AFL Premiership 2005 ReviewCain Dornan
While American gamers have long enjoyed the high quality, extremely accurate and thoroughly enjoyable sport titles based off of their version of “football,” Australian gamers have been left wanting as poor attempts at recreating the fantastic sport that is Aussie Rules football have all fallen flat.
Unfortunately, developer IR Gurus’ latest attempt at bringing a solid and accurate representation of the sport to the Playstation 2 fails to impress. While the game manages to incorporate a range of AFL licensed aspects, including all teams in the league, a range of official logos and even commentary by Denis Cometti and ex-player Dermott Brereton, the presentation and execution of the game disappoints on almost all fronts. The game, quite simply, just doesn’t feel as polished as it should be.
One of the key problems that AFL Premiership 2005 suffers from is the inaccurate execution of the controls within the game. While the controls can be fairly confusing when first beginning the game, they can easily be learnt and have been organized well. However, the poor responses of players to button commands quickly becomes frustrating, as players will often take some five seconds to kick the ball after you initially issue them with that command. This results in the comman occurrence ball-up and held ball tackles that preventing the flow of the gameplay and induce great frustration for the player. Furthermore, marking the ball often becomes pure luck – tapping the X button will occasionally make your player go for the ball, although whether that player marks the ball, however, is completely up to the random decision made by the computer. Amazingly, there have been plenty occasions when we were able to execute a perfect mark with our players several meters away from where the ball lands – it’s beyond us how he could have possibly made that distance within half a second.
The tackling system is also frustratingly sluggish, as your player will casually jog behind or to the side of an opponent while you furiously tap the circle button to initiate the attack. Alas, to perform a simple tackle can often take several precious – and often drawn-out seconds, to actually perform the tackle, leaving the chances of successfully tackling the opposition before the opposing player disposes of the ball quite slim. Furthermore, the collision detection system is often horrendous, as players will move straight through each other on a regular basis, which not only makes tackling more difficult but certainly doesn’t aid in improving the game’s appearance.
AFL Premiership 2005 offers several different modes of play, including both single and multiplayer modes. On the single player side, the game offers two different modes; the Single Game mode, which essentially allows you to quickly jump into a game choosing both your team and the opposing team, the venue for the match, whether it will be a day or night match and the weather. For those who dream of coaching a team in the Australian Football League will be pleased to learn that a full Season mode is available, which essentially allows you to select your desired team and then participate in the pre-season cup, which is then followed by the preceding through all twenty-two rounds and, if your team proves their worth, play through the finals until you finally reach the famed One Day in September, the Grand Final. If you manage to win the Grand Final, you will then be offered the opportunity to continue through to the next season, which comes packaged with the ability to draft new players and trade players between other teams in the league.
The Season mode is complemented with a range of team-controlling options that allows you to edit certain aspects of your club both during in-game and between games. Whilst in game, you can freely switch between which players are on field, in addition to altering the team’s playing ethics by choosing their playing style whilst in attack or defense. Between matches, you are given the interesting option of sorting through the players in your team, viewing their current stats, their background and achievements whilst in the AFL. You can also view the fixture and the current ladder, which are essential items for any team’s planning. If you become lazy, you can also simulate a match, which essentially involves the computer determining the likelihood of each team winning based off stats. The Season mode is quite solid overall, however, the poor gameplay manages to dampen the potentially positive experience.
Full multiplayer support is presented with the ability to play up to four players on a single PS2 (using the four-port controller adapter that is sold separately to the PS2) and online. The offline multiplayer is quite solid, offering the ability for players to go against each other on opposite teams or to play together on the single team, with each controller representing a different colour that, alternatively, controls different players that are situated within the vicinity of the ball. Surprisingly, both forms of multiplayer modes play quite well, although the inherent gameplay problems that are experienced in the single player mode are also clearly evident in the multiplayer mode.
Unfortunately, the intelligence of the computer-controlled players leaves plenty to be desired. The three difficulty levels have negative effects on the computer-controlled opponents, with the easy difficulty being incredibly easy while the hard difficulty is virtually impossible, as your opponents will knock you down on any chance that you manage to gain hold of the ball. Regardless of the difficulty, the motives for some players whilst in action is questionable, as they will continue to tap the ball along the ground multiple times despite none of your players (their opposition) being anywhere in the vicinity, rather than performing the most effective choice by picking up the ball and disposing of it through either a handpass or kick. Other stupid moves, such as handpasses directly to your players, are also a common occurrence.
Despite all these negative comments, I do have one high praise for the game, although this is quickly destroyed by the developer’s poor attempts at incorporating it into the game (more on that in a second). AFL Premiership 2005 comes complete with some impressive voice acting from well-known people within the AFL, with instantly noticeable and superb commentary by Denis Cometti, which is occasionally supplemented with the regular pointless comment by ex-player Dermott Bereton. Occasionally, you will hear reports from the “girl on the sideline,” who reports on the injuries that have been incurred by players, which range from pulled hammies through to broken collarbones. Unfortunately, despite the official commentary adding a new feel of authenticity to the game, developer IR Gurus has simply failed considerable correctly coding it into the game. Far too often you will here Dermott announcing that a player is coming onto the field five times in a row, or Denis referring to the gameplay twenty seconds after the event had occurred. These problems quickly destroy the potentially fantastic voiceovers, which is certainly disappointing.
Visually, AFL Premiership 2005 rather ordinarily depicts the game, however, they could certainly be considerably better. The stadiums, from a difference, hold possibly the best detail that can be found in the game, with the large crowds and overall huge structures being quite impressive. The inclusion of a large number of stadiums that are used by the AFL is also pleasing. Unfortunately, once you are relatively close to the crowd, you are rapidly disappointed to find that they are nothing more than blurred paper cutouts. Player animation and detail also could be improved greatly, as they run and tackle quite stiff and also offer limited blurred detail up close.
With Sony backing the development studio with funding, we expected something better out of IR Gurus. Unfortunately, the end result is an inaccurate, frustrating and apparently half-hearted attempt at recreating Aussie Rules football for the Playstation 2. There are plenty of things that need to be improved, and we remain hopeful that IR Gurus takes note of these and improve them for the next game.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.