After playtesting the iOS version of Real Football 2012, I immediately brandished my finest writing quill and penned a stern letter to Gameloft’s marketing department. This is a blatant case of false advertising you see. It isn’t real football at all; I played real football last week, and I can assure you it left me patently more tired than swiping my fingers across an iPad screen. I also got kicked in the shins by big brutes and screamed at by a middle aged man on the sidelines. None of that happened as I sat on the couch and bore down on goal with my little polygonal man. No my friends, this is as strong an example of videogame football if ever I saw one. Ive been duped. And I expect Gameloft to adjust their title accordingly for future releases.
One way RF2012 is just like the real game however, is that it’s all about the money. Like a disturbing number of their recent titles, RF2012 has also switched to the freemium way of thinking, meaning that three quarters of what you’d expect when you load up a football game is locked until you’re either rewarded with in-game currency for slogging away, or you mortgage your house to make everything available.
Some freemium games I’ve played recently have certain unlockables that can only be accessed through coughing up money, so to its credit (and believe me, credit is something this game goes out of it’s way to get you to purchase; you’re assaulted with 724 different ways to spend your hard-earned moola with every different screen you enter. It almost feels like Gameloft is a bank trying to trap you with it’s 23.5% APR credit card. There’s a vibe about it that’s halfway between sinister and desperate) it’s good that everything here is eventually available to he who is patient as well as he who is prosperous. I understand that sentence may have been hard to make sense of, I make no apologies. It’s Christmas Day and I’m sat here writing about RF2012 instead of spending time with my family. Nigel, I hate you.
Some might be annoyed that all the leagues, or the Season Club Master Mode which allows you to take your team through a full season buying and selling players, are not readily available from the start. More still may gnash their teeth at the fact that you can’t even select a team in exhibition mode until you beat them in a Cup or League, leading to a counter-initiative situation where setting up a simple match between Barcelona and Real Madrid is akin to trying to hack your way into the Pentagon. Hey Gameloft, how about letting me play the game I paid for? Oh, wait, I didn’t pay. I get it now.
With my thesis on the merits and drawbacks of Freemium gaming finished, let me actually tell you about the game. Gameloft have placed a great emphasis on community; We’re not talking about setting up a neighbourhood watch here, but on launching the game you’re presented with a home screen featuring access to Real Football forums, a collection of real world football headlines, photos and video replays uploaded by other users. There’s also a feature which allows you to replay a recent match from TV by clicking a hyperlink which takes you straight into the in-game equivalent. Although naturally, I couldn’t find out how to make it work.
The Homepage also allows you to create and upload your own teams to share with others, complete with custom names, kits, formations and stadiums, as well as editing any of the teams in the game. So if like me, you’re a football purist, and the sight of ‘Man Red’ is like someone throwing Domestos in your eyes, you can change their name to what it should be: Man Evil.
Despite all this connectivity, it’s a shame, and more than a little ironic, that there’s still no online multiplayer, which is probably the the only real connectivity Real Football players want in this day and age. The fact that First Touch Soccer is the only iOS footy title to attempt it may say something about developers confidence in making it work smoothly, and even that game was plagued with lag and disconnections. Perhaps we’re further away from proper iOS footy multiplayer than we thought.
Still, The Homepage is a cool way to connect you to the wider world of RF, and a great bit of forward thinking from Gameloft. A feature other developers are bond to emulate. Unless of course, they don’t.
Out on the pitch, It doesn’t quite keep pace with FIFA12, but it’s made it’s own strides nonetheless. The graphical overhaul is immediately noticeable, with bigger, more lively stadiums full of small details such as cameramen, stewards, managers on the sidelines and a crowd that looks half decent if you don’t stare directly at them. Im still waiting for the day a football sim includes halftime streakers, but you can’t have everything. Player models are also more detailed and animate in a more lifelike manner than previous versions of the game. It’s clear to see the improved number of animations right away as small touches and movements show off the updated engine.
One area which could be better is player likenesses. To say they need work is an understatement in the same way saying Sloth from The Goonies needs a nose job. Generic ain’t the word, there seems to be only a halfhearted attempt at best to make players resemble their real life counterparts; apparently there are only three different templates for faces in the game: The White Guy, The Black Guy and the Woman. (On second though, make that two). It’s a little freaky to have the camera sweep past the starting line up before the game and see two teams of near identical faces staring back at you. It’s like the start of a budget horror film.
Generally though, the visuals in Real Football series are heading in the right direction, which is something I wish I could say about the sound. Stadium noise is generally fine, (although crowd reactions could be a little more authentic when goals are scored) but the commentary is abysmal. Gameloft and bad voice acting go together like…well, Gameloft and bad voice acting; you have to wonder when the penny will drop and they’ll realise this is an area of almost all their games which needs desperate improvement. The commentator here is stiff and way too formal. In fact, he may actually be dead. I understand you’re not going to splash money on a Clive Tilsley or Martin Tyler for every update, but why does the commentator sound like he’s from the 1930′s?
The flow of matches is generally a lot more realistic than Real Football 2011, where you’d struggle to control your own player much less stop the opposition, although there are some unmistakable flaws that keep it from reaching the top of the league (I had to get that in somewhere). Ball physics are too floaty for my liking, lacking the immediate zip you get from FIFA. Passing is also a wase of time because the ball only seems to head vaguely in the direction of your team mates, and shots don’t carry as much weight as they should; so what should be a rasping 25 yarder turns into something more like a balloon being pulled on a string. There are also some incongruous animations that stand out as an illustration that the engine, although improved, maybe isn’t as confident as it could be; have you ever seen a Keeper punch a shot from outside the box as a method of saving it? Me either.
Controlling your players is fairly straightforward, with FIFA’s simple trick of labelling each button by its function copied here, and input-specific tricks and dribbles on offer; the problem is that players are not as responsive, and because the AI for both teammates and opponents is also less nuanced, building up attacking moves and scoring replay-saving worthy goals is less organic than in EA’s effort. It might take you a while to fill all those save slots.
Apologies if I’ve ended this review with rather crude comparisons to FIFA, but until another game dethrones it, I reserve my right to do so. I also reserve my right to rail against false advertising and shall be updating this review as soon as I receive my letter of apology from Gameloft. I’m also hoping they add £40 worth of in-game currency as a goodwill gesture; I’ve got to unlock those leagues somehow.
Real Football 2012 Free Universal for iPad/iPhone/iPod
Seller: Gameloft S.A.
Real Soccer 2012 Free Universal for iPad/iPhone/iPod