Pure and simple every time

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Appearing on shop shelves a mere six years ago with its somewhat haunting image of Steven Gerrard looking more than a bit peaky, Pure Football may be the newest game I ever get to write about on this blog if I don’t ever touch upon mobile and indie stuff. It currently stands as the last real attempt to steal at least a small part of the market away from EA and Konami, even if it wasn’t really trying to compete with them. Unless you count FIFA Street, that is. Yes, this is strictly five-a-side in urban environs only.

A large part of that “last real attempt” thing has to do with its critical reception. Metacritic currently has it at 38%. I think that’s a shame as although I agree it is flawed, it does have something to offer especially as you can get it for less than a quid just about anywhere that still sells last-gen games.

Let me explain.

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Yes, this is an arcade-styled game. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s pick up and play and you’ll be master of all you survey within five minutes. Bloody hell… there’s a lot to take in – it’s UEFA Dream Soccer with a degree in maths.

That red bar you can make out under the scoreboard? That’s your foul meter – let that fill up and you give away a penalty NO MATTER WHERE YOU ARE. Master the arts of pressing and the shoulder barge as without them, you’re pretty much fucked.

Top left are your Pure Points. Clean tackles, stringing passes together, shots on target and of course them there goal thingies – you know the drill here. Keep doing the good stuff and you’ll build up a multiplier. These points aren’t just there for show – they’ll allow you to improve players you’ve created yourself or buy them from the Player Market (whether this is still up or not, I can’t tell you as I keep forgetting to renew my Xbox Live subscription – I highly doubt it is, though).

The crescent around your currently controlled player acts as both your sprint and shot meters. The latter acts not unlike those in old-school golf games – the closer you get the marker to the optimal zone, the better your shot will be. Button combinations also allow you to prioritise either skill or power as you wait to pull the trigger. This also adds a nice risk vs. reward mechanic as these have to be timed absolutely perfectly, otherwise you’ll look like an arse.

If you get shots on target that don’t go in, they will help fill your Pure Shot meter. Fill this and your next shot will be a perfectly struck thunderbastard even if you cock up the timing. This does tend to lend itself to a shoot-on-sight policy not unlike the one employed by its cover star for a few years before this title’s release.

Those arrows act in lieu of a radar, by the way.

Unusual for me to go with gameplay first, isn’t it? Right then – the other stuff.

Let’s go with game modes as there’s only really one worth gabbing on about and that’s the campaign. Start by creating your captain – if you’re as deluded a fantasist as yours truly, this will be in your own graven image. Only in my case, not so fat and hairy just to carry on with the general theme of delusion.

Your task is to get your rag-tag bunch of nobodies and one “star” up amongst the top eight teams in the world in a cripplingly short timespan to ensure you qualify for the final tournament. You may as well call this the Chris Coleman mode.

Thankfully you can get rid of the dead wood pretty sharpish if you just keep winning and meeting certain criteria in matches. Likewise, those Pure Points I mentioned can be used to give your skipper suspiciously large boosts to his attributes. And when I say “suspiciously large”, I mean “East German Olympic team doctors would say you’re overdoing it”.

Carry on with this palaver and if you’re in one of those octet of spots.. well, I won’t spoil it. Mind you, Ubisoft do that for you with the first match you play in a flash-forward moment.

Graphics hold up pretty well as you’d expect for one so relatively recent. The aesthetic is somewhat stylised and in my opinion in a good way – players are all long and lean but still incredibly ripped in a way that suggests that Peter Crouch has been on one too many protein shakes. Odd but as I said, fitting.

Audio is no great shakes – menu music is… um… THERE, I suppose and in game it takes a diegetic, almost ambient approach as you’ll barely hear anything other than shouts for the ball. That is, until there’s a goal. Then you get all the pomp and bombast of a military tattoo.

So then? I touched on flaws and they’re certainly there – a painful lack of content (there’s only 17 teams to start with!) and a lack of replay value once you’ve successfully navigated the campaign, but what is here certainly deserves reassessment from somebody who hasn’t dismissed it out of hand after playing a handful of matches.

Everything is tight – passing, shooting, tackling all feel as they should. Good moves finished off with a smart shot are satisfying as hell. The campaign – brief as it is undoubtedly is – offers a genuine sense of achievement. Multiplayer – REAL multiplayer with other people in the room – is a bloody good laugh.

With a bit of refinement, we could have had the finest “alternative” football game since Red Card. As it is, it’s still worth a punt for the price of a grab bag of crisps. The tragedy is due to its undeserved kicking, this may very well be the last of the breed. The last to take that risk.

