The match-engine is the same as the PS2’s, so the graphical quality is decent but far from amazing. However the framerate never drops (unlike on PS3), even when you’ve got most of the players on screen at the same time. The off-pitch presentation is in a different class, though. It’s brighter, friendlier and more functional than in any other version without losing any of the depth (how we love poring over the stats!). The commentary, provided by Peter Brackley and Mark Lawrenson, is as dire as ever.
Seeing as we’ve mentioned that one flaw, it’s time to speak of a couple more. Firstly, the defending is suspect. Actually closing a player down and tackling him requires you to entice your defender to get near him - an unusually tough feat - before highlighting the attacker with your pointer so that a coloured circle appears under his feet, then waiting for the circle to turn red before you make the challenge with a button press. Surely there could have been a simpler, more intuitive way?
Then there’s the main game mode, Champions Road. In comparison to the Master League of other versions, this sucks a fat one. Here you start off with a rubbish team and then take them on a globe-trotting tour, tackling different competitions as you go. Whereas the Master League has you earning points that can then be spent on better players - just like the real world - here you can pick a player from any team you beat. Fair enough, but you can’t actually see who you’re picking, instead you're given a little hint as to their key strength, such as ‘never tires’, ‘sharp shooter’ or ‘likely to get arrested in a night club’. Players still earn experience points like they do in Master League, and hence develop the more you play them. You can unlock new skills by completing missions (completing a certain number of passes, for example) and it is nice to see something new, but it’s just not the same, dammit.
There are plenty of other game modes to keep you busy, though. There are international and domestic cups and leagues aplenty and of course a match mode where you can take on your mates. With so many lines and arrows on the pitch, this can get a little bewildering, and we did struggle to see who we were controlling at points. The icing on the game mode cake has to be one-vs-one online play. With the ability to create a team of Miis, this is the place to be.
Mar 18, 2008