Like Eddie McGuire disappearing from our television screens, a great Aussie Rules football computer game has been the dream of many AFL fans for years. But just as Eddie refuses to relinquish his television gigs (or even just stop commentating Collingwood games on TV), a top level AFL game for consoles just hasn't eventuated.
We've had some decent attempts with the AFL Live series, although poor controls and dodgy AI marred those offerings. Things were looking promising for AFL Premiership 2005, the latest locally developed attempt at capturing our great sport digitally, not the least of which was because Sony Computer Entertainment itself was backing the project. Unfortunately, while AFL Premiership 2005 features enough stats to make the most ardent footy trainspotter weep, average gameplay coupled with unimpressive visuals makes this title more of a behind than a goal.
AFL Premiership 2005 certainly makes good use of its official license. All of the league's 692 players for season 2005 are here, plus all the home grounds, competitions (including the Wizard Cup), game rules and even the AFL Tribunal. Gamers can drill down and find plenty of minutiae -- each player in the game has a screen detailing their bio, how many Brownlow votes they've ever achieved, draft history and more.
Couple this with the free 100 Years of AFL DVD that's packaged with the game and you've got a title that has plenty for those with a keen interest in the sport. But once you get past the stats and background information, things look decidedly shaky.
The most apparent failing here is a real lack of graphical punch. The player models are blocky and have little detail. AFL Premiership 2005 claims to have real player likenesses, but all of the faces on the game look like they were carved out of potatoes. You'll be relying more on the numbers on their backs than looking at their faces to tell players apart in AFL Premiership 2005.
Player movements on the field don't fare much better -- as opposed to the fast moving reality that is a game of AFL, all of the players in the game look like they're moving through treacle. Players will also often run straight through others as if they weren't there -- you'll find yourself chasing one minute, and then suddenly you're in front of your target.
You'll also find plenty of graphical glitches. Balls will get trapped in mid-air, while supporters' pom-poms will sway behind the goal posts independent of anyone actually moving them. The highlight of AFL Premiership 2005 is the stadiums -- all have been rendered well, and will be instantly recognisable to fans.
Graphics, of course, aren't everything, as long as they're backed up by solid gameplay. The bad news is AFL Premiership 2005's controls, while fairly simple and kept to a few buttons, is for the most part sluggish and unresponsive. Trust us -- you will get frustrated at the noticeable delays between pressing a button and having that action performed on screen. Tackling, for example, is a hit and miss process -- you press the appropriate button madly in hope that one of your presses actually sticks.
It's not at all a smooth and slick process, and you'll need to have a forgiving mindset to make it through a season without giving up in frustration. At the easier levels, AFL Premiership 2005 is a cakewalk, with the hardest difficulty almost too hard for humans. The computer opponent's AI is also not sharp -- all of the teams seem to exhibit the same strategy of moving it through the midfield via continuous handballing, before chipping it around their 50.
The game's designers also made some curious decisions about the strengths and weaknesses of each AFL team. All of the 16 teams are rated on attack, defence, speed, skill and stamina, with its overall rating an average of the five attributes. There are some baffling numbers on show here -- out of all the teams, Collingwood (which finished 15th in this year's real world competition and 13th in 2004) rates the highest at 67. Hawthorn at 63 is on the same points as St Kilda, while the Western Bulldogs at 65 outrank West Coast at 63.
Things are somewhat brighter on the audio side, with the commentary from Denis Cometti, Dermott Breretton and boundary rider Christie Malthouse being quite entertaining, although you will hear the same phrases over and over again.
Sadly, AFL fans will have to chalk this one up as another missed goal -- AFL Premiership 2005 sports some serious failings, meaning fans will have to wait a little longer for a great Aussie Rules game to appear.
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