Sunday, December 20, 2009

Awesome Soccer Review

Awesome Soccer, developed and published by Red27 Studios.
The Good: Simple controls make it easy to bend shots, many teams with real players, custom tournaments, formation and team editors
The Not So Good: Terribly imprecise one-button controls are too simplistic, frantic game speed, no online multiplayer, low resolution graphics
What say you? Your basic arcade soccer game: 5/8

With the World Cup field set, it's now time for SOCCER FEVER (this term must always be displayed using all capital letters). It's like swine flu, but sweatier and with more goals. With interest in the world's most popular sport increasing with every passing hour, it's about time for a flurry of soccer related software to come storming in, hoping to cash in on the fervor. Enter Awesome Soccer, a modestly titled arcade football game that uses the proper name for the sport. How will this soccer product differentiate itself from the tons of other soccer games available for the personal computer, the grandest of all gaming platforms?

Awesome Soccer features some very basic graphics, as you might expect of a game that's offered for a sub-budget price tag. The game displays the field from the classic almost-overhead perspective, using the game player model for all participants. The animations are poor and do not invoke any sense of realism. There are a couple of goal celebrations, but that is the limit of variety here. The pitch is a simple mowed green that is used for all venues. There are no weather or lighting effects that I saw during gameplay. The highest game resolution that was functional on my computer was 1024x768, and you can only play the game in full-screen because of performance reasons (so I am told). The sound design is also elementary: some occasional crowd songs, game effects like whistles and tackles, and menu music. In terms of graphics and sound, you get what you pay for.

Awesome Soccer features a typical assortment of soccer game modes: quick games with automatically selected teams, friendlies using more customized options, and tournaments for more seasonal action. You can use one of the pre-set tournament formats or create your own, customizing the teams, divisions, and schedule, even going so far as to select randomly chosen teams: a neat feature. Awesome Soccer has replicas of teams from all of the major leagues: Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Scottish, Spanish, American, Euro Cup, and countries for international play. There isn’t a display for overall team quality, even though the players have individual ratings. Speaking of the players, Awesome Soccer actually uses the real athletes: a significant feat considering the sheer number of teams included in the game. Awesome Soccer does not have online multiplayer, although you can play against someone else on the same computer. Achievements can be earned for completing certain tasks (like scoring a goal or winning by a specified score), but they do not unlock anything extra. Awesome Soccer is available for both Windows and Macintosh operating systems: a plus. Finally, all of the teams and players can be edited using a program included with the game, in additional to coming up with new formations to dominate the competition with.

The control scheme is designed around using a keyboard, which makes it simple and also explains its significant limitations. You’ll only ever use the four directional keys and one button to do everything. The in-game tutorial explains the nuances of the controls, but they are very easy to pick up: tap the button to pass or tackle and hold to shoot. More “advanced” controls include bending a shot using the directional keys and quickly reversing direction to initiate a lob pass. This compromise makes it very easy to learn how to play Awesome Soccer but it also causes a lot of unintentional actions, specifically regarding the lob passes. You are also unable to make precise movements as you can only travel in eight directions: this makes the players look like robots and perform with no feeling of momentum. There also isn’t a change in the control indicator (changing players is done automatically on defense) if you posses the ball, leading to some additional confusion. The game’s really fast pace doesn’t help matters, either: the frantic nature of Awesome Soccer makes it difficult to keep track of what’s going on, and one wrong command can easily lead to defeat. The AI is a decent competitor at the highest difficulty setting; at lower settings, they generally just stand there (obviously making the game much easier). Whether Awesome Soccer will appeal to you depends on whether the limited control scheme is an issue; for me, it’s a definite weakness.

Awesome Soccer has the potential to be a decent soccer title, but the simplified control scheme works to the game’s advantage and disadvantage. On the plus side, it makes Awesome Soccer extremely easy to learn and control, since one button is used for all game actions. On the negative side, the controls are imprecise at best, and unintended actions are completed all of the time: lobbing the ball when you simply wanted to change direction, passing instead of shooting, et cetera. The directional controls only allow for movement in eight directions, which results in some strange-looking and limited gameplay. The game does have a decent amount of features, with teams from all of the major leagues around the world and the actual players (with ratings) in each team, whom can be altered using the team and formation editors. While Awesome Soccer does offer customizable tournaments, the game lacks online multiplayer; you will be playing against the AI, which, on the highest difficulty level, provides decent enough competition. Still, the soccer of Awesome Soccer seems much more stiff than other indie soccer titles, due mainly to the control scheme. The fast pace of the game does not help matters, as one wrong move will doom your team to last place. Still, for only $15, you get an arcade soccer title that will hold your attention for at least a little bit, assuming you are less critical of the controls than I am.