AFL Live 2004 - Review
I love AFL. It's my sport of choice, at least to watch. As a mad Bombers fan I watch every game possible on TV and even travel from the Gold Coast to Melbourne a couple of times a year to catch some games, usually the big Anzac Day match with Collingwood at the very least. A couple of years ago Acclaim announced they would be making games based on the AFL. The first was a coaching tool/game endorsed by Kevin Sheedy. While this wasn't a game as such it was interesting. Everyone's real focus, however, was towards AFL Live 2003 a respectable game given a short-ish development period, small development team and as the first AFL game since EA's AFL '99. It was good enough, but lacked options and little details something which everyone has been hoping that AFL Live 2004 would address. In all honesty in hindsight the game didn't deserve the score I gave it. I was swept away in the excitement - but it was still the best AFL game ever. This game surpasses it, but has earned a lower score for one reason - a lack of major improvements.
|Boo... Collingwood... boo!|
So what's new in this game then? IR Gurus have included the Wizard Cup Preseason Competition which includes the all new rules such as the 9 point goal (which I think sucks!) and three point rushed behind (which I can live with). AFL Live 2004 also includes 4 new mini-games called Handball challenge, Superkick, Around the World and Elimination which are fairly basic and while teaching you the skills becomes tiresome fairly quickly. Also included is the Brownlow (best season player), Coleman (most season goals), and Norm Smith medals (best player in the Grand Final) as well as all the club Best and Fairest. It may not be actual gameplay but it certainly adds to the atmosphere of the game. A training mode has also been included and will help teach players the basics of the game and how to perform each maneuver, including the classic speccie.
|Ahh the great bombers!|
Another much welcomed inclusion is the mission based games as you try and take this years team to match a classical historical match for your club. Who wouldn't want to go back to the earlier grand finals and rectify some mistakes (whenever Essendon lost for instance!) Finally the developers are updating all the statistical information to include season marks, kicks and handballs. It's not just the options and modes that have been updated as the developers have also improved the AI to make the game even more realistic and challenging. The best addition, however, to this years title is the 4-player support, something which was dropped at the last minute in last years title. How about online gameplay next year guys?
|Kicking for goal.|
The problem with AFL Live 2004 is that it simply doesn't offer enough upgrades and improvements to the previous version to make it worthwhile. If you spend $100 on a game then you expect improvements from the previous year. Yes, there is more here, but the gameplay remains the same as the previous title barring some small adjustments such as snap shots at goal and set shots after marks. The AI of the opponents is too limited while the game still makes it far too easy to bomb it long into the forward 50m to take a mark and score a goal. The button configuration has also been changed from the previous game, I'm not sure why, but it means i've re-learned a new configuration for no real reason.
Graphically, AFL Live 2004 is quite similar to the first title. Sure, the engine has been beefed up a little bit with some nicer backgrounds and increased animations, but when you talk about an extra dozen or so moves in a sports title like this you are talking minimal changes. Have a look at a game like the recently released Pro Evolution Soccer 3 in action and you will realise the game has hundreds of different animations. Even these new animations, however, don't interact seemlessly from one to the next as there can be a obvious change from one to the next. The crows are still very average, the occasional flag signals the teams playing, but look out of place as they are the same size and in set positions in the crowd.
|One of the mini-games.|
Sound in AFL Live 2004 is fairly similar to last years game. There isn't 40 licensed tracks like EA Sports' titles, but given the small market for this title you can't expect it either. However it's the commentary which really does kill this game. While Dennis Commeti, Gerald Healy and Christie Malthouse are obviously enthused (well, to an extent) the way the developers have joined the speech is so 1990's - "and", "matthew loyd", "has kicked", "a goal". You know what it's like, and is inexcusable on todays consoles. The sound effects are also fairly tame. Theme songs are ok, but the crowds sound as exciting as termites in my fences - where's the crowd singing along? The on field effects are pretty much the same as the 2003 title - that is, adequate.
|A general lack of graphical flair.|
Last year I commended the quality of the game given my understanding of a small team developing on three platforms in a limited amount of time. A year later, and despite a better game, I'm a lot more disappointed. The additional years development has added a few new features, but nothing earth shattering - especially in gameplay terms. If you love AFL then AFL Live 2004 may be worth a purchase if you have a spare $100, but those with only a minimal interest in the sport would be better served looking for a different game altogether.
Review By: David Warner
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|GRAPHICS||Slight overall improvements over last years title, but not enough.||70%|
|SOUND||Once again, improved but well below second year expectations.||55%|
|GAMEPLAY||While it's improved it still feels very stiff and, well, not quite right.||65%|
|VALUE||Exhibition, mini-games, pre-season, season, finals - not really enough.||74%|
|OVERALL||AFL Live 2004 is a very disappointing title. While this is a better game the the 2003 version, it is receiving a lower score due to the games inability to meet expectations and disappointing graphics and sound that should have been fixed by now. AFL Live 2004 should have been much, much better.||69%|