Sensible Soccer 2006
After having received a “review”-copy that afterwards turned out to be “not quite complete”, I wrote a preview on Sensible Soccer 2006 that wasn’t quite so positive. You can imagine my surprise when I finally got a retail copy that had a big sticker on it stating “9/10 – Eurogamer”. Had our respected English colleagues gone mad or did Codemasters make enough changes to the previously received code to justify such a high number?
Stunned by the number Eurogamer gave this game, I quickly put the game in my PS2 and started it up. What made the soccer-crazy English decide this was such a fantastic footie-title? I’ll get back to that later on but first let me tell you a bit about the game as such.
Sensible Soccer is one of those ancient titles that existed in the videogame world back in the early 90′s. Back then, soccer games were top-down and had little that can be compared to modern day games like Pro Evolution Soccer or the FIFA series. Players were pixellated graphics that all looked alike and the accidental person passing by while you were playing would probably think you were playing some sort of pinball game with a green background.
Things have changed over the years and these days we have soccer games that have official licenses, have perfect matches with real players and stadiums and even professional commentary (whether or not it gets annoyingly repetitive after a while).
In this world where FIFA and PES rule, Codemasters thought it to be the perfect time to bring back some of the old-skool arcade soccer fun. After all, many have tried to compete on simulation level with the kings of EA and Konami and all have failed. Time for another angle.
As such, it’s refreshing to see Sensible Soccer return. The top-down view and the simplicity of the gameplay makes it easy for anyone to hop in and start playing. No need to spend hours and hours mastering that special dribble or having to practise your free kick, Sensible Soccer puts you right in the middle of the action and your team is ready to swarm all over the field.
The first thing you’ll notice when playing is how simple the controls are. No thousand-button-combinations for special moves, everything is done with three buttons and that’s it! Simple but very effective and the skill comes from the player’s strategy on how he’ll decide to launch an attack instead of how good he is at pressing X Y or Z.
Also following your player is very easy, the camera has a top-down view over the field and you’ll constantly see an arrow pointing towards where your guy is running or where he’ll be shooting the ball to. The longer your arrow (due to pressing the shoot or pass button longer), the harder you’ll fire. Again impressive for its simplicity and efficiency.
The first downpoint we have is that the amount of field we get to see is limited. Almost never do we get to see where our front players are located when we’re launching an attack from our own half.
Although the AI has been upgraded compared to our previewcopy, there’s still no possibility to choose which player you want to take action. The cpu chooses for you and if you don’t like it, tough luck. This also results in confusing situations when you’re doing a corner. The ball swings in and you want to do a shot at the goal and suddenly you have three guys laying on the ground because the AI constantly changed the active player.
Still, after a while you get the hang of this and manage to overcome these small shortcomings. But then other things will start showing up that are a bigger nuisance.
That the graphics aren’t spectacular isn’t really a surprise. Sensible Soccer has never been a beauty and it never will be. The cartoony characters are really up to personal taste and although I personally wasn’t all too fond of them, I won’t hold it against the game. After all, there probably are people out there that find it funny although I would probably wonder how their mental health is doing.
No, the biggest nuisance to me was the fact that Codemasters have done absolutely no effort what so ever to provide a decent soundtrack. When the game launches, you get the well-known Sensible Soccer tune, but once a game starts the only thing you’ll hear is some background noise from the audience. And with background noise I REALLY mean background noise as the audience never seems to realise that there’s something going on in the field that they paid for to see. It’s like all the people out there are doing some voice-testing to prepare for an opera or something.
Did you make a terrific goal? Did your keeper do a world save? Did one of your opponents do a really terrible tackle? Don’t expect the audience to react to any of it. The only thing you’ll hear from them is “aaaaaaaa” for 90 Sensible Soccer minutes long.
Statistics. Also something people that play soccer games tend to like. Not with Sensible Soccer though. After a game you’ll get some minor stats on possession and shots at goal and such but during even half time you won’t get to see those. Adjusting your strategy in the middle of a game is therefore something hard to do. You’ve got no clue on who’s performing badly other than from what you’ve seen on the screen, no numbers to compare your own observations.
Codemasters didn’t buy any license so the names used in Sensible Soccer are all modified. Players and teams, you can all change them to what you want and if you’ve got time, but you better know your soccer teams well to do so as it isn’t always too clear (except for the top teams of course as we all know the big names).
So, what else is there that I didn’t mention yet? Well, you’ve got plenty of competitions present including of course the world cup and if those aren’t enough, you can create your own. You can make anything that you want including players and teams and if you win standard competitions you even get unlockable content that can be used in your own creations.
Is that enough? Well, yes and no. Those looking for an arcade game in which they can just drop in and have a quick match will no doubt have great fun with Sensible Soccer 2006, but those looking for some more depth will quickly get bored.
For my conclusion I want to go back to where I started with this review. Eurogamer gave this game a 9/10 and the reason for that seems obvious: the old-skool arcade gameplay does work and it offers a fun experience. However, in my opinion, this alone does not deserve such a high score. The graphics and sound are plain awful and there are still several points where Sensible Soccer misses the ball instead of scoring even when it comes down to gameplay and AI.
If you’re looking for a quick arcade game, this may be something for you, but if you want depth you may want to stick with top titles like FIFA or PES until Codemasters comes back and delivers a total package instead of this rehash of an old classic