Green pixels? More like brown trousers!

You may have noticed that today is Hallowe’en. I couldn’t resist an opportunity of commemorating this somehow and an idea popped into whatever could be called my brain.

May I present to you:

THE 5 SCARIEST-LOOKING FOOTBALL GAMES ON THE PS1!

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5 – All-Star Soccer (boxart)

The game itself isn’t that horrifying to look at but that front cover is something else. Truly awful 90s CGI combined with caricatures vaguely reminiscent of Spitting Image puppets that have started to rot. That and the nose on the Cantona-esque fizzog just left of centre looks rather phallic. Not helped by his ridged brow looking like a pair of bollocks.

Not to mention the poor bloke on the far right – his mouth is going in at least five separate directions simultaneously.

The eyes on the floating disembodied head to the right of the Gullit analogue – he’s seen some shit, man.

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4 – FIFA ’97

Pale, shambling, unblinking humanoid forms trying to fit into society and failing. This can mean one of several things – replicants, zombies, pod people – but all of them are deeply unsettling.

I can’t help feeling that EA were trying to revive the Mutant League franchise but forgot that they were supposed to knock out a FIFA game that year and hurriedly slapped the license on.

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3 – Three Lions

No doubt, you’ll have read a story or watched a film where a murderer will wear the face(s) of their victim(s) either to hide their identity or as some kind of trophy.

Now imagine twenty-two of said murderers running around a pitch. It could only lead to one thing, really – a Battle Royale situation where a sole survivor emerges with 44 faces.

Also worth a mention – the giant shovel hands (perfect for bludgeoning) and huge chunks of flesh taken from the shoulders.

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2 – Goal Storm

They have no faces.

Yet they stare deep…

deep into my soul…

hug me…

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1 – Olympic Soccer

See #2… also…

THEY HAVE KNIVES FOR HANDS!

STABBY, STABBY, STABBY!

 

 

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRGGGGGHHH!!!

FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…mummy…

Still not as terrifying as the idea of ever playing The Mission again, though. So there’s that.

 

Mission Implausible

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Now… I understand that this blog is meant to be about football video games so what am I doing writing about a game where you take out cyborgs as part of a heist? Well, the cover should give you a bit of a hint.

Yes, that is Edgar Davids essentially playing keepy-uppy in a badly Photoshopped laser security system. Yes, that is Lilian Thuram wearing that headset. Yes, this game was a bad idea.

For a start, it’s based on an advert. A good advert but still…

Someone at Nike had obviously seen one too many movies as a crack team try to capture the new Geo Merlin ball from some kind of industrial complex that is being protected by a squadron of robotic kendoka. As well as the aforementioned Davids and Thuram, the cast almost reads like a Ballon D’Or shortlist for the year 2000 – Totti, Guardiola, Nakata, Figo, Bierhoff, Yorke and Cole. Presiding over them – one Louis van Gaal. Obviously his later Man Utd “philosophy” hadn’t really been thought up by then as this actually ends up being pretty entertaining for something that had to have been thought up in a cocaine-induced haze. This is the advertising industry we’re talking about after all.

Then everything explodes at the end. I cannot confirm whether this was directed by Michael Bay or not.

Aren’t we supposed to be discussing a video game?

Hang on, do you want some background or not?

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I knew I was never going to be in for a good time as soon as I saw the Microids logo. Even then, I wasn’t prepared for just how “not good”.

I already said this game was a bad idea. Bad ideas can occasionally work if the execution is on point.

Right then, execution…

The graphics are a disgrace to the word “shambles”. Taking into account most of the environments are meant to be some kind of bizarre warehouse-meets-museum, they’re still far too sparse and grey. Just looking at them could put you into a catatonic state that would be hard to snap out of. The players run like they’ve just shat their tracksuit bottoms whereas their upper bodies appear to be in full-on mince like they’re auditioning for some dreadful 1970s sitcom. Or indeed, Mrs. Fucking Brown’s Fucking Boys.

They also greet a successful mission with dance moves that look like they’re having a seizure in a way that almost makes me feel sorry for handsome multi-millionaire athletes.

The soundtrack is ripped directly from the commercial – whether this is a good or bad thing is dependent on your opinion of dramatic-sounding but instantly forgettable electronica. SFX are your bog-standard alarm whoop-whoops and metallic clanks and therefore reasonably appropriate.

