For such a sports loving country, when it comes to videogame representation of Australian sports, we haven’t had much luck. There have been some titles that can be called average, but most of them have been very poor. And some of the worst offenders have been AFL titles.
The last time an AFL game graced a non-hand held console was back in 2007 on the Playstation 2, and that was a major disappointment. Now in 2011, AFL fans have been graced once again with an AFL game. One for the Xbox 360 and PS3, and another that has been specially developed by Wicked Witch Software for the Nintendo Wii.
While the Xbox 360 and PS3 version boasts superior graphics, the Wii version includes a feature that will be the envy of the 360 and PS3 owners – a 10 year Career mode. In Career Mode, the running of the footy club is in your hands; be it the selection of the team, managing the finances, upgrading staff or the training regime. The training system was a highlight, as players earn Experience Points (XP) via matches, which is then used to level up certain skill areas like attacking or movement. Players training can be adjusted manually or as a group via the Auto Train Feature, which allows you to have as much or little control as you wish.
The mode is quite comprehensive, and includes injuries and suspensions. Players will be charged for on field conduct, and it’s your decision whether to appeal or accept the sentence. Injuries seemed too random, as the players would be ruled out for anywhere between 1 to 6 weeks for minor injuries like contusions. It’s the off season that all the action happens in Career mode, as there’ll be contract negotiations, player trading and the draft - all the aspects that make the offseason of the AFL as engaging as the playing months. There’ll even be job offers from other clubs after the completion of the season, and it’ll be your choice whether to stay loyal or start afresh at a new club. On the flip side, fail during the season and you may be shown the door and demoted to coaching in the VFL. The Career mode does a fantastic job of capturing all the excitement of running a footy team.
Kicking is a major feature of Australian Rules Football, and the game does a great job of implementing an excellent kicking system that utilises the Wii’s motion control. The kicking is easy to execute, and covers all the different types of kicks used in AFL like the drop punt, torpedo and grubber kick. The marking controls are similar to the kicking, and allows for standard marks, as well as the ability to spoil a kick or take a spectacular mark or “specky”.
The game is fast paced, but fails to replicate the free flow of an AFL match. There are too many interruptions, like an abundance of completed tackles due to the inability to release the ball when in traffic. Watch a real game, and you’ll see the game flow and the ball move from player to player with hardly any tackles. Another reason for the slowdown is the mini contests for tackling, marking and bounces. Don’t get me wrong, these are great as they utilise the motion controllers and adds an arcade feel to the game, it’s just annoying having to complete a mini game for nearly every tackle or mark. It would work great if it happened occasionally or at a pivotal moment of the game, but not when a player is free with no defender in cooee of him, and it’s a straight forward catch. The mini contests can be turned off, but then that takes away one of the features that is unique to the Wii version.
The game is severely let down by the graphics and sound. Firstly, the game looks as if it was released back in the mid 90’s, it looks horrible. The commentary isn’t much better either, as the team of Dennis Cometti and Brian Taylor provide bland and uninspiringly banter, which gets repetitive by the second game. The game also fails to reference several players by name, but only by their number. Sport games nowadays include some captivating commentary (check out the Spanish commentators goal celebration in FIFA 11, that is some inspiring commentary), which AFL fails to do.
AFL for the Wii shows promise, and is an improvement over the previous titles, but is severely let down by the presentation and several flaws in the gameplay. The highlight of the game has to be the surprisingly in-depth Career mode.