The world is going football mad with the FIFA Football World Cup just around the corner now.
Even New Zealand is represented and developers are obviously betting on their being a lavish rush to football gaming titles, and this seems to be what Ubisoft are counting on with their newest title, Pure Football.
Pure Football is not a simulation football title. Quite the opposite, the games story centres around a group of football players, who (after losing a match due to the actions of an unfair referee) decide to take the sport underground. It's five aside with no ref and no rules, and some crazy stadiums to play in. That’s not to say the game is entirely fictional, thrown into the action are 230 real life elite players from 17 international teams, along with three legendary teams.
The no rules football that Pure Football is trying to present has been designed to encourage simple, yet direct action. The aim is to make beautiful plays with beautiful attacks using a number of arcade controls to tie it all together. The game will punish you for playing overly aggressively by awarding the opponent a penalty kick, however this only happens after some extreme tackles, and you'll be well aware when too much is too much. The game has the usual array of defences, sliding tackles, jostling, and calling another players to defend. These are implemented relatively well, particularly the sliding tackles, however the physical contact between players appears somewhat odd, compared with something like FIFA World Cup 2010 where the movements mimic real life much more accurately.
The defending is somewhat problematic anyway, as success or failure can be quite random, and yet due to the arcade style and the few players on the pitch you can be punished heavily for one slip-up. This is frustrating, and takes away from the attacks which can admittedly sometimes be quite impressive due to the visual indicators encouraging you to do a perfect cross, or other such similar attacking manoeuvres.
Attacking is done by hitting and holding the attack button, as a meter fills. The only way to win is to release the button at the right time, which is visually represented to the player. However timing is everything as the window of opportunity isn’t very large.
When the player makes an attack or attempts a to kick a perfect shot, the game will go into slow motion to allow you to fully enjoy this "Pure Shot" moment. Unfortunately the reality here is that this effect simply sucks you out of the flow of the game, and you can’t help but feel that the real beauty of football is lost in this aggressive presentation. It's all managed through a "Pure Meter", which fills bit by bit as you play a match and eventually allows the player to perform a perfect shot. That’s not to say the shot will go in, but it’ll be spectacular at least.
The campaign mode allows you to create your own team and player, and as you progress through your career you'll unlock players by completing challenges in matches. These challenges are pretty standard fare - don't concede a goal, take at least 10 shots on the opponents goal, that sort of thing. They players that are eventually unlocked are rated out of five stars, and can be switched around into your team allowing you to carefully hone your winning group.
The career mode has you attempting to become the top team within a limited time period. You play against 17 international teams, and as you progress better and better players will be able to be transferred into your team, increasing your chances considerably. The games will either be timed, or won by the first to reach a certain number of goals.
Graphically the game doesn’t even come close to something like the FIFA series. In fact, on occasion the game looks utterly hideous. The players are barely recognisable and look as though they stepped out of the middle of the last decade and it's clear that some more effort could have been put in here. No better are the sound effects, with collisions sounding a bit like a sound recordist knocking two stones together - it's more distracting than useful. In fact sound effects coming from the off-screen action (such as AI players jostling) is downright irritating. There is no commentary, and the pretty mindless one-liners only reinforce that this is game is not an audiophiles dream.
At the time of reviewing we struggled to take the game online. Our first frustration was the need, or rather requirement for a Ubisoft online account. As console gamers, we already have our accounts and those are for our gamertags. Requiring a secondary account for online play is somewhat frustrating. However once we got over this we found that there wasn’t really anyone online to play. This may be as the game had only been released for a couple of days, or more likely it's a clear earlier indicator of its popularity.
Needless to say, although the graphics really aren’t up to scratch, the game itself had fun moments. Despite the frustrating defence, and the somewhat odd collision detection, we had the odd thrill blasting the ball into the goal in slow-motion. Particularly enjoyable is when you can set up a perfect cross, initiating a whole ring of slow-mo action which really gets the blood pumping. Its a fun title, though this reviewer would pick a simulation football game over this any day of the week.
If you are a sim junky and are hankering for the World Cup around the corner, there are other titles that will better scratch that particular itch.