Now for the real shitstorm… playability.

The set-up is that it’s always two players on each mission – this means that if you’re playing on your own, you struggle to gain control of one star while the other does absolutely bloody nothing with no semblance of AI taking over to at least attempt to help you.

Meanwhile, there you are trying to take out targets and enemies with your freestyling skills. Unfortunately, it seems you have a level of ball control akin to that of Stephen Hawking as more often than not it’ll just trickle forward with all the force of gently blowing away a bit of fluff from a coffee table.

Alternatively you can try and slide tackle the bad guys. This actually works quite well but I can’t help feeling that this was yet another missed opportunity – if Paul Scholes had been on board, his badly-timed scything could have taken out about seventeen foes at once and meant less time suffering through this absolute garbage.

And that’s pretty much it. I don’t know whether that’s because that’s all the game has to offer or that’s all I could tolerate.

So then… as a video game it fails. As an advertising campaign it fails. As an exercise in making the poor sod holding the controller want to kill himself it very much succeeds.

In a Class of its own?

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I like the Atari Lynx. There, I said it.

Indeed I own a third of all the games ever officially released for it in the UK. I do only have 24 though which kind of makes that statistic less impressive. A powerful piece of hardware for the time, what with its in-built sprite scaling and handling of audio samples, its relatively large amount of superb arcade conversions made it the handheld of choice for the more discerning (and indeed wealthy) gamer. Mind you, mine cost me a tenner brand new and sealed.

One of my personal two dozen is – of course, if you have any clue what this blog is about – World Class Soccer or as the boxart would have it World Class Fussball/Soccer. Quite the curveball you threw there, Atari – two names for the sport and neither of them is what most of the potential buyers for this game would call it.

First impressions are good – the intro screen making good use of the system with its decently animated goalkeeper and title logo zooming into view. Options are simple but effective – game difficulty and length, whether or not your player switches automatically and either a dry or muddy pitch.

Choosing your team is nicely done as well – moving left and right highlights the various continents and up and down scrolls through the countries. This was 1992 so Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia are still just about in one piece, the CIS is a thing that existed yet you can select Kampuchea which already hadn’t been around under that name for thirteen years. Somebody on the development staff was obviously a fan of the Khmer Rouge.

Being a vaguely patriotic sort, I chose to play as Wales. I should have taken the fact that it’s the Union Flag that looms down onto the match-up screen rather than Y Ddraig Goch as some kind of portent of doom. As it was, I just took it as ignorance.

Then again, it doesn’t really matter who you choose as every team is exactly the same in terms of ability.

Yes, it only gets worse from here

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I could have taken that screengrab from a match between any two teams, you know.

You always control the blue side and play against the red side. If you are familiar with the concept of oni from Japanese folklore (or colour therapy in general for that matter), you’ll know that blue represents calmness, rationality, control and serenity. Red meanwhile is passionate, wildness, spontaneous and unpredictable. A few minutes of playing this and you’ll realise that this game laughs at those concepts in the face.

The graphics look pretty nice in that shot, don’t they? Well for a handheld that was originally released when Milli Vanilli were still being taken seriously, that is. Just you wait…

The frame rate is bloody abysmal – you’ll be lucky if it gets up to 5fps. Couple this with the fact that the camera is being controlled by someone on the piss, what with its constant zooming in and out (definitely a case of the programmers going “LOOK WHAT WE CAN DO!”) and sudden changes in direction that often bear little or no resemblance to actually following the path of the ball. I don’t tend to suffer from motion sickness but this did make me feel thoroughly queasy.

The gameplay though. That takes the absolute fucking biscuit. In fact, it takes the entire McVities factory.

Your only choice is to lump it and hope one of your players can run onto it. Running with the ball is even more awkward than it is in Kick Off (in my opinion, the most over-rated football game ever made) and passing is laughable. You’ll just prod it forward like a toddler’s toe poke.

Shooting somehow is even more pathetic. You have to be lined up perfectly in the direction of the goal – no automatic shot direction or aftertouch here, I’m afraid. And even if you do get one on target, the keeper will gather it up without even having to try.

Even then, this game still finds ways to get worse.

Your keepers are manually controlled. I shuddered and felt a chill just typing that. As any fule kno, this has never been made to work in any football game ever made, not even the good ones. So how would you expect it to go in a piece of shit like this? No prizes for guessing… 12-0. To San Marino.

Says it all.

They might be Giants

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This may be a bit shorter than my usual posts – that’s simply because there’s not much you can write about something so painfully lacking in content.

