This week's game comes to us from the team at Addictive 247. It's a football game that more closely resembles indoor soccer than any other real sport. I'm not going to weigh in on the "football vs soccer" naming rights debate, since it is an equaly futile pursuit to try to get an American to call soccer "football" as it is to try to get a Brazillian to call football "soccer". I'm sitting squarely on the fence and will use both terms throughout the review.
The game can be played either single player mode vs the computer AI or 2-player head to head at the same computer. Two teams of 5 players (4 plus 1 goalie) battle it out to try and outscore each other in this fast paced and action orientated game. If you are looking for a football simulator, then you have come to the wrong place. Addictive Football resembles real soccer about as closely as mini-golf resembles real golf.
For example, there is no offside rule, no fouling, no penalties, and balls can be "bounced" off the sidelines and ends of the pitch and therefore no throw-ins or corner kicks are needed. Think tabletop football, except that the players are free to run anywhere on the pitch that they like; that would be a good summation.
There are ten teams on offer, and the player can choose to easily edit the team and player names to their liking. Three game types are available; knock-out comp where three consecutive games need to be won to become champion, a medal championship where all the teams meet in a round-robin setup to determine the victor, and also a custom game type. A custom match is where all variables such as team colours and player names, skill levels and pitch type can be selected before a single match. Of the six pitch types available I like the ice (looks like a hockey arena, and the ball has super low friction) and the grass (nostalgic "old skool" soccer game) types best.
The game is simple to play, using the arrow keys for player movement and the z and x keys for passing and shooting by default. These are configurable and when playing head to head the WASD keys for one player and the arrow keys for the other work quite well. I also tested the game with my USB gamepad without issue, although I was more comfortable on the keyboard.
The game is reasonably fun to play, although two encountered bugs are annoying enough to affect the score. For one, the ball can get stuck out of play in the signage boards around the pitch. The only solutions to this are to forfeit the match and restart or to wait for the half-time or full-time whistle. When a defender is challenging for the ball in close proximity to the attacking player, the two players skid at high speed across and up/down the pitch. This frequent bug should have been addressed in testing. Additionally, there are some unsavoury game play features that have frustrated me. When passing, the AI arbitarily selects a recipient (marked with an arrow) and he is the only man that can be passed to. Usually this is the player furthest up the pitch from the players own goal, and quite often this is not the player in the best position to receive the pass. There seems to be no way to change the recipient, but using "shoot" instead of "pass" in the general direction of a player in the open seemed to work OK, even if it did make the pass button a little redundant. Similarly, in defence the player control over defenders switches sometimes at most inopportune moments, and although control of the man nearest the ball can be obtained by hitting the shoot key, a feature to allow the player to cycle controllable defenders would have been better.
There is only one level of difficulty, but this can be somewhat overcome by players choosing weaker or stronger teams, depending on their own ability. The players under the control of the AI seem to play quite respectably, with players in attack seeming to attempt runs into open space, and defenders closing back and in on opposition attackers; good stuff. Goalies are a little obtuse and can easily be scored on, but since the player has no control over their own goale, there is no obvious advantage to the player, and this (possibly intended) feature leads to some very high scoring matches. Running in on an angle and shooting to the near post seems to work better than crossing the ball in from the wings to players in front of the net, although it is not impossible to score in this fashion.
The game looks quite neat and tidy, and the cartoony character art fits the casual play style very well. Animations are minimalistic, but perhaps because of this, the game runs smoothly and the match tempo is maintained even on lower end systems. My 4 year old laptop ran the game without a hiccough, and it only has a lowly integrated GPU. The game is colourful, but on occasion teams were difficult to tell apart, especially differentiating red/orange and blue/purple combinations because of the top down viewpoint. This can be observed in the screenshot.
I found myself humming the theme song for Addictive Football yesterday at work. It's quite possibly the most addictive component of the game. It's quite catchy. There are sound effects for everything that needs them, as well as a weird anomaly whereby a player who shoots without the ball still triggers the "boot" sound effect as if he has kicked it. Maybe a bit more enthusiasm from the crowd would have been nice when a goal is scored as the current effects are a little anti-climactic, but then, goals are so frequent that it might not be such a good idea to make the cheers too flamboyant.
For only a few dollars less than one can buy a copy of Sensible Soccer 2006 for, Addictive Football probably needs to offer a little more than it does to make it a winner in my books. Having said that, it does have that casual pick-up-and-playability that an action sports game needs, and would appeal to younger gamers as well.
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