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AFL Live 2004 (PlayStation 2) artwork

AFL Live 2004 (PlayStation 2) review


"I will admit right off the bat, that I have never been a big fan of sports games. I love watching sports, but playing them never interested me. Nevertheless, I decided to purchase and play AFL Live 2004, because the idea of a new game based on my favourite sport intrigued me. I do own AFL '99 for PC, and thought it was okay, but I wanted to play a newer, console version, in the hopes that it would be executed better. "



I will admit right off the bat, that I have never been a big fan of sports games. I love watching sports, but playing them never interested me. Nevertheless, I decided to purchase and play AFL Live 2004, because the idea of a new game based on my favourite sport intrigued me. I do own AFL '99 for PC, and thought it was okay, but I wanted to play a newer, console version, in the hopes that it would be executed better.

Now I know why I never really liked playing sports games.

If you're a huge AFL fan (as I am), you might like this game, simply because of the novelty of having an AFL game. It's the best of it's kind, which isn't saying much, as I can count the number of AFL games I've ever seen, on two hands. If you're not a big fan of the sport, or you don't know the sport at all, I'd suggest you steer clear of AFL Live 2004 as it will do nothing but confuse and frustrate you.

In terms of graphics, the game is poor. I can't even compare it to other PS2 games. Granted, the different grounds look beautiful, and you will recognize them straight away if you know the sport. The crowds are good, and the different flags in the crowd are a nice touch. But the players... aye. I know there are a lot of players and all, so making them all look unique would be a stretch, but the entire 700+ line-up looks to be based on about three different character models. The only thing separating the looks of an entire team will be the colour of their hair and the number on their back, which just isn't good enough for such a recent game on a next-gen system.

I'll admit, I was nicely surprised when I first played the game, and I saw my beloved Bulldogs run out on the Docklands for the first time. I exclaimed, 'there's Robert Murphy!', because the player in question bore such a strong resemblance to him. The bad thing was, it wasn't him, and half the bloody team looked exactly like him. What a letdown.

Anyways, the sound has its good and bad points. They've included the latest commentating team of Dennis Cometti, Gerard Healy, and Christie Malthouse (I may have a personal vendetta against Christie Malthouse, but to recreate a proper TV telecast, it was right of them to put her there.) At times, the commentary is smooth, and sounds fantastic, but the problem is that it's too generic. Specifics about the players or the play are barely mentioned, and when they are, they sound jarring and fake. ''And that's... Lloyd's... fourth... goal!'' Imagine that sentence in about three different tones of voice, and you might get a good indication of what it sounds like.

And that's not even mentioning that some of the time, the commentary is completely incorrect. Cometti will sometimes announce the wrong name for the player in action, or reverse the roles of two players, eg. commenting on Carey tackling Croft when it's actually the other way around, Croft tackling Carey.

If you're a Port Adelaide fan, I definitely would not recommend playing this game. The commentators will never match the proper name to a Port player, even digging into the interchange bench and the reserves squad for names to give to players on the ground. It sounds stupid, and it's absolutely ridiculous that Acclaim would get it so wrong. ''And Cassisi kicks a goal!'' Wait, who the hell is Cassisi? Oh, he's some obscure Port player that isn't on the ground, doesn't play in the forward line, and won't get credit for his miraculous goal in the halftime stats. Funny.

Now onto the most important part of a sports title such as this one. Gameplay. Where to start?

There are four different control sets to choose from, so you can basically choose which buttons you want to execute different actions, eg. marking, kicking, tackling. The problem with this is, there are different actions associated with the same button in different conditions, eg. if you have the ball, or if you don't have the ball, pressing X will do different things. The problem with this is, you will often accidentally perform one action instead of the other because the conditions change so fast.

Imagine running up to an opponent with the ball, and hammering X to tackle (the responsiveness is slow, so if you just press it once, nothing will happen). Your opponent drops the ball when he's tackled, and quicker than you can react, the tackling player picks it up. Because you're still hammering X, the player automatically kicks the ball away, to no-one, losing you possession of the footy. It's frustrating. And it happens more than one might think.

The responsiveness of the controls is another annoying one. I can understand that one would need split-second perfect timing to perform the most important of actions, but this seems to have no sense on timing at all. With the marking system, I press the mark button once and the player takes a nice mark. In the next marking contest, I press mark at the same time, and the guy dives forward to take a ground mark when the ball is up in the air. What?

If you can get over the buggy controls (tough), and the basic graphics (possible), you'll be stuck on another factor - the difficulty level. After you've mastered all of the basic actions in training mode, it's time to select your difficulty and take on a real game. The thing is, on easy difficulty, you could probably win a game with your eyes closed and the controller upside down. I played a game with two-minute quarters, and won by almost 300 points. On medium difficulty, you'll be lucky to touch much of the ball at all, because no matter what you do, the opposition will win most of the ruck contests, most of the marking contests, and will manage to intercept most of your kicks and handballs because they're ALWAYS in the right place in the right time. On hard mode, you may as well just let the other team try to outdo its own high score records, because you can do little to stop them.

No matter how good you are at the game, there is no matching the quickness of the opposition players and their ability to seemingly predict and intercept everything you will attempt. So you will be playing the game often on easy mode, the only mode that is actually possible to do well on. And when you play on easy, the game is little challenge at all.

Little fun, too, because there simply aren't that many game options in the game. Why do most other sports games, including much much older ones, have features like online play, yet titles as recent as November 2003 don't? It's just you against the computer, playing in the Wizard Cup, the home and away season, practice games, mini games, or historical matches.

The inclusion of mini games and historical matches were an interesting idea. In my opinion, the mini games are practically the best part of the whole game, because it's the only time you can really test your football skills, like kicking and handballing, and improve your accuracy. Pity that there's only three of them, you know. Famous matches have been selected from throughout history and recreated here, for the Historical Matches element. Each team has their own, relating to things like a huge comeback, or nail-biting final. The thing is, even if you're playing a game set in the 1940's, you're using the modern teams. I mean, really, couldn't they have at least included the players' names of each of the teams in the match-ups they were creating? It's not like the character graphics are anything special, so all they needed were the names to match up with the numbers, which the AFL would have been able to provide. But they wouldn't do that.

It seems like I hate this game, because I'm picking out all its bad points, but to be totally honest, I don't. It's tolerable, but not by much, hence my 5/10 score. Medium difficulty can be interesting and challenging to play any sort of game on, but too often you'll be shaking your head because of things like the controls, and the opposition's ESP.

Just one more point before I go, more like a pet peeve. I would like to know who created the instruction manual for this game, seriously. The instruction manual lists all sorts of displays that supposedly appear in the game, to assist with things like kicking, marking, and correct tackling. The problem is, that none of these displays actually insist in the game. There are supposed to be arrows of different sizes and colours around the active player, pointing towards your team-mates and indicating their distance, for accurate passing, a crucial part of the game. There are none. Why advertise things that would make the game a lot more intriguing and skilful, but not include them? It makes me mad.

I said I owned a copy of AFL '99, for my computer, and to be truthful, there's not a lot separating the two games. Both have things like interchanges, team set-ups, seasons and finals modes. And it's bad if I can compare two games released almost five years apart, and find little to distinguish between. If you must play this game, rent it and see if it's to your liking before handing over your $95 to purchase it. I wish I had.

Rating: 5/10

karpah's avatar
Community review by karpah (June 22, 2004)

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