Giant Killers was the only football management sim on the Dreamcast. Released in May 2001, several months after Sega announced that they were discontinuing the DC and quitting the hardware market altogether, it is now one of the more sought after releases for those looking to complete a PAL DC collection.

An adaptation of a series that had built up several releases on the PC, GK positioned itself as a less involved, more immediate alternative to the likes of Championship Manager. This simplicity seemed like it would make for a pretty straighforward transfer onto a console. This simplicity is also what destroys it as anything resembling a satisfying experience.

Even by the standards of the time, GK is unbelievably basic compared to the likes of LMA Manager on the PlayStation or Player Manager ’99 on the N64. It is more comparable to O’Leary Manager 2000 on the Game Boy Color. The bloody GAME. BOY. COLOR!

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Those nine TV-screen looking icons up there… they’re ALL of your options.

Every single thing you can do in the game… bar the vidiprinter-esque screen that appears during matches. Just use the triggers to flick through them in turn.

From left to right:

CLUB STATUS

FIXTURES

TABLES

TRANSFERS

SQUAD

FORMATION

TRAINING – Even then, if you choose the easy option (I’ll get onto the difficulty settings) the training is automated therefore the icon is blanked out!

SAVE GAME

CALENDAR

The X and Y buttons can be used to switch between screens but you’ll still see no more than two dozen or so sub-menus in the entire game.

The first menu you can really make any kind of decisions on is the transfers. Your kitty is decided by the initial difficulty – easy gives you and only you a £25million windfall, medium awards this to all 92 clubs and hard lumps you with the default budget, which for all but about half a dozen teams is the square root of bugger all.

The lesson here is not to be lured in by big names – chances are they might very well be useless. I made this mistake in buying Eidur Gudjohnsen and Freddie Ljungberg for Wrexham – their ratings were barely any better than those players in my initial starting XI.

It’s entirely about percentages and this goes equally well in regards to formation. Just keep flicking through them until you work out which one scores highest and stick with it. No tweaks, no thinking about little things like balance or team chemistry. In Giant Killers, matches ARE won on paper.

I’ll admit that it can be fun to take a team from the lower divisions and get them to challenge for the Premier League title, especially on a higher difficulty. But the illusion is soon broken when you release that the only reason why you’re in the shake up is that Emile Heskey has scored 35 goals in one season and Clint Hill has become the best defender in the world.

Virtua insanity

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Virtua Pro Football is an odd one. Not like UEFA Dream Soccer “odd” but a curious case nonetheless. You’d think with Virtua in the name and it being by Sega, it’d be part of the Virtua Striker family. In fact, it’s a spiritual successor of sorts to the absolutely appalling 90 Minutes for the Dreamcast (the similarities are slightly more obvious if you play the Japanese version known as World Football Climax – the HUD is virtually identical and the graphics have a somewhat more vivid “Dreamcasty” saturation) but tries to fix that game’s myriad problems while adding many new exciting and interesting features of its own.

And you know what? It ALMOST succeeds. Emphasis very much on the almost there.

First of all:

What does it get right?

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The presentation is very nice – all brightly coloured geometric shapes and clean text. Everything is logically arranged and clearly labelled. No PES-style head scratching “where the hell do I find that” or “what the fuck does that mean” here.

Those sharp good looks don’t quite transfer on to the pitch however. It’s not an ugly game by any means – perfectly serviceable by PS2 standards, in fact. It’s just completely lacking any pizzazz. Player likenesses could not be used in a court of law, even though they are officially licensed and the more famous faces are certainly not made of stock parts. Gerrard’s tiny forehead, Giggs’ angular cheekbones, Adriano’s perfectly round head – they’re all here… vaguely. Overall though, the visuals just about get a pass.

Features – the editing mode is very much akin to what you’d expect from the Pro Evo titles of the period. And by “very much akin”, I really should have put “completely and utterly stolen”. Making crests and flags from monochromatic clip-art pieces layered together, colouring kits piece by piece, choosing just the right font for the shirt numbers – it should all seem very familiar to those who are au fait with Konami’s oeuvre. It worked there, it works here.

Game modes are your standard friendlies, leagues and cups. Then there’s Career Mode.

Back in the mid-2000s, this wasn’t a common feature to find in football games. FIFA and PES didn’t incorporate their equivalents until a year or two after this. Although with its RPG-lite stylings and focus on building relationships over actually playing any matches, it’s far more analogous to the synonymous mode in ISS 2000 for the N64. So Konami did get there first… again.

