games of dodgeball with a single sound: “whumphf!” That one noise, which you’ll hear a lot as dodgeballs bounce every which way, represents just how well the game’s virtual version of dodgeball mimics the real thing — including all of the chaos you might remember from games on the playground.
Knockout City is made by EA and Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit developer Velan Studios, and its primary mode involves three-on-three matches against online opponents. In each match, you’ll scoop up dodgeballs littered around the city-themed maps and launch them at your unsuspecting targets. When you charge up a throw, the game automatically locks onto a target, meaning you don’t have to worry about precise aim. Knockout City is more about timing your shots to try to catch your opponent off-guard, which the game encourages by letting you do things like curve or feint a shot to mix up your tactics.
Like in real dodgeball, though, a key part of Knockout City isn’t just throwing the ball, but also catching it, which you can do with a well-timed press of a trigger. And if you do catch a thrown ball, it will fly a little faster when you next throw it. I love trying to time catches. It adds Paper Mario-like timing to battles (though at a much faster pace) and forces you to think more about your positioning not just for offense, but for defense as well.
Knockout City also offers some fantastical elements that you won’t find in real-life dodgeball. Each match has a special type of dodgeball with unique powers, like a bomb ball that explodes on impact. My favorite was the multiball, which gives you three dodgeballs right at your fingertips, kind of like the triple shell item in Mario Kart.
And at any time, you can turn yourself into a ball so your teammates can scoop you up and toss you at an opponent for a quick knockout. Balling up for a teammate is almost like handing them a present — one they can launch at an unsuspecting person at high velocity — and it’s a great tool to assist your teammates whenever you want, without any communication required. Be warned, though, your enemies can also pick you up when you’re in ball form, meaning they might just throw you off the map for an easy point.
Like real games of in-person dodgeball, there’s often a lot going on in Knockout City. That can make it easy to lose track of things and get knocked out by a shot you didn’t see coming. And occasionally, matches can have long lulls where you’re running around the map by yourself, dodgeball in hand, hunting for an opponent. Sometimes I wish the maps were just a bit smaller to force more confrontations. But at their best, Knockout City matches are fun and chaotic. Dodgeballs flying left and right will keep you, your teammates, and your opponents in a thrilling dance of dodging, catching, throwing.
Knockout City isn’t just about outsmarting your opponents in dodgeball, though; the game also gives you lots of ways to customize your character, including the clothes they’re wearing and even your victory pose. You can earn more cosmetics from completing in-game challenges, leveling up your “street rank” (which is like Fortnite’s Battle Pass), or by buying them from the Fortnite-like in-game store.
If you want to check out Knockout City, EA is offering the full version of the game for free until May 30th on every platform where it’s available, which includes PC, PlayStation, Xbox, and Nintendo Switch. Knockout City supports both crossplay and cross-progression, so you can play with your friends no matter what platform they’re on and bring your progress over to other platforms. After the trial ends, the game will cost $19.99 — though if you have an EA Play or an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription, you’ll have access to the game with one of those, too.
While it’s free, I highly recommend giving Knockout City a chance. I think it really captures the feeling of playing dodgeball in video game form — and it feels so good when you nail a game-winning shot with a satisfying “whumphf.”
Knockout City is available now on the PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, Nintendo Switch, and PC.