Club Football 2005
I won’t need to tell you that Pro Evolution Soccer 4 is the best football game ever made and will soon touch down to show everyone what I saw at Game Stars Live earlier this year. Not only will it be appearing on the world’s most powerful console, the Xbox, but will also make its debut on Xbox Live, making it a real treat. Of course, there’s only room in this world for one great football game, and that’s PES4. So where does Codemasters Club Football 2005 come into this? Unfortunately, on a par with This is Football seems to be the nicest thing I can say.
Flicking through the press release that came with the disk, so much seemed to be promised. I actually got excited about it all, too. Talk of immediate responses between the gamer and the player on the pitch, a new precision trigger that lets you have greater control of the ball when in possession and faster and fluid gameplay. The buttons are laid out just like those in PES4 which makes transition a lot easier than in FIFA and the configurations you can switch to have enough variety to suit gamers from each end of the football game spectrum.
Loading up Club Football really is a treat, in fact everything away from the gameplay is in check. Music accompanying you around the various menu’s is brilliant, for something that usually bugs me in most games thanks to my hatred of R+B, Bass and Kiddy Pop, Franz Ferdinand and the like won me over. Perhaps navigating around the menu’s could have been made easier by using something other than a dark red selecting colour onto black, as I found it hard to see where I was going at times.
The amount of options available here is immense. Create your own teams, players, tournaments, leagues etc to your hearts content, which will please many. In the club menu you can choose between a half or full season with your favoured team, and there’s also a cup run to be had at intervals throughout the fixture list. There is also, of course, the money grabbing Champions Cup (Champions League to you and me) in which you take on Europe’s elite in a league format before progressing to the knockout stages. If you fancy a one-off kick about, then the exhibition mode should suffice.
Perhaps the cream of the tinkering crop is the fantasy match creator. You don’t get to play Cupid in a love match-making scene, but rather scenarios, such as Man Utd being 1-0 down with 5 minutes to go in the Champions League. You can relive classic moments in footballing history, pitting England against Germany in the World Cup final in extra time, or make them up and put the mighty Fulham 1-0 up with 20 minutes left against Real Madrid or some other pub team. Even better still, trade the codes you are given for each scenario with friends and see who can make the toughest and even most bizarre situation.
There’s a ton of stuff to have a go at in here, and if you ever get tired of playing for a bit then head on over to the Club Album where you can watch and look at clips of film and pictures of your club that you unlock through completing leagues and cups. A good addition here is the sticker packet, which you can buy with the credits you earn by winning games, and unlocks random items. However, like in real life, you can easily get duplicates, so although this is the cheaper alternative to unlocking specific items, it is the most risky. A full history of your club is available to scroll through, along with squad profiles, a photo album of your clubs greatest achievements, a trophy room for all the cups that you’ve won and a section for saved replays during matches. This is a must for any fan of the listed clubs in Codemasters’ Club Football library.
Perhaps the main ‘bit’ of Club Football is the chance to play as yourself alongside the hero’s of your team. Fulham aren’t in this years selection (tsk tsk), so I’ll have to make do with a little pub team in the north of London by the name of Arsenal. There’s tons to edit here, from faces to hair, boot colour to voiceover name, and then your skills. From an initial pool of points you should be able to make a decent player to help out with the winning run (or new one, seeing as the mighty Gunners lost 2-0 to Utd last night at time of writing), and as you play through your career new points are awarded to further boost your abilities. Move over Thierry.
Progressing past the main menu and team selections brings you to the formation and tactics screen, a direct rip of PES3 minus a few adjustments here and there. For someone who’s played Konami’s masterpiece since the beginning of time I just zipped away in here as if at home; and others will too. Assign players runs, roles, positions etc with the flick of a button, and save them to the Xbox Hard Drive to load up later on.
Then you get to the match screen. And discover that all the wealth of options are a complete waste. The formation screen might be heavily influenced by PES3, as is the button layout, but sadly the gameplay is not. In fact it’s hard to find something to compare to this dire state of affairs, even the legendary UEFA Striker back on the Dreamcast was a better kick about than this.
First of all, you don’t seem to have complete control over the players on the pitch. It seems as if the little man in the Xbox controller has a sore throat and the other little guy in the controller port can’t hear him shout which button has been pressed, as the delay between pressing a button and the action being carried out creates confusion on the pitch. A player will keep on running into an opponent even though you’re pushing the pass button, and when he does eventually pass the window of opportunity has long closed, shutting your hands in it. Running on the ball is about as tricky as letting walking in a straight line after 10 pints of Black Sheep, which makes wing play a no-no. Going anywhere near the touchline literally guarantee’s a throw-in to the opposition. This leaves playing the ball through the centre, but as your strikers seem unaware of anything happening and refuse to run onto a through ball that goes like a bullet into the keeps arms, this is useless too. Long ball? Have you tried heading?
The commentary is also as poor as 2004’s effort. Barry Davies is one of my favourite commentators on football, yet I was clicking through the menus to turn his rambling off after 30 mins of play as I heard him repeat the same phrase yet again. For the first 10 minutes as you pass the ball about, soak up the atmosphere of the crowd singing away and Barry reeling out facts, Club Football seems like a potential PES beater. Only when you notice that the crowd don’t pay any attention to what’s happening on the pitch (songs in football only break out during midfield play; a 10 minute siege of the opponents goal would usually have them going ‘ooo’ and ‘aaa’), as I kept attacking solid for the first half and all they did was sing about how great their team were. Normally you’d hear random cries of “KICK THE F***ING BALL!” and a huge shout from the supporters of “SHOOT!”. Not here. “We are the champions” is all you’re likely to hear, along with some drums banging away.
That said, the graphics in Club Football are some of the best I’ve seen. Henry actually looks like…Henry. He’s there. They’ve stolen him, shredded the guy down and spread him like thick jam onto the disc. It’s him, I swear. Ooh, va va voom…
Stadia looks convincing, with stairways, tunnels and advertising standing out to attention, and each are instantly recognisable. As above, players really do look the part, even if their animations thanks to poor controls look a bit off. The crowd still needs work, but then again no-one seems to have got it right (not even PES or FIFA) since the days of Total Football on the Sega Megadrive. Drinks would go flying during celebrations, there was no copying of sections of crowd (they always seemed to be different), and during a tense penalty shootout you could see them all crouched down, ready to jump in the air. Not here. Funnily enough, as games have progressed, the crowds in football seem to have got worse as the graphics got better. Strange that.
Club Football should only apply to the appropriate fans of each club, as the detail of history and pictures of teams is quite amazing. Even as a Fulham fan I was astonished at the stuff I could unlock and took great interest in reading it all. However, as a PES fan I was quite annoyed at how much hard work gone into the various menus, music and graphics had been wasted thanks to the unplayable matches and dire commentary. Playing a game here isn’t fun at all, I even called a few lads round from work and slipped the game in during a frantic multiplayer afternoon, and after the allotted 10 minutes of atmosphere soaking-up, they started finding the same problems as me.
Technically it’s an encyclopaedia of your football club on an Xbox disc, with a joke of a match engine imbedded for anger-inducing periods.
Five out of ten