The disappointing thing is that VPF’s Career mode doesn’t have the sense of humour of KCEO’s blurry, over-saturated, not-as-good-as-’98-but-still-pretty-damn-good effort. There are still some unusual and somewhat prescient touches here and there though – women only seem interested in you if you buy them expensive gifts and take them out to restaurants (gold diggers going after footballers – who’d have thunk it, eh?). Having a massive ego is seen as a good thing – seriously, if you let your ego meter get too low you get diagnosed with depression and have to spend twelve weeks away from the team! Of course, let’s not forget one of the easiest ways of giving your motivation a boost – buying yourself a shiny new sports car.

Media interviews are exactly as you’d expect as well – even though you’re new to the first team it appears that the media training you’ve received has already kicked in 110% at the end of the day. All answers you give are incredibly banal and contain less insight and basic human intellect than the letters page of the Daily Star.

Pretty neat all round – shame that there’s no coaches telling you that you must use your passion so that it may manifest itself AS A FIRE!!!!!!!!!!! or team-mates shunning you after one of them finds a porn mag under your duvet. You know – little things.

Mind you, they won’t be so little after a quick J. Arthur.

Hey, we might be on to a winner here with this one. Maybe not winner, really, more scraping into the Europa League on the last day but still, all seems well… so far.

What does it get shite?

Before we get to the big one, let’s talk about the audio for a bit. In-game “choons” are instantly forgettable, crowd noises are the usual library sounds and worst of all, commentary is by…

Alan Green.

Fuck.

It’s not like they’ve even given him much to say (then again, the less you hear from the miserable bastard, the better). It’s common to hear him spew out the same tired cliche twice or even thrice in a row. There’s also the weird manner in which he gives out how much time has elapsed in the match – obviously using the same script as Alan Parry did for 90 Minutes, only not quite sounding as much like he failed the audition to play K-9 though.

To pick through Career mode once more – your progression is completely off-kilter. In my first season at Stoke I ended up playing four entirely underwhelming matches, scoring once – and that was a tap-in after the ball came back off the keeper’s arse and he then proceeded to get a rush of blood. The Potters gained promotion but my part in it was negligible, save perhaps for that fortunate late winner against a nine-man Sheffield Wednesday.

I must have impressed someone however because at the end of the season, I get a text from my agent with details of interested clubs. Amongst the usual bunch of Championship stragglers and relegation fodder in the Dutch top flight, one name stands out – Roma.

From having Paul Gallagher as a strike partner to Francesco Totti? Dave Brammer as midfield general to Daniele de Rossi (Nothing against Dave, quite the opposite in fact as a Wrexham fan – I wish we had a player half as good as him at the Racecourse right now)?

And all with a 1,500% pay rise?

WHERE’S THAT FUCKING CONTRACT?

Yeah right, as if that would ever happen…

Now the elephant in the room – playability. First impressions are OK – players are responsive, passing is snappy and accurate (mostly… you will sometimes put one out for a throw-in when you swear you held the stick in the direction of a team-mate) and the gridiron-style plays for set pieces are genuinely innovative and well implemented.

But then it all goes to shit – play a slightly stray pass and a colleague will ignore it, letting it roll past him even if it’s less than a yard from his feet. Getting in an accurate cross is impossible… not that you have any hope in hell of ever winning a ball in the air anyway.

The second biggest issue is 1-on-1s. Another blatant nick from Konami here, this time from ISS 3 on the GameCube. The game will enter a third-person mode like you’re Lara bloody Croft or something. Then you’ll inevitably cease control of the ball as your temporary disorientation will cause you to lose focus. Every. Single. Time. Turn it off as soon as you can.

Finally… shooting. Oh dear. Oh dear, oh dear. It is far too sensitive – even the slightest tap of the square button will cause you to unleash a thunderbastard that would take off the goalkeeper’s arm if the shot was anything like on target. They hardly ever are though, even if you’re standing two yards from the goal. I hope the crowd are all wearing full face crash helmets, otherwise somebody’s going to be losing teeth.

That’s if you can carve out chances to shoot in the first place – to say your opponents take refuge in blanket defence is putting it lightly. Once you enter their third, you’ll see half a dozen of them swarming around the ball – your only hope here is to try and play through them with a series of one-twos and intricate passing. This is where the idea for tiki-taka came from, it must be. There’s no other rational explanation.

