Sensible World of Soccer
Football (or soccer as the Americans know it) is far from what I’d call a ‘sensible’ sport. If it isn’t the overpaid players flexing their already inflated egos on the pitch, swearing at the referee and going nose to nose with fellow professionals, then it’s the supporters off the pitch (sometimes even on it when it all becomes extremely hectic), fighting other fans for wearing a different coloured jersey to them. Not like other sports; Tennis is the gentlemen’s game after all; Golf may as well translate to ‘silence’ in some obscure foreign language, and even Rugby is a more civilised affair when they’re not trying to break each other in two.
It’s an oxymoron of sorts because despite all this, football is very much serious business – life and death in some cases. And you try telling Rineldi and co any differently.
If you played and worshipped the original back on the Amiga over a decade ago, there are no surprises with this incarnation. It gets right down to business, and if your first thrashing at the hands of the COM isn’t a sign that Sensible Soccer is determined to make a splash on the Xbox Live Arcade – a few more heavy defeats will make sure you begin to understand very quickly. The action has a wonderful immediacy and flow that may cause all kinds of Vietnam-esque flashbacks to simpler times, when football was as simple as getting the ball and putting it into the oppositions goal more times than they could do it to you. In a new age of football titles where there are seemingly more button combinations than bones in both feet, Sensible World of Soccer is a welcome breath of fresh air. Everything is controlled on one button; shooting, passing, crossing and tackling – it’s devilishly simple yet instantaneously rewarding.
The career mode (the defining feature in the series) is present and very much accounted for. There are hundreds and thousands of unlicensed teams and players respectively to pick and choose from. The kind of depth found here is something both EA and Konami could learn from – and taking a bunch of nobodies to the dizzying heights of European glory is still as enjoyable and epic as it was over ten years ago.
IIn what has become a prerequisite for all classic titles given the Xbox Live Arcade treatment, Sensible World of Soccer has received an all expenses paid, HD-sponsored makeover, and it sports the new look with elegant poise. Everything as you’d expect is, well… highly defined. Of course for the traditionalists out there, Codemasters have given players the choice between the super awesome HD mode, and the incredibly dated looking, not so super awesome original mode. With not an ounce of bias fuelling these words, sticking with the latter would be incredibly foolish because once you go HD; it’s very hard to want to go back.
While solid at the back with its host of single player options, Sensible World of Soccer has always truly flourished going forward with its multiplayer. With the wonders of Live it seemed a non-issue for online play to be integrated into the experience, and Codemasters have certainly abided. It may not be completely flawless but nonetheless, Sensible Soccer online is a go-go and when things are running smooth, it’s an exhilarating tussle for supremacy. Despite all this however, online can’t – and will never – beat putting one past a friend in an alcohol driven bout, where gloating and posing pushes any sense of grace or sportsmanship out of the back window.
Regardless of numerous delays to the game’s release that would have made the folks working on the new Wembley football stadium seem like connoisseurs in construction – Sensible World of Soccer has struck at a time when both FIFA and Pro Evolution Soccer have failed to move the genre forward in any significant manner, and it’s this retro title from beyond the grave that has in some ways shown both of them how it should be done. Whether or not this game is still relevant to the people of today is in itself, irrelevant. People may turn their back on this thanks to its 2D visuals and oddball soundtrack, but not sampling this small nugget of gold for yourself, for those reasons alone, would be not be sensible at all.