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October 15, 2002
AFL Live 2003 - Review
Release Date Distributor Developer Players Rating Difficulty
13/9/2002AcclaimIR Gurus1-2GVariable
Save Size Sound Format Vibration 60Hz Mode 50Hz Border Widescreen

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Banners are in the Playstation 2 game.
AFL isn't just an Australian sport, it's a religion. What other sport has an average attendance of 270,000 per weekend (excluding finals), or about one in every 65 people in the entire country attending one of the eight matches per weekend. Forget about the other "fake" football, which is lucky to attract 12,000 patrons at a game, compared to almost triple that at 33,000 average for AFL. Even so Acclaim's announcement in late 2001 that they were to develop and publish an AFL game came as a surprise given the limited sales potential. Australia is the only market for the title, and while the XBox version is on hold due to a technical problem, the Playstation 2 game is out now. Is it worth considering?

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Playing in the rain.
When you first boot up AFL Live 2003 it's a little concerning. There are plenty waits during the copyright screens, company logos and loading screens for the menus. But the menus, while not brilliant, show that some effort has gone into the game. It looks nice, but the options are somewhat limited. The game modes include Single Match, Final Campaign or Complete Season. There is no pre-season competition, All-Star Matches or, unsurprisingly given it's demise here, State of Origin series. Still what is impressive is the number of options that can be changed for each match. These include the length of the quarters (2, 5, 10 or 20 minutes), the strictness of the umpires, injuries etc. Unfortunately Acclaim hasn't secured the names to the stadiums in the game (that didn't fall under the AFL contract) so while you won't see MCG, Stadium Australia or The Gabba listed, the developers have faithfully re-produced the stadiums in so much detail you will instantly know where you are playing.

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Tackling is crucial to success.
IR Gurus, the developers of this title, have certainly created a fun game. Despite being released in September 2002 at the end of the 2002 season, and being titled AFL Live 2003 the game is based on the 2002 season, and includes the 2002 rosters and fixtures. Thanks to a full license from the AFL (Australian Football League) the game includes the complete 2002 fixture, as well as the 16 teams and all the players. Games take place in night and day, and in dry and wet conditions. Actually playing the game is very enjoyable as you can kick and handball in any direction and, with the assistance of the direction meter, you can easily tell in which direction you team mates are and if they are free.

There are some disappointments with AFL Live 2003. One is that despite initially being announced the developers have dropped the 4-player support with only two people now able to take part. The animation on the players, while varied, is still a little on the rough side, especially while tackling. Start a tackle and you play seems to hang back and then burst forward to tackle the player. My other niggle is the meter for accuracy when kicking at goal. I would much rather have preferred a wind meter which allows you to judge the angle to kick at rather then the pulsing meter which must be pressed when at a certain level. Also disappointing is that the season mode doesn't include a Coleman Medal (most goals) and Brownlow Medal (best player in the league) which could have easily been implemented by looking at player stats in each match. Not quite how they do it in real life, but better then nothing.

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Tackling is crucial to success.
IR Gurus have created a function game graphically. The menus all look nice enough but when the teams enter the field you'll start to get a little concerned as the game engine seems to struggle with the teams running through the banner. Fortunately as soon as the game starts all is forgiven. IR Gurus have included over 300 animations, which have been motion captured from AFL stars Nick Daffy and Paul Williams. The animations are a little rough as mentioned above, but overall this is a pretty good-looking game. It's easy to spot the player numbers on their backs and while the faces are incorrect it's easy to tell that Paul Salmon from Essendon towers over many others on the field. The grounds are nice, the players with the ball marked adequately and the ball, even from a distance is easy to spot.

Unfortunately the crowds in the stadiums are very poor. Beside the odd banner there is little to distinguish what match you are at. If you are at a real Essendon and Collingwood match you would expect seas of Black and Red and Black and White, but this game throws all the colours of the rainbow together. All in all AFL Live 2003 is adequate, it never pushes the Playstation 2, but it won't upset you either.

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Tackling is crucial to success.
By far the weakest aspect of the game is the sound. Offering nothing remotely as exciting as you get at a real match even through some good speakers you will wonder why it's all so lame. The crowds rarely get excited, and even when they do it's so poorly done you'll hardly notice. The effects on the ground are adequate but the real killer in the sound department is the horrific speech from Steve Quatermain and Gary Lyon who sound like they are being forced to say the words. Having played Madden NFL 2003 for the last couple of weeks going back to AFL Live 2003 is a real shock. The speech is not only extremely dull and uninspired but is broken up into segments and then joined in very noticeable fashion. "Essendon is... 5... goals... 4... behinds" becomes very annoying. It needs to be worked on quite considerably.

Overall AFL Live 2003 could have done with some more development time to include more game modes, fine tune the animations and game engine, and re-record much of the sound. But even with all these problems this is an engrossing title for fans of the sport, and dare I say it, a must have title this Christmas. Thank you Acclaim and IR Gurus for the best AFL game ever.

GRAPHICSNothing is great, but nothing is horrible either. All-round adequate.
SOUNDCommentary is dull, crowds uninspired, effects average. Needs work.
GAMEPLAYThis is where the game shines. AFL fans will love playing this game.
VALUESingle matches, finals or full season. Not up to other sports games.
OVERALLAFL Live 2003 isn't the greatest sports game ever, not even close. But it is easily the best AFL game ever seen, and one which will keep fans very happy. If you have a Playstation 2 and like AFL you must buy this game to ensure the continuation of the series in future. You'll have plenty of fun playing it too.

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