AFL Premiership 2005 - Review
|22/9/2005||Sony||IR Gurus||1-4, 4 ||G||Easy|
I love AFL. I watch several games a week and even try to fly down to Melbourne at least once a year to see my beloved Bombers play in a couple of games. While the sport is Australia's biggest over the winter months by a massive margin, the games have never lived up to their potential. While EA Sports' titles such as Madden and FIFA sell well over a million copies on a yearly basis, previous AFL titles struggle to reach around 40,000 sales. As you can understand this is a game with a limited market, and as a result a limited development budget. Melbourne based developers IR Gurus were responsible for Acclaim's AFL titles, and have continued development duties with Sony now picking up the publishing duties with Acclaim's demise. So is AFL Premiership 2005 any good? In short it's OK, but likely to leave gamers bitterly disappointed.
|Takes a diving mark.|
When you start up the title it all looks nice and flash with a lovely introduction movie using real football highlights to get you pumped, although why the developers decided that the title screen needs the butt-ugly OFLC "G" rating plastered on it defies logic. After setting up your own profile, which keeps track of matches played and wins, and takes up a whopping 2335kb for some reason, AFL Premiership 2005 presents you with four main game areas including Single Game, Season, Online and LAN.
Single match is, just as it sounds, a single match of AFL for those with only a small amount of time on their hands. Not only can you select any of the 16 AFL teams - complete with 692 real players - but also the venue, time of day and weather. The venues, as with previous games, aren't called the real stadiums due to licensing issues but rather just the city so the MCG is Melbourne, Telstra Dome is known as Docklands and so on. Weather options are also online limited to Wet or Dry - it seems that the weather never changes during an AFL game. In terms of in-game camera you have the choice of Side, End Low and End High, but can also select from three zoom levels for the camera; Normal, Close and Far.
Before I progress onto the other game modes it's probably appropriate to talk about the actual gameplay. It's fair to say that this game has improved from AFL Live 2004 and AFL Premiership Edition. The players are more responsive and the range of animations has been increased thereby making this a more realistic looking game. Players now tap the ball on and handball into space and while the computer AI isn't perfect, it is improved from last years game as well. It's possible to turn replays on or off to have another look at the goals scored. One issue we have is that sometimes, despite our frantic button mashing the players won't play on quick enough leaving your shots at an open goal just a second or two late.
|Stadiums look ok, but not great.|
There are, however, issues with the gameplay. Strangely players can only kick about 30m maximum, only when they are shooting for goal can they kick longer distances. Even Dustin Fletcher, regarded as one of the longest kicks in the league, can only kick the ball back in no more then about 40 meters, yet if he's kicking for goal he can kick it from about the 50m line. In real life "Fletch", as we called him in High School (he was in my class), can kick well over 60 meters. Another issue is that it's way too easy to take a mark on the lead in the forward line, and almost impossible to spoil from behind.
Season mode is the area which most gamers will spend their time. Two of the more important additions to the Season mode are the inclusion of the tribunal system and the draft. The tribunal works much like this year's real tribunal in which players re outed for a set number of weeks according to the offence committed. Unfortunately this mode is let down simply by the fact that it includes the 2005 fixture, but the 2006 fixture is already out so it almost makes the game redundant from the start.
|One of the distant views.|
Quite possibly the biggest new feature of this title is the inclusion of online, and LAN, gameplay. In addition to the 4-player multi-tap support and the ability to set up a LAN (which is something we didn't try) the biggest clincher for most people buying this title will be the ability to play online with three other people. The online game is powered by Gamespy, but with most players being based in Australia the lag issues are pretty minimal. In fact this game is saved quite a bit by multi-player as at least playing against a human opponent makes this title quite a bit more challenging.
