Wednesday 7 June 2006
Oh, dear. It was only a month ago that we said Sensible Soccer is "a big bag of fun". And, at first, it is. 'Cos, you know, it's Sensi - the best football game of the '90s. But then, after a few matches, the nostalgia blindfold falls off and you realise that, actually, its only Sensi in the loosest of senses. All it really has in common with the peak of last decade's gaming is its overhead viewpoint. Aside from that, it's not much like Sensible Soccer at all.
You see, Sensible Soccer (the Amiga version, that is, not that PSone thing that masqueraded as Sensi), was joyous - the epitome of 'one more go'-ness, keeping us all glued to our screens, desperate to beat our mates and claim the coveted title of 'Greatest Sensi Player Ever Ever Ever'.
And the reason it was so glorious? Because it only needed one button to do everything - and that one button did it brilliantly. Here, while passing works well - jabs of X will almost always see the ball find its target, allowing for a crisp game - and the ball sticks to the players' feet, making for some nice and easy dribbling, the other aspects of control are fudged.
Tackling is pretty much redundant. All you need to do to dispossess an opponent is run into him, and he'll immediately surrender possession. Sliding tackles? Well, those are there, yes, but they're a much less effective method of gaining possession.
There are two consequences to this - firstly, you can go for games on end without seeing a free-kick, and secondly, it leads to penalty box scrambles that are just bizarre. As you sprint into the area, a defender will probably step up and take the ball away. At which point, your support striker will be on hand to reclaim the ball, another defender comes in to get the ball from him and the second striker falls over, a midfielder arrives...
And this goes on, possession switching every two seconds until, eventually, the ball pings away and everyone chases after it. This means the only way to score is via a slick passing move followed by a tap-in, or a long-range blast. Except...
Scoring goals can be overly tricky. This isn't just us being crap - some of the keepers, besides, say, the ones at Stoke or Luton, are superhuman. Therefore you can discount howitzers from distance - most of the time - and unless you're square onto the goal, you'll be lucky to get the ball on target anyway - aftertouch, a trademark of Sensi, is insanely sensitive, and the slightest twitch of the stick sends the ball miles wide.
But the biggest problem Sensi has is its acute lack of atmosphere. Even on the Amiga, there was raucous, if unintelligible, crowd noise. Here, the fans are so quiet as to be inaudible, and it makes matches feel so lacking in said atmosphere, you may as well be having a kickabout in space.
Above: This surely isn't supposed to be Rio Ferdinand. Surely
In Sensi's favour, there are stacks of competitions to enter - every team from every major league is here, with all the requisite knockout tournaments, including (of course) the World Cup. You can make your own competitions, and customise all the teams and players.
And while it certainly doesn't look amazing, what really could be done to make a top-down football game look sexy? The visuals function perfectly, well, functionally. The menus are clunky, though, especially the team selection one, where you have to v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y keep clicking right to cycle through every side in the list.
As we said, oh dear. The simple fact is that this isn't even fit to lace the boots of those early Amiga versions of Sensible Soccer. It's nowhere near as fun as that was, and it genuinely hurts us to say that.
Well, it is only 25 quid. Unfortunately, Pro Evo 5 is now available on the platinum range. Get that, and save yourself a tenner - and the disappointment.
By the way, you know those cheapo 'plug and play' joysticks you can buy with games pre-installed on them? One of those has the original Sensi on it. Just a thought.