Even then, nine times out of ten the move will break down as one of your lot get flagged offside. Did anyone ever sing about dreaming of a team of Pippo Inzaghis?

No one will ever sing any arias about this game, that’s for sure.

That’s not really On…

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Complete Onside Soccer, or just Onside as the spine of the PlayStation game case would have it, was developed by Elite Systems – best known for their arcade conversions for 8-bit computers and being the current holders of the Paperboy license – and published by Telstar, best known for cheapo compilation albums and giving record deals to the likes of Ant & Dec, Vinnie Jones and The Cheeky Girls. Hardly the most auspicious signs, then.

Well, that and the fact that the game was originally going to be released on the astonishingly successful and influential 3DO*.

* Note – words in italics may be sarcasm.

Released in 1996, it purported to be the first game on the PS1 to properly combine playing and managing. Turns out it was less S.W.O.S. and more S.H.I.T.

Playing

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Look at that screenshot. Glorious, is is not?

Even for the early days of the PlayStation, the graphics could described as “stark”, “unpolished”, “basic” or more accurately “a steaming pile of visual faeces”. And that’s even before you see them move!

Players slide around the pitch, not so much in a graceful Messi-esque fashion though – think Teflon boots on an ice rink. Not to mention the speed – pre-match meals for these folk seem to be about four dozen Pro Plus each washed down with fourteen cans of Red Bull. They’re BUZZED and jittery. Very, very jittery. You’re seeing 22 Jamie Vardys out there. Play shit, get banged… sorry.

Audio is somehow even worse – crowd noises are so generic they barely warrant a mention and the ball makes that “phut” sound that only people who’ve never kicked a football believe doing so sounds like.

Commentary is by… um… some bloke. This might have worked if they’d gone down the route of getting a Japanese guy to try and do a passable attempt at a Received Pronunciation accent, only he’s missed a few elocution lessons. If you’ve ever played Taito’s Football Champ or the 16-bit ISS games, you’ll know what I’m going on about. It’s awful yet somehow brilliant. Unfortunately Elite did not have that level of imagination and seemingly just got the teaboy. And doesn’t he sound enthused?

No. Of course not. He makes Alan Green sound like a ray of fucking sunshine. Necking Mogadons like they’re Smarties before entering the recording booth is never a positive career move.

Controls then. Bloody hell. To say you’re wrestling with them is an understatement on par with Hirohito’s surrender to the Allies or Jim Lovell’s message to Mission Control. They are ghastly. Nominally, each button is meant to do something different but in practice all they seem to do is aimlessly hoof it forward like Wayne Rooney playing in midfield. The only variation is whether it ends up as a misplaced low pass, a misplaced high pass, a misplaced shot or misplaced cross. The only satisfactory way of keeping possession for anything longer than Planck time is to run with it and slalom around opponents in the manner of Alberto Tomba.

Yet it’s still one of the easiest football games ever made. I’ve had no problem putting double figures against rivals on the highest difficulty. How is this even possible if you can’t even kick with any elan? Simple. The keepers are completely oblivious to you simply dribbling the ball into the back of the net.

Defenders are pretty charitable as well. You’ll get at least two penalties in every match, at least 90% of which you’ll have no idea why they were awarded. Mike Dean must be refereeing. Spot kicks are the only realistic opportunity of seeing your player boot the vaguely football-shaped object in a forwardly direction and scoring one of them there goal thingies.

So then…

Managing

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Look at that bewildering array of options. Sports Interactive must have shat themselves when they saw that. It’s so comprehensive, it’s like you’re actually a football manager.

Seriously though, when you’ve learned how to actually play the game, most of these settings are rendered null and void.

Why do I need to set training schedules if I can just go out and pummel everyone 10-0?

Why do I need to sign a new striker if my right-back is scoring a hat trick in every game?

It’s a difficult balance that quite a few games have tried to strike. The word there being “tried”. Onside doesn’t try. It just has these bunged on because there was still room on the CD. Kind of like this bit of the review, to be honest.

The really annoying thing though is that there are a few – very few, admittedly – nice touches in there somewhere. Being able to change your kit colours (although even this is sorely lacking, you’re screwed for shirt options unless your team wears stripes), and choosing the camera angle is really well done – selecting it by marking a section of the stadium as it would appear on a ticket. I will admit I like that a lot.

An upbeat note to end on then… and I didn’t even mention Jo Guest wearing nothing but a Bolton shirt in the magazine ads.

Go on then… if you must.

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Let it never be said that I don’t know what you want… perverts…