Knockout City is a fast-paced, third-person action game where players fling nostalgia-laden rubber balls at each other while decked out in vibrantly colored gear. As nice as the legendary swag is, it's not going to get eliminations for you. If you want to prevent being the last crewmate picked for a match, you're going to have to put in the actual leg work to improve your skills in the arena. If you haven't played before or you're giving it a shot on Xbox Game Pass, you're going to want to brush up on your skills. Here are some tips to help you get started.
Schoolyard nostalgia meets tech disco
There's just something about the nostalgic thunk of a dodgeball. Knockout City has managed to tap into that nostalgia while blending it with a unique "tech disco" aesthetic to birth a high octane dodge brawl experience. The game is surprisingly affordable, and — while it does have microtransactions — it forgoes a battle pass in favor of letting you unlock all of the swag with good old-fashioned sweat equity.
1. Play the tutorial
Listen, this should really go without saying. Play the tutorial. Your teammates will thank you, your street rank will thank you, and you will thank you. It really is the best thing you can do to get your foot in the door with Knockout City. Knockout City doesn't require you to play the tutorial before jumping into a match, and many people think the initial hub world with the training dummy is all the training time they need before they dive in. That's a mistake.
Knockout City's tutorial is broken down into several individual classes. It will place you on a map featuring a path that explains a series of moves and gives you a training dummy to practice on. You can replay the tutorials at any time and freely move around the level to find the skills you want to sharpen. Plus, tutorial levels feature training dummies that can help simulate situations that you can find yourself in during a brawl.
Practicing and replaying the tutorials also helps to complete contracts that can raise your street rank, helping you unlock the good stuff faster. If you happened to skip the tutorials in the hub, you can still access them by bringing up the menu, selecting Play, and then selecting Training. Then select from one of six training drills to practice.
2. Pass the ball
Nobody likes a ball hog, and Knockout City is no exception. When a crewmate is nearby, you can press LB to pass the ball. Passing the ball has several benefits, the most noticeable of which is that it charges the ball instantly. You can still pass even if your teammate already has a ball of their own, as then the ball will just ricochet back to you, fully charged.
Passing the ball doesn't just give you an instant charge for high-speed shots. It can be a useful tool for keeping the opposing team from having access to as many balls at their disposal. If you've picked them up and passed them off to your crewmates, they can also lob the balls at high speed at the unsuspecting enemies.
It can also be a strategic move to land a better hit against an enemy who really good at defending. If an enemy is looking at you, focusing on the timing it will take them to catch your shot, passing off to a teammate at the last moment can slow down the enemy's reaction — increasing the likelihood of a successful hit by your teammate. You'll also get an assist for the effort, which can help knock out some of those peskier contracts.
3. Master the fake-out
Some people get trigger happy with blocking, and you can easily use this to your advantage by instigating a fake throw. Clicking down the right thumbstick will set your character into a throw animation, but they don't actually follow through with the ball release. The recovery from the animation is quicker than the recovery from trying to catch a shot that wasn't actually thrown, giving the attacker an advantage to actually lob a shot that the enemy can't protect against.
As useful as a good fake-out can be, you need to be mindful that overusing it can put you at risk. If you're spamming the fake-out, the enemy players will eventually tire of your antics, dodge out of your line of sight and find their own ball to hit back with. Use faking sparingly, and it will serve you well.
4. Be the ball
If you played the tutorial (as you should) or you've accidentally touched the right bumper on your controller, then you may have noticed that your character can roll up into a ball. Rolling around in ball form is actually a bit faster than sprinting. If you really need to get away, mixing up dodge spamming and ball form rolling can help you get to safety. But ball form isn't just useful for rolling away. Your teammates can pick you up and lob you at the enemies, just like a standard dodgeball. If the throw hits, it's an instant knockout regardless of how many hearts the enemy has.
In the early game phase, it's not uncommon for players to scramble for the specialty balls scattered around the map. This can be a good time to ball up and allow a teammate to overcharge you. This sends your ball form into its ultimate form, which sees your teammate throw you into the air like a bomb. You can then control your ultimate form to drop on the enemy team for a devastating instant KO.
There's some nuance to knowing when it is and isn't a good time to ball up. If you're surrounded by enemies, balling up can put you at risk of being picked up and lobbed by the enemy team. They could potentially throw you off the map, or even worse, they could take out one of your teammates at your expense.
5. Switch up your shots
You should absolutely be excited when you master advanced dodgebrawlling techniques such as curveballs and lob shots. However, you should not go all in and spam only that new skill, no matter how tempting it is. Learning to switch up the types of shots you fling at the opposing team is the ultimate skill. Use situational awareness to determine the type of shot that will serve you best at the moment. Not all shots are created equal in all circumstances.
If you have the high ground, and an enemy is focused on your crewmate, for example, lobbing the ball with Y to send it up in an arch and then down on their head can guarantee a hit. If there is a pillar, car, or another obstacle between you and the enemy, then you can go for a curveball that will rotate around and surprise the enemy.
If you continue to spam the same straight line shots or always curving to the right, for example, the other team is going to adapt and get used to your tactic. At that point, they'll be better suited to block and counter your attempts at taking them out. The best way to avoid this is to vary up the shots you take, and as previously mentioned, go for the pass.
Practice makes perfect catches
All of the strategies in the world mean nothing if you don't know the proper time to execute them. Practicing your moves is the quickest and most sure-fire way to improve at Knockout City. Even if you're just working with a training dummy in the hub while waiting for your friends to join, you can practice using a variety of specialty balls or nailing down those almighty perfect catches. Learning timing and situational awareness are going to make you a better teammate and player in general.
Knockout City is a wonderfully creative and vibrant shake-up of the third-person shooter that really challenges the way we approach and enjoy the genre. The developers have already released an extensive roadmap of their plans for the game, ensuring that fans have plenty of reasons to come back for more of that sweet dodge brawling action. Knockout City's affordability is one of the charms, but for those who are still hesitant to fork out $20, it is available to play for free via Xbox Game Pass Ultimate and EA Play.
Schoolyard nostalgia meets tech disco
There's just something about the nostalgic thunk of a dodgeball. Knockout City has managed to tap into that nostalgia while blending it with a unique "tech disco" aesthetic to birth a high octane dodge brawl experience. Fun, fast, and colorful, it's an easy game to pick up and play.
Cole is the resident Call of Duty know-it-all and indie game enthusiast for Windows Central. She's a lifelong artist with two decades of experience in digital painting, and she will happily talk your ear off about budget pen displays.
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