Review: Pure Football
Attempting to cash-in on the previous success of FIFA Street and the World Cup, Ubisoft
- Worth The Time?No
- Things LovedGreat celebration animations, slow-mo moments
- Things HatedBad gameplay, lack of depth, cannot always see the ball (!), too easy, poor character models, poor online support
- RecommendationIt's a cheap cash-in on World Cup fever, nothing more and a little bit less. No self-respecting football fan should waste money on it.
- Name: Pure Football
- Genre: Sport
- Players: 1-2
- Multiplayer: Local, Online
- Platforms: PC, PS3, Xbox 360
- Developer: Ubisoft Vancouver
- Publisher: Ubisoft
- Price: R200 (PC), R400 (consoles)
- Reviewed On: PS3
Ubisoft is not best known for its sports games and indeed those that it does dare to make are generally little more than glorified and generic time-wasters. This is perhaps why Pure Football came as such a surprise. The thing is that it actually looked good from the few trailers that were released. Sadly, trailers cannot give you the full picture and as such I was miserably wrong.
The game features five-a-side football but don’t mistake this for street soccer. No, there are outs, corners, fouls and even penalties. How fouls and penalties can be called without a ref is beyond me but let us assume that the players are all very good natured. Despite the fact that the style of soccer is very similar to that played in stadia, you are led to believe that you are playing in some sort of underground league where various national teams can play the game as they want without the hindrance of a ref.
Pure Football features none of the skills and tricks that have characterised five-a-side games in the past; the most skilful thing that a player can do is a step-over, that’s it. Instead, there is a dogmatic emphasis on the experience of playing and the physical contact between players. This fails as miserably as it succeeds. You see, the experience is actually quite great with goal celebration animations that will make you feel like you have done something truly great. There are also moments when the game will go slow-mo and the colours will become rich and saturated but more of that later. Where it fails is in the contact between players. It’s hopeless, there are times when you cannot even determine whether you have successfully tackled an opponent or not. Also, your opponents can push and nudge you but you can’t reciprocate.
The basic premise of the fairly short single-player campaign is that you make a team and then create a player, thereafter you will have 28 days to prove yourself and make your team the best of the 18 teams in the game. At the end of this period, the top 8 teams go a knockout tournament in Cape Town and your team will then play to win this underground tournament. To get to the top, you will play through various challenges spread over a number of different venues across Europe. You start the campaign at the bottom of the log and slowly work your way up by winning various events at each venue. There are a number of different event types but they all come down to either playing for a designated amount of time or scoring a certain amount of goals. There are little mini 4-team tournaments as well but they’re essentially just a series of timed matches.
Each action, shot, skill and goal that you successfully pull off adds to your Pure Points which can be used to purchase upgrades for the character you created. Depending on how you upgrade your character, the game will project what archetype he will fall into whether it be Playmaker or Finisher etc.
Better players can be unlocked and subsequently transferred to your team by completing certain challenges within matches eg. if I’m playing against France and want Benzema then I’ll have to score 4 goals in the match but if I want Gallas then I need to maintain a passing accuracy of 75%. As your team gets better and better, you’ll start playing stronger versions of the weaker teams and then weaker versions of top-flight teams like Argentina. Eventually, you will be playing against the full-strength all-star teams. Despite this graduating difficulty, the game just gets easier and easier as you get better players.
Many of you may be wondering right about now whether this game has an online component, well in truth it does but I’ve tried to avoid it for a reason. I have tried for two weeks to connect to the online multiplayer server and it failed every time. The one time that I did get through, there was so much lag that I had to start thinking a few moves ahead. Other than that small issue, it is very much like the single player campaign. You basically try and make your team the best. Like in the single player, you can play either with a time limit or to a certain number of goals. That’s about as much as I can tell you about the online because then the servers failed on me again.
There is a plain-old regular offline multiplayer as well but you are limited to two players. What’s worse is that the sideline view that you get with it is so poorly done that it’s often difficult to judge where a player is along the width of the field. This multiplayer also offers you the option of different match types as mentioned above.
As bad as this all sounds, the game really falls apart in the technical area. Visually, it is acceptable but nowhere near the expected standards of a football game and the player models are often rather inaccurate and angular. For a game where your entire focus is on the ball and everything immediately around it, the ball is often hard to see and gets easily lost within tackles or even just when there are too many bodies crowding the penalty area.
The gameplay is even worse. On the whole, it is very much like FIFA, it even has a very similar control scheme but that’s where the similarities end. Players will often wait for the ball beyond the sideline, tackles are a nightmare to pull off and shooting for goal or even crossing requires little skill. You see, instead of allowing the player to determine how hard the ball will be kicked depending on how long the respective button was held in for, there is something called a Pure Meter. Basically, you time it so that the meter gets into either the green-zone or the miniscule white-zone and the player will then shoot for goal however hard or far he needs to. After a while, you will simply press ‘shoot’ and will have a perfect shot every time, no skill involved. There is even a Pure meter that fills progressively as you take shots. When it fills up, the next shot you take will be a Pure shot, irrespective of your timing.
The same goes for crossing, you time it right and the player will then deliver a perfect cross into the penalty area. This is the part when the world goes slow-mo and the colours become saturated. It makes for a really intense experience but doesn’t do much for the gameplay.
Whenever a goal-kick or throw-in needs to be taken, there will be a five-second countdown. If the ball is not put into play by the end of that countdown, a penalty is awarded to the opposing team. Penalties can also be conceded by committing fouls, each time you foul a player, your foul meter will fill up a little and when it gets full, the opposing team is awarded a penalty.
Getting very technical now: the menus look great but are laid out in what can only be described as idiotic. To change the match type for multiplayer, you have to go into the main Options menu and change it there within some sub-menu or the other. Why? Why can’t we just change the match type in the Multiplayer menu like everybody else?
The end-to-end view that the game favours is also rather ineffective. While the camera usually stays just behind your goal so that the entire field is visible, it will often zoom in such that you won’t have any clue whether there are teammates or opponents around the player that the camera has zoomed-in on. Passing is also strange in that players will sometimes pass the ball out or just pass in the wrong direction.
While FIFA 11 may be dumbing down keepers for realism, Pure Football’s keepers need to be coaxed with dog biscuits. They are dumb as hell at times. The keeper never passes the ball where you want him to, will sometimes be facing the wrong direction for no apparent reason and will even pass to an opposing player on the odd occasion.
There was one peculiar incident where the ball was passed to my keeper and instead of passing it to another player like I wanted, he ran out with the ball, got tackled and a goal was conceded. This is just one of many oddities that occurred during my playthrough of the game.
If I may nitpick a little, no matter what team you are playing with, no matter who the players are, every call or vocal sound will come in a fluent English accent. The spoken language can be changed to a host of other languages but that’s hardly solving the problem is it. Just to shake things up a bit, prior to playing against England I changed the spoken language to Spanish.
This game is what I would call FIFA lite. It is almost like FIFA but with all the elements that make it great taken out. What you’re left with is a game that really doesn’t know what it is. On the one hand, it is really trying to be a casual street soccer game but on the other it is attempting to govern itself by the way things would happen on the pitch with a ref present.