For over a decade, EA Sports has provided realistic and entertaining depictions of many major sports, such as football, baskeball, hockey and soccer. Unfortunately, when EA began its “Knockout Kings” franchise three years ago, critics and gamers alike agreed that the games left something to be desired. Fortunately, with a new year and a new system to work with, it seems that EA Sports has finally built a contender with “Knockout Kings 2001” for the Playstation 2.

The heart of “Knockout Kings 2001″ comes in its outstanding presentation. From the games introduction to the end of each bout gamers will feel like they are in the world of professional boxing. The game features over 20 authentic boxers from both past and present including heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis, Evander Holyfield, Oscar De La Hoya, Smokin” Joe Frazier and the greatest of all-time, Muhammad Ali. Better yet, gamers can start a “cat fight” with a selection of female boxers, which includes Christy Martin. In addition, the game adds realism by having famous referees Mills Lane and Richard Steele, and the game also features excellent (and sometimes comical) commentary from Al Bernstein (of ESPN fame), Max Kellerman and Tedday Atlas.

Adding to the excitement of “Knockout Kings 2001” is improved gameplay. In comparison to previous efforts by EA, “Knockout Kings 2001” has faster gameplay and more responsive controls. As a result, bouts tend to be more like the ones you see on television (the ones without brawls and ear biting at least), as they often go back and forth and can easily go the distance in a twelve round match. While not as enjoyable as the arcade-style hit, “Mike Tyson”s Punch-Out!,” EA”s latest boxing title is the most realistic boxing game ever.

Complementing the improved gameplay of the latest in the “Knockout Kings” franchise are outstanding visuals. Other than some heads that look too big for their bodies, EA has created extremely realistic boxers. No longer do characters look like a pile of polygons these guys look like flesh and blood. And speaking of blood, when boxers get hit enough, their faces get almost as nasty as Hannibal Lecter”s lone surviving victim.

Unfortunately, EA Sports improvements to its boxing franchise do not come without problems. Most notably, the collision detection in the game is poor. Punches seem to go through the boxers” bodies similar to when Arnold punches through the T-1000 in Terminator 2. As a result of this flaw, gamers will not feel as if they are really pounding their opponents, and right crosses will seem far inferior to Jesse Spannow”s blows on her step-brother Eric. Nevertheless, EA has moved in the right direction with their latest effort, as “Knockout Kings 2001” for the PS2 is a must-have for fans of the genre.

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