Saturday, November 12, 2005
The Gaa + Playstation = ?
I first played video games as an 10 year old boy and it was love at first sight. Over the subsequent 12 years I’ve slowly matured and gradually fallen out of love. Nonetheless, about two years ago the news of the possibility of a GAA game for the Playstation 2 broke, and the dormant 10 year old in me awoke. This was the news I had waited a decade for. I was dismayed to subsequently learn that hurling would not feature on the game, but the prospect of leading my beloved Tipperary to All Ireland success in football was enough to eradicate any disappointment. As the months passed we learned that corners were being cut and the game was going to use the game engine of an Aussie Rules game. I began to get uneasy when I learned that the Aussie Rules game was, by all accounts, truly awful. Nonetheless, I decided to wait and see for myself and at last the game is here and the big question is whether it’s any good? I’ll begin, if I may, with the positives. The game contains all 32 counties and allows you to play an entire season at inter-county level, including both the national league and All-Ireland championship series. The game also features commentary from the legendary Michael O' Muircheartaigh, although he does get a little repetitive after a while. The stadiums in the game look very realistic. Each stadium has the look and character of its real life counter part. Unfortunately, that’s all the positives I can think of. The best way to describe the game is 10 years too late. If it had come out ten years ago it would have been at least acceptable, and maybe even brilliant. The graphics are half a generation out of date, very blocky, and at times difficult to even tell where the ball is. It reminded me most of Fifa ’95 for the original Playstation, that’s the quality we’re talking about here. For example, when you are awarded a kickable free, the camera pans down behind the player to enable you to line up the kick. Most of the time your biggest challenge is actually locating where the feckin’ goalposts are. That’s how blocky the graphics are. As expected the players bear no resemblance to the real life stars. Unable to get the license to use real player names, the game just opts to number each player in the team from P1 to P15. (P11 for Tipperary is class mind). Every substitute on the team is apparently akin to a universal adapter. No information is given on the position the sub is suited to, so any sub can potentially play in any given position, leaving you with the task of guessing which one to use. The biggest sin committed, however, is in the game play itself, which is truly terrible. It just hasn’t captured the character of Gaelic football. The controls are very slow and unresponsive. It’s also very difficult to score in the game. Now don’t get me wrong, some degree of difficulty should be present. However it’s nearly impossible to kick a point unless directly in front of the goals and no more than 25 yards out. As for goals, I’ve yet to score one from outside the small square. This makes the game enormously frustrating to play and robs it of a much needed element of fun that could and should have been present. Indeed if the game was fun to play alot of the other problems could be forgiven. The referee is also not up to scratch, with the rules of the football poorly implemented in the game. In particular I’ll highlight entering the small square without the ball, its ridiculous. I’ve lost count of how often the following scenario has occurred; my attacker runs through being chased by a defender. The defender drags my player to the ground at the edge of the small square, clearly fouling him and in the process dispossessing him. As a result my player falls into the small square without the ball. Instead of awarding me a penalty, the referee awards the defending team a free out for my transgression. I swear, it’s as irritating as someone scrapping their nails across a blackboard. Despite its awfulness, the game is sure to be bought by the majority of GAA fans with Playstations. Indeed I wouldn't be surprised if many people bought Playstations just for this game. This will ensure that it’s a big seller and this time next year we might have another installment. Translating a sport into a video game is always a difficult thing to do first time out. As this game has a relatively small market, certainly compared to the Fifa games, not a lot of money was going to be spent getting it right. Whilst I never expected this game to be perfect, I never thought it would be this bad. Given this evidence, I’m relieved that hurling didn’t receive this treatment as I shudder to think how it would have been translated. Hopefully, if there is to be a sequel, lessons will be learned and a decent game will be produced. Unfortunately, in my opinion that is unlikely to happen, as a completely new game would need to be created as little can be taken from this one. Brutal!