The Pro Evolution Soccer versus FIFA debate has nothing on the slanging matches that surrounded Sensible Soccer and Kick-Off back in the days of the Amiga. Kick-Off's pinball passing and wide open parks won many devotees, but it was Sensi's ridiculous extremes of aftertouch and comedy team and player names that ultimately made it the people's champion.
The banana shots, slick passing and farcical names such as Wayne Riinay and Rio Fardonend are still intact (there is an editor if you can be arsed to alter every single name), yet something has definitely been lost in the translation. Perhaps it's our fond memories of the original blocking everything else out, but this Sensible Soccer just doesn't feel as fun to play - even when you go up against a friend or team up in two-on-two games.
A lot of the game's more frustrating moments can be traced to the 360-degree control you now have over players. A small yellow arrow at the feet of each player helpfully shows which direction a pass or shot will go in, but trying to force it in the right direction before you're tackled is a nightmare, especially if you use the analogue stick rather than the D-pad. It's staggering how many chances you'll miss because the arrow won't go where you're trying to point it, or wobbles in the wrong direction just as you're about to let fly.
FASTER THAN A SPEEDING BULLET
The pace of matches definitely won't be to everyone's tastes. Much like a game of rugby, you only have a second or two to decide what to do with the ball before you're quite literally mugged by an opposition player. Likewise, you don't have to rely on last-ditch sliding tackles since challenging for the ball is simply a case of sprinting after a player until he automatically wins possession by flattening him. Considered build-ups, incisive through balls, tricky dribbling moves and other staples of modern day football games are gleefully abandoned in favour of lightning-quick passes straight up the pitch until you get close enough to shoot. It isn't quite kick-and-run, but it certainly comes close. Scoring, meanwhile, is often down to whether the 'keeper is in invincible form or a Calamity James mood, rather than any memorable displays of footballing skill on your part.
This is a game that's so far down the retro route that you half expect the players to come out from the tunnel wearing shorts down past their knees, sporting handlebar moustaches, and with the mentality that shoulder-barging both 'keeper and ball into the net at the same time is an acceptable method of scoring. There's nothing wrong with nostalgia of course, but with FIFA's near-perfect presentation and PES's near-perfect gameplay, both going strong and still improving all the time, Sensible Soccer gets shown up a bit.
THE BOY'S GOT STYLE
That said, even PES can't match the feeling of satisfaction you get from firing in a 35-yarder from the corner of the box with stacks of aftertouch. However unrealistic, the aftertouch feature is your best friend in Sensible Soccer, making a complete mockery of the laws of physics and helping to create some quality goals from time to time. Replaying your best goals also brings out one of the game's best features: the expressions on the players' faces as they wince in pain when fouled and look elated after scoring. It's makes a nice change from the emotionless cyborgs of PES and FIFA.
Despite the lack of official licenses, pretty much every major domestic, European and World league or cup is simulated. There are tons of customisation options for both players and kit, and winning tournaments unlocks extra customisation features and comedy accessories. While it can't hope to rival either FIFA or PES, Sensible Soccer remains the most pick-up-and-playable footy game ever, making up for many of its failings.
The 360-degree control doesn't work as well as it should, but there's plenty to keep you entertained. Fun as a casual two-player kickabout.
- Instantly playable
- Tons of competitions
- Exaggerated aftertouch
- 360-degree control
- More rugby than footy
- No real names