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July 26, 2006
AFL Premiership 2006 - Review
Release Date Distributor Developer Players Rating Difficulty
20/7/2006SonyIR Gurus1-4GEasy
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A very close game...
It's hard to believe but this is actually the fifth AFL game on the Playstation 2. The first three games were published through Acclaim and when they went broke Sony took over the publishing duties beginning with AFL Premiership 2005. Now Sony have a two year exclusive deal with the AFL meaning that the only place you will play an AFL game this year, is on the Playstation 2 - with a PSP version due out next year. Rather then change the formula Sony have once again enlisted Melbourne based development studio IR Gurus (who were responsible for all the previous titles) to develop AFL Premiership 2006. Can IR Gurus finally deliver a great title? Read on to find out...

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Watching the replay.
AFL Premiership 2006 includes all the expected game modes from a quick match, to Wizard Cup, Premiership Season, Full Season (which includes both the Wizard and Premiership Seasons), and the Finals. Before you hit these however you may want to spend a bit of time in the training mode which teaches you all the moves available in the game. Unfortunately while the mini -games from a couple of years ago haven't returned, AFL Premiership 2006 does include a series of missions for you to play. These are essentially classic matches with one tailored for each one of the sixteen teams. They may include a classic clash, or massive comeback from behind. Finally a career mode allows the user to follow a team for several seasons with the ability to improve players skills over time and allow them to join your team.

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About to take a mark.
One area which most fans will want to hear about is the gameplay, and yet again IR Gurus have made some revisions to improve the game - and improved it is. Yet again the game is more fluid then in previous iterations with much more frantic gameplay around the ball. You can how tap or punch the ball at the bounce while while in play you can handball, kick, shoot for goal, tap the ball on, tackle and so on. Gamers also have the ability to set the severity of the umpires, injuries and so on which allows you to tailor the game to your own tastes.

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Controls are shown on screen.
Kicking for goal is now much easier as a targeting system comes up showing where you're aiming. The closer you are to goal the wider, and easier, your target. There also now seems to be more realism in the free kicks awarded, you generally know when you've tackled too early or late, or off the ball and it's a welcome change to the very random free kicks in previous games.

AFL Premiership 2006 includes plenty of other neat additions. First up is an injury system which will see players sidelined for periods of time, and more impressively it now includes a tribunal system which grades the severity of the offense and then determines if a suspension is deserving based on past offenses and points earned. AFL Premiership 2006 includes a couple of camera angles as well as the ability to set the distance of the camera from the action so all gamers should be covered.

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Lining up for the anthem.
Looking at some of our gripes from last years title we can see that IR Gurus have put in considerable effort in remedying these issues (perhaps they read our review!). Firstly player kicking distance has been fixed up. Essendon's Dustin Fletcher can, as in real life, now kick well over 50 meters, and all other players have likewise been suitably increased. Another issue we had was the ratings of the teams. Last year they were all so close that it meant any match up was going to be very close. This year’s game has a bit more separation between the best and worst teams. Other improvements include club theme songs which are now a lot clearer to hear, and thankfully a siren which, at the end of a quarter of football, sounds for a few seconds rather then the fraction of a second in last years title.

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It's the local derby!
I guess in terms of gameplay there are still at couple of issues that need to be rectified. I would like a system that allows you to select a target when kicking in, rather then a general angle. Even if it was only a couple of players which could be targeted using a face button (square, circle etc) it would allow you to quickly target a free player. Secondly when you receive a free kick it's impossible to see where you're aiming and perhaps there should be an option to flick the camera behind the player so you can see the targets. These issues are compounded by a player radar which is too small to be effective. Also annoying is that you can't take a shot for goal outside 50 meters as the target won't come up on the screen making it a bit of a pot shot. I was also a bit disappointed that there weren't more 'speccies' in the game as they are certainly a highlight. Finally the defenders, and in particular the full back is reluctant to remain near the goals with too many shots from the opposition bouncing through without a chance to stop it.

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A fantastic tackle.
Sadly, online gameplay has been removed from this years title. Sure, there aren't nearly enough PS2 gamers playing online, however it was a nice addition for those looking for a bit more of a challenge. Fortunately AFL Premiership 2006 still includes support for 4-player multi-tap and it's tremendous fun. Another disappointment is that the game still doesn't contain correct names for the grounds - although they have been accurately modeled to their real life counterparts - including the new stands on the MCG. Still, how much can it really cost to secure the rights to use the name 'Gabba', 'Telstra Dome' or 'MCG' rather then terms like 'Brisbane Football Ground'?

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Replays of infringements.
Graphics in AFL Premiership 2006 are a step up from previous years. The texturing on the players and stadiums have been improved, and the players are much more recognisable - it's still not great mind you, but certainly a notch or two up from last year. Importantly the player animations - which were a big issue a couple of years ago due to the jarring changes - have been polished up with transitions between animations becoming harder to spot. It's a much more free flowing game, with the pace we've come to expect from the sport. The game still looks a bit rough in places. There are plenty of jaggies to be seen on the stadiums in particular, but overall this is the best looking AFL title on the PS2 to date. Finally, the overall presentation in AFL Premiership 2006 is easily the best yet seen. Menus are clean and easy to navigate and there are some nice touches such as flags disappearing into the crowd when an opponent scores a goal.

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Lining up for goal...
In any sports game the commentary should be the highlight of the audio, and indeed there is a decent amount in AFL Premiership 2006 with Dennis Cometti, Dermott Brereton, and Christi Malthouse all lending their voices to the game. Music is somewhat limited but each club theme songs is present in the game, and the crowd effects are also atmospheric if not a little too much 'on' or 'off' for our liking.

IR Gurus have finally provided a game which, while not perfect, is enjoyable to play. AFL Premiership 2006 is certainly better then last years effort (the review of which you can check out here). The level of polish has been increased significantly and it appears that making this game a PS2 exclusive has done wonders as the developer could concentrate resources on a single system. If you're an AFL fan then this game is worth checking out, just don't expect miracles.

Review By: Dave Warner

Order your copy now from Gameswarehouse (PAL version).
GRAPHICSIt's still not great but certainly better then last years dismal effort.
SOUNDImproved commentary, theme songs play properly and better effects.
GAMEPLAYMany of the issues from last years titles have been fixed. It's actually quite an enjoyable game now.
VALUEOnline gameplay removed, Digimask still poor, minigames added back in but no bonus DVD. All for $79.95.
OVERALLAFL Premiership 2006 is the best game we've seen to date in the series and it finally feels like IR Gurus are getting things right. It's not perfect, but at least I can see the Bombers win again - and have fun at the same time.

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