One very strange, and quite sad, omission from AFL Premiership 2005 is the mini-games from last yearís title. Remember the ones where you had to hit targets while kicking and so on. Exactly why these were removed rather then enhanced or expanded is beyond reasoning. At the very least they should have been used to give gamers a bit more practice in kicking the ball.
|The MCG - just don't call it that!|
There are so many disappointments in this game it's impossible to list them all. Let me start with the most glaring fault which will occur almost every single time you play the game - you can't hear the siren for the end of the quarters. That's right it lasts for about 0.5 seconds if that. I mean c'mon how hard is it to get that right? Sadly that's only the start of this games problems. It seems that to keep everyone happy the developers have made the team ratings almost identical. In fact the lowest team is Carlton with a rating of 59 (out of 100) and the top team Collingwood with a score of 67, with each of the other 14 teams slotting between these ratings. Surely Port Adelaide, Brisbane or StKilda should be well above the other teams given their 2004 results. Quite how Collingwood ended up with the top ranking given that they finished 13th last year, and 15th this year is inexcusable. It's almost like the developers have used stats from the 2003 season when Collingwood ended up 2nd.
Other gameplay issues, there is no coin toss to determine who's kicking to what end, but seeing as the wind isn't even present it matters little I guess. Teams running onto the ground is also disappointing. Not only are the theme songs muted and almost impossible to hear but the banners have been removed. How wonderful would it have been to see players running though banners for milestone games? Finally during the game it's impossible to get individual player stats to see who's performing well and needs to head to the interchange bench. Instead you get a little meter which empties as players get worn out.
|Digimask failed to meet potential.|
Graphics are one area where improvements have been made, but whether the majority of you will notice is questionable. The developers have re-created all the main stadiums around Australia (although real names aren't used) however there is minimal amounts of detail and certainly not as pretty as you'd expect on a PS2. While that is a problem it is the in-game graphics that disappoint on a major level. The player models are so poorly detailed, and I think texturing is a word almost forgotten at IR Gurus, that were it not for the numbers on the back of the players it would be virtually impossible to tell them apart. The range of animations I'm pleased to report has been improved and most importantly the change between animations doesn't include anywhere near as much jumpiness where the change in animations was quite obvious. The weather effects such as rain and mud have also been improved considerably in this title.
As an added bonus Sony are including a free DVD with every copy of AFL Premiership 2005! This disc, released for the first time on DVD, is a visual history of Australian Football covering 100 years of the great game. The DVD covers all the icons and iconic action moments that have contributed to legendary status of many individuals and the AFL game. I must say we've watched this disc already and at almost 2 hours (yes, 120 minutes) it's superb viewing and a very welcome addition.
One of the key features added to AFL Premiership 2005 is Digimask. This technology, brought over from Sony's own European development studios, allows you to use an Eye Toy to take images of your face for use in the game. Unfortunately without a create-a-player mode to build your own player to add to a team all you are left to do is to replace the head of a real player with your own ugly mug. It may be passable if it was used well, but I'll be buggered if you can even see yourself in the game the graphics are so poor from a distance.
Audio in the game has improved little from previous versions. Denis Commeti, Dermott Brereton and Christi Malthouse (who replaces the previously announced commentary from Dipper for some reason) provide the commentary in the game, but it's so broken that it becomes annoying. "Today's game is between", "Essendon", "and", "Sydney". Even worse is the fact that the calls are massively inaccurate at times, even so far as calling incorrect player names or announcing that the defending team scored the goal. Crowd effects are passable although we can't quite see the big deal about taking recordings from the last ten years, while the effects are mediocre. Fortunately the music is pretty good but, as expected, limited to menus.
|Missed the tackle.|
It pains me to admit just how average this game is. It's not a total disaster and it can be fun playing for a while, but it doesn't come close to the game everyone was hoping for. Perhaps thatís why getting in-game screens with the HUD is harder then getting blood from a stone. Sony and IR Gurus had something to hide and it was a big mediocre game called AFL Premiership 2005. Not even the (admittedly solid) inclusion of online gameplay and the superb bonus DVD (worth $30 in itself) can save this from being one very disappointing title. So, so disappointing.
Review By: Dave Warner
Order your copy now from Gameswarehouse (PAL version).
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|GRAPHICS||Animations improved, players look like complete non-textured shit.||45%|
|SOUND||Commentary is average, but makes some glaring mistakes.||51%|
|GAMEPLAY||It can be fun, but you'll be annoyed by the issues ie kicking length.||73%|
|VALUE||Mini games gone, online added, Digimask useless, bonus DVD;$100?||62%|
|OVERALL||AFL Premiership 2005 is such a disappointing title. The deveopers should have done so much more with the time since the last game and while improvements have been made the graphics really disappoint.||59%|