Data Becker's entry into the action/sports arena comes as a surprise to many. In fact, KO: Ultra-Realistic Boxing is their first full game product and, unfortunately, it doesn't come off very well. The company usually makes utility applications such as Complete Home Designer and add-on flight simulator packages like Jumbo Jet 2.0 for Microsoft Flight Simulator 98. This may be the reason that gameplay doesn't reach current gaming standards exhibited by other games of its kind for the PC.
Given that it is Data Becker's first attempt at a fully 3D game title, it held promise -- a promise that goes unfulfilled. It leads one to think they should probably have stuck with their successful add-on packages. The claim that this game is "the undisputed heavyweight champion of boxing games" is mostly unfounded.
Boxing games in the 90s required quality graphics, fast action and realistic animation in addition to good gameplay in order to satisfy boxing fans. The Dreamcast's Ready 2 Rumble is an excellent example of going above and beyond these qualifications. Even other console and PC boxing games at least have decent playability. Somehow KO misses out on all of these elements. This game does have decent graphics but that's about it. They aren't great graphics because the textures are horribly drawn.
For example, boxers' skin textures look fake and wrinkled, almost too nasty to look at. The polygon models are slightly blocky and they are not motion-captured -- the animation is smooth but they all move like robots from Dire Straits's Money For Nothing music video. The camera panning is the smoothest thing in the game. And at the end of a match their bruises aren't even recognizable, as if they weren't really beaten up. During times where you punch your opponent's face, there is no effect, spit, blood or anything. Whatever resolution or graphic mode you're in, be it Open GL, Direct3D or Voodoo, it still doesn't make much difference, even at the maximum resolution of 800x600 with only 16-bit high color.
The installation and removal of the game apparently work fine yet everything in between doesn't. From the intro with the logo screen (which has a weak, muffled sound as the boxing gloves come clashing together) to the menu that looks like a belt, all is well until you start playing the game itself.
A referee always comes up to the two boxers in the ring and tells them to keep it a clean fight. Then he disappears! He doesn't even do a countdown in their presence and it's a mystery as to how to get your boxer up from the ring floor because when you're knocked out, you're really knocked out. The close-up audience is made of rows of sprites and for some reason a lot of them look like celebrity actors. The ring looks okay as do the shadows of the boxers, but actually fighting your opponent is a joke.
Your punches are as weak as a baby's would be and as slow as a turtle. The punches are even delayed, either due to low stamina or something else, but it's very frustrating. The same goes for your computer opponent who has the artificial intelligence of an amoeba. Body blows don't look like body blows, force feedback feels unreal and although you can evade punches, you cannot block (it is automatic in this game).
Even though it takes a while to get punches across, you can still easily beat your opponent who falls down on his face almost all the time with his rear sticking up! There is an interesting tidbit in the manual that must be mentioned. It says "the boxers will always turn while facing one another with a sideways movement. However, to facilitate side hits, such as hits to the opponent's ribs, for example, there is a 'delay' in the automatic position correction feature." This delay shouldn't be there whether there is a workaround or not.
The options allow you to change your control configuration, set music and sound level, and to create your own boxer you can save -- which is a decent feature but could've been better with the option to change facial features, uniforms, and skin colors/textures of the boxers. It does allow you to change certain characteristics and abilities such as the name of the boxer, his nationality and punching hand, his power, speed, condition, and his physical look.
The help selection is all in text and there is an option to see the current rankings. The championship belt mode is not exciting because it is basically the same single or two-player game where you simply play the 20 boxers in sequential order. No exciting features are added in between these bouts to excite the user.
Sounds are almost literally non-existent. There are small, muffled sounds during gameplay that are like whispers rather than hard-hitting punches. The crowd noise is there but the referee doesn't say anything and there is no taunting from anyone either outside or inside the ring. There is actually no announcer, come to think of it. Moans and groans are not present here either. The music even makes popping sounds once in a while during the menu screens.
KO: Ultra-Realistic Boxing is not ultra-realistic because it tries too hard to compete with similar sports titles, especially those associated with boxing. It would seem as if a lot of hard, long hours of effort were put into the game but, unfortunately, not quality effort. With decent graphics and features but intolerable gameplay, bad controls, little sound and weak animation and speed, KO misses the punch with its target audience as well as gamers in general.
Graphics: Average graphics with no effects and badly drawn skin textures. Smooth animation but not motion-captured. It's very slow.
Sound: There is almost no sound except for a few lines of voice and a crowd noise, and the punches sound like air. The rest are menu sounds.
Enjoyment: This game is a disappointment because the gameplay and controls are flawed. The game moves very slowly and nothing looks or feels real. Force feedback is hardly felt, either. Far from the real thing and opposite of what is claimed to be the best boxing game ever.
Replay Value: You have to be pretty desperate to play KO more than a couple of times.
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