April 23rd, 2012 | By Mark O'Beirne
The beautiful game has been given an indie overhaul with the public beta release of Gameplay Football. In its current state, it looks like a promising prospect from the youth academy of football video games.
Gameplay Football features nine unlicensed teams though the teams and players are easily identifiable. Players can choose teams such as Los Merengues (that’s Real Madrid in Spanish), the Gooners or FC Masterdam among other clubs, along with the international sides of the Dutch, the Germans and the Spanish. It’s a clever workaround, but subtle enough so that players know to give the ball to Outiesta or Van Persil.
As the title is taking its first steps as a public release, the options are a little curtailed. Players can play single matches, but Cups are planned for future releases. Matches can be played against other players locally or against the AI, which can provide a challenge or allow players to practice shooting at will, depending on where the slider is set. Matches can also be set to last anywhere from five to twenty-five minutes. While the upper end of this scale may appear intimidating, it may be the option to choose if you have some spare time because when matches finish, the game exits. This breaks the feeling of “just one more game” that other sports titles can nurture so well.
The basic mechanics of Gameplay Football work well. The emphasis is on a pass-and-move style and the teams selected would drift towards this style in real life. Technically, Germany falls into this category because, yes, long route-one style passes do constitute a pass. The passing system does work quite well and it is rare that players will find themselves yelling at the passer that a simpler or better pass was on the cards. However, the likes of Messy can still tear defences to shreds with the ball at his feet because the controls are quite responsive and players change direction well.
Players such as Messi are the ruination of a good defender’s career and sometimes it’s necessary to take the ball from him by any means necessary. In Gameplay Football, only mistimed sliding tackles are punished, though the standing collision system seems more accurate than FIFA 12’s impact engine at times. The game goes back to a time when men were men and challenges were tough. As a result, there is no place for the antics of players such as Ashley Young or Didier Drogba. If you want a free kick, your player is going to have to earn it.
Balancing goalkeepers is an incredibly difficult task – so much so that developers with years of experience and titles behind them still struggle to find the perfect line between a reliable keeper and one that is unbeatable. Unfortunately, Gameplay Football requires some tweaks in this regard. While some stunning efforts can be saved from six yards, there are some thirty yard efforts that fizzle out on the way, yet slide into the net inches from where the keeper is standing.
Some tweaks are required and, naturally, Gameplay Football is not perfect. The idea of playing advantage should probably have been left out, for example. Again, this is an element that is tough to manage at times and the safer option is to simply give fouls and free kicks. The notable incident during play was a clumsy challenge that should have resulted in a penalty. However, the AI got the ball back and was allowed to play on rather than getting the penalty. Brash challenges also bear no punishment as long as play isn’t stopped; once advantage is played, no cards are shown.
With the basic gameplay elements and mechanics sorted, the interface could use a couple of changes for future versions. If players get carded, there is no way to easily identify who is on thin ice. Unfortunately, during the process of being booked it doesn’t show a name either, so caution is advised once a yellow card has been shown. There are certain things that players expect from football titles at this stage; a power bar for shots and crosses, two kits per team in case of clashes and some atmosphere during matches. These are missing for the time being, but will hopefully be implemented in the near future.
Gameplay Football is a solid title that plays to its strengths. It has emphasised passing and has made this element silky and smooth. For an early public beta, it shows plenty of potential. There is room for improvement, but a couple of tweaks here and there will ensure that Gameplay Football puts its hand up for selection as part of the starting lineup.