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Title Fight 2001 for the PC
Too Difficult
Poor Controls
No Rankings

A boxing game for the PC? Looking at the screenshots on the box  I was certain this was going to be what PC boxing fans were waitng for. Having been deprived of Knockout Kings when EA Sports pulled the plug on their PC varient, KO Boxing from Data Becker came just at the right time. Was it any good? I couldn't wait to find out..

Expecting Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis? Sorry to disappoint you. I was treated to a bunch of no-name boxers defending their no-name championships in no-name locales. To compensate for this huge faux pas, Data Becker had promised an 'ultra-realistic' boxing experience. Considering the circumstances, that being the lack of boxing titles available on the market today, I was willing to overlook this glaring mistake as long as the game delivered on all other levels. Unfortunately for me, it did not. 

KO Boxing launches with a menu screen in need of a makeover. A championship belt, rotating in the middle of the screen, gives the gamer the opening options. Among them is the ability to create a boxer. This is a nice feature that needs to be expanded. You're very limited in creating your fighter. After choosing a name and a birth country, you get to spread 205 points among three boxing skills. Those three skill are Power Punch, Speed, and Condition. Here's my first gripe with the game. Couldn't they have broken Power Punch down into more skills; such as Jab, Uppercut, Hook, etc.? Apparently not. If Power Punch, Speed, and Conditioning is all you need to win a fight, you know this is going to be a shallow match. After selecting your boxer from about a dozen different profiles, you're ready to start sparring. 

Kudos to Data Becker for including a training option in the menu. With this option, you'll be able to enter the ring against a sparring partner so you can improve your boxing skills. The sub menu includes Sparring and Practice options. On to my next complaint. What's the difference between Sparring and Practicing? Personally, I know the difference, but I didn't see a difference in the game. In both instances, it seemed as though I was just practicing, because my opponent never threw a single punch. He just sat there taking my punishing blows. The only difference I noticed is that when I was sparring, my trainer/manager was yelling out punches that I should be throwing. Either way, I would have liked a training mode where the boxer actually throws a few punches back, allowing you to practice your defensive tactics. Enough practicing though, let's get reeeeeeady to rumble! 

It's time to start boxing. Options include a Single Fight, Championship, Arcade, Two Player and Network. A Single Fight is self-explanatory. You face one opponent and no matter whether you win or lose, you're brought back to the main menu afterwards. It's basically the same as practicing, except against an opponent who punches back. In other words, this option should have been included in the 'Training' menu. The Arcade option leads to a boxing match that is much quicker than the other modes. Offence is the premium, defence comes second. The boxers go toe-to-toe to see who can dish out the most punishment, or take it. The Championship mode is the meat of the gameplay. You begin by fighting a very weak opponent and continue to fight until you win enough to face the American Champion. Upon winning that belt, you'll continue on fighting for more gold, including International and World belts. The fights occur in five different locals including New York, Las Vegas and Paris. The fighters become increasingly difficult as you advance further along, but if you're having difficulty beating any of the opponents, you an always change the difficulty setting. There are three levels of difficulty ranging from Beginner to Champion. 

The gameplay is what knocks out KO Boxing. Moving around is simple enough, but throwing a punch involves a combination of directional movement and pressing a button. For example, if you press forward and hit the 'offence' button, you'll throw a jab. There only seems to be three different punches you can throw though. A hook, a roundhouse and a jab. There are three buttons in total, one for offence, one for defence and one for combination. Controllers nowadays have more than 3 buttons, and this game needs to take advantage of that. It also needs to take advantage of punch location. Is there a difference between throwing a body punch and a head punch in KO Boxing? Personally, I couldn't tell where I was throwing the punches, not to mention the punches were being thrown about 2 seconds after I initiated them. How does one throw an uppercut without throwing a combination? Why isn't there a button for each punch selection? How come there are only 3 different defensive stances one can take? How come jabs are so weak? Although some might argue otherwise, boxing is a sport of strategy and KO Boxing does a horrible job of representing that. There's no strategy in KO Boxing at all. Throw punches until you're tired, then defend until your strength is built back up. Repeat this as many times as possible and call me in the morning. 

There are two bars at the bottom of the screen, one for endurance and one for strength. When your endurance bar is down to zero, it means you're exhausted. The result is the inability to throw any punches and the potential to actually fall down from exhaustion. The strength bar represents your boxer's health. Once this is down to zero, you've been knocked out. If your endurance and strength are both down to nothing, you ain't getting up. Guess what? It doesn't even seem to matter if your endurance is still high, as long as you strength is down to zero, it's GAME OVER. Haven't these guys heard of boxers getting up after getting knocked down? 

KO Boxing uses a 3D-based engine entitled GX-Engine. That's right, it utilizes your 3D accelerator card with fully rendered 3D environments and objects. The boxers were far too blocky upon close examination. When the boxers move around the ring, they do so realistically, bouncing and swaying from side to side. However, once the punches start flying, all the realism is thrown out the window. The punches are far too stiff looking, not to mention there's so few punch choices. During the fight, there is no referee in the ring, hence no complaints about him. The referee appears before the fight, to give his usual speech about a 'fair fight', then disappears until the end of the fight to raise the winner's hand. The environment is a mixed bag. The ring is nicely represented, but the fans surrounding the ring are absolutely horrendous. I've seen five year olds with better cardboard cutting skills. A round of applause to Data Becker for including some damage elements into the game. When you, or your opponent, take a beating, they'll start to get black eyes and bruise damage on their face and body. Little details like this are great, but the game itself needs to be polished well before one can even consider these details. 

The sound... what sound? There's very little of it in KO Boxing. When you enter the training mode, you will hear some speech from your trainer / manager and when you're fighting in the ring against an opponent, the referee will say a few words, but that's about it. Grunts and in-ring effects are there, but none stand out. The sound department is in need of a serious overhaul, including perhaps some commentary during the fight. The game does feature Network and Two Player modes of multiplayer. Two Player mode involves two players at the same terminal. Both modes are in working condition and both offer the same gameplay as single player, which is extremely lacking. 

I'll give credit where credit is due. Data Becker has an engine here that looks pretty good graphically. What they need to do now is focus on gameplay. They need to grab those official licenses, they need to expand their punch selection and include body selection when throwing punches. They need to improve game control, include more strategy and create an overall boxing experience. I'm unsure whether KO Boxing is going to become a yearly event, but if it does I hope they'll address those issues for the next version. If this is a one time offer, I'm afraid it doesn't make it past the first round. KO Boxing is far from a knockout...


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