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Sensible Soccer 2006 PlayStation 2

Published by Codemasters
Developed by Kuju Entertainment
Release Date: Out Now
Price: £24.99

Sensible Soccer 2006, an introduction.

The Amiga versions of Sensible Soccer and Sensible World of Soccer (or SWOS as it is affectionately known as) are still regarded as being some of the best football games of all time. The reason for this is that although the game offered a really simplistic control scheme (using only one button) you could still do an amazing amount of manoeuvres. The action was fast flowing and exciting and whether you were playing against friends or playing through a single-player career, the game was an incredibly addictive experience. Towards the end of the 1990's there were a couple of attempts to revive the series, which resulted in games that were basically a mess. Sensible Soccer 2006 is the latest attempt to bring one of the most impressive football games of all time up to date.

What's the game about?

As we've already mentioned Sensible Soccer 2006 is an arcade style football game. The game offers a Friendly mode, a  Preset Competition mode, a DIY Competition mode, a Custom Team creator and a Data Editor.  The Preset Competition mode offers 50 different International and national competitions including the World Cup, European Championships and African Cup as well as a variety of national leagues (the top two leagues for each country have been included) and cups from England, France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Portugal, Scotland and Spain.

What's good about the game?

Most modern day football games have controls that aren't that intuitive. Both the FIFA and the Pro Evolution Soccer series have control configurations that require a fair bit of learning. This is all a far cry from the days of Kick-Off 2 and Sensible Soccer where you simply moved the joystick and pressed a single button. Sensible Soccer 2006 sees a return to a more simplistic control scheme and whilst it's not as simple as the original Sensible Soccer games, it's a lot more intuitive than recent football titles. Essentially you'll move your players with the left analogue stick, kick the ball with the X button and shoot with the circle button. The shoot button isn't just used for shooting though. You can make long passes and crosses with it too. Moving the analogue stick to the left or right immediately after kicking the ball with the shoot button pressed, will make the ball swerve in the appropriate direction which can lead to some great goals. You'll also be able to sprint using the R1 button. It's also worth mentioning that the controls can be configured so essentially you can set the controls to what you want.  When playing the game yellow pointers indicate the direction the ball will be kicked. Holding down the shoot button will cause the power of the shot to increase and the yellow pointers will grow in length to indicate this which works really well and saves having to have a separate power meter at the bottom of the screen. Your players have a set amount of sprint energy that's used up when you sprint. This sprint energy doesn’t replenish and once it's used up that player in question will not be able to sprint for the remainder of the match, so it pays to only sprint when necessary.

Sensible Soccer 2006 includes a good amount of unlockable items. You'll earn these unlockables by winning leagues and cups in the Preset Competition mode. There are different pitch types, various ball types, various boots, shirts, shorts and hairstyles to unlock. Whilst these unlockable items do encourage you to play  through the Preset Competition mode you're probably going to want to spend most of your time in the  Custom Team mode. Basically you'll create your own team in the Custom Team mode (customising each of your players, the team name and home and away kits) and choosing their overall playing style. You'll begin ranked 292nd and the idea is to progress to being ranked number 1. You'll do this be competing in all of the competitions that are available in the game. Yes you'll be able to play with your custom team in the FA Cup, French League 1 and European Cup etc. and with every competition you win, your rank will improve.  It could potentially take months to win everything which is good thing seeing as the game lacks a proper career mode like SWOS had.  The game doesn't have real player names and some team  and competition names are fictitious but thankfully you can use the editor to change anything you want to in this respect.

What's not so good about the game?

If you were a fan of the original Sensible Soccer games it's a fair bet that you would have happily settled for a game that would have played exactly the same but took advantage of modern day PC's and consoles. In fact most would probably have settled for a game that run on modern gaming machines without the need for emulators. If you are of this persuasion then Sensible Soccer 2006 is not going to satisfy you. Having three buttons  to press instead of the classic one button will disappoint as will the fact that the ball now sticks to your player's feet. In comparison with SWOS, the game doesn't have that many playable teams or  a  career mode. There's no online play so you're simply confined to playing against the AI or the friend (or friends if you own a Multitap device as the game supports up to four players) sitting next to you.

The AI is pretty dumb to be honest and doesn’t seem anywhere near as effective as those in the original Amiga games.  I was disappointed to win the Italian Cup without any real challenge, especially when you consider I was playing with Mantova and on the way to the trophy I beat AC Milan, Bologna and Roma without any difficulty. As there are no difficulty levels in the game (each team has their own difficulty rating), there's nothing I can do to make the game more challenging. You'll frequently see the AI do strange things. Worst of all are the goalkeepers who quite happily spill their saves to an opponent's forward.  From time to time they will also stand there and simply watch a ball role past them into the goal. The AI is rarely punished when committing fouls in their own penalty area, which will have you pulling your hair out at times. Naturally these problems can be remedied  on the PC version with the aid of an update but on the PlayStation 2, you're stuck with the lot of them.

How does it look?

Like previous Sensible Soccer games, Sensible Soccer 2006 has adopted a fairly high up, end-to-end camera angle which enables you to see a good amount of the pitch at any one time.  This camera angle works well which is rather fortunate as you can't change the camera angle. The visual quality of the game is  mixed. The cel-shaded players actually look quite impressive although this is something you're only going to notice during replays as the game's camera angle isn't close enough to the action to fully appreciate the visual quality of the players. Player likenesses are not great to be honest with some players looking nothing like their real life counterparts (although a few do bear a passing resemblance).  The managers look like cardboard cut-outs and the crowd graphics aren't much better. The players animate quite nicely although some animations seem incomplete and you'll notice a few oddities from time to time. With certain saves the ball appears to be sucked in by the goalkeeper and away from its natural course, which is disappointing to see.  It's also rather strange that the synthetic turf also has exactly the same mud spots on it as the grass pitch. This suggests that the game was rushed a little, which is unfortunate.

How deaf gamer friendly is the game?

There is no match commentary in Sensible Soccer 2006 so in effect the only thing deaf gamers will be unaware of is the crowd noise and whistle blows. In fact all of the information in Sensible Soccer is shown visually so you'll have no problems with the game at all. The game manual weighs in at just over 20 pages and explains all you need to know to enjoy the game which is good to see.

Final thoughts.

Gamers are going to be divided in their opinion of Sensible Soccer 2006. Those who were expecting a modern day version of SWOS are going to be disappointed as so many aspects of the game are different and in truth it can't compare to SWOS in the amount of options the game offers. Those wanting a good arcade football game where the control system is instantly accessible however, will find the game pretty much to their liking. Personally I think the original SWOS should have been included as a bonus feature as this would have enabled Codemasters to satisfy everyone. It's disappointing there is no online play as playing against human opposition is much more fun and challenging than playing against the AI. In fact had the game not had so many unlockable items and an addictive Custom Team mode, I suspect most gamers wouldn't even bother playing against the AI.  On the whole then Sensible Soccer 2006 is an enjoyable arcade football game but sadly it's probably going to upset loyal fans of SWOS and the original Sensible Soccer.

Overall Game Rating: 7.5/10

Deaf Gamers Classification:

(Click the letter or here for details)

Sensible Soccer 2006 is a very enjoyable arcade football game. The AI could have been better though and online play should have been supported. Those expecting the game to play exactly the same as the classic Sensible Soccer games will be disappointed though.