(Read in Scouse accents)
‘SWOS? What’s that?’
‘It’s what they played in the olden days before FIFA’
‘Yeah and I heard that if you’ve never played it then you’ve never appreciated the glory of winning a game with a 90th min diving header with Kebab Shop’
‘Kebab Shop? Who are they?’
‘Gimme the controller...’
Sociable Soccer Review of the NEW RELEASE - by Darren Browne - Aka Kingmonkey25
Back in the 90’s if you wanted to play a football (or soccer for the Americans out there) game on your computer or console it was a pretty limited choice. Amiga & ST owners would get both Kick Off 2 and Sensible Soccer long before the console releases and even when EA & Konami released the first iterations of what would go on to become huge global IPs, Sensible Soccer was (and still is in many eyes), the purists favourite. Despite not having any kind of release for over 10 years the game still ranks high on top 10 lists, with Sensible World Of Soccer often beating out competition from the current-gen behemoths FIFA & PES.
Now comes Sociable Soccer, the spiritual successor to SWOS with Jon Hare, co-founder of Sensible Software as the gaffer; can it hit the back of the net or is it destined to head straight into row Z?
Sociable Soccer launched just over a week ago via Early Access on Steam and first impressions are good - SWOS fans will immediately smile as the ‘Goal-scoring Superstar Hero’ music plays on start-up. The controls start to feel natural once you get used to using analogue controls rather than the 8-direction old-school method. Whilst you can almost get by playing with a single button the game has been designed for modern-day controllers (I use an XB360 pad) with the 4 main buttons being used for pass, shoot, lob, & punt upfield. The trigger button allows for short sprints with the shoulder buttons being used to change formations during play.
The game starts in an isometric view but there is the option to switch this to the overhead view – this is my preferred choice as it feels a lot more like SWOS and is a lot easier to cross and shoot in this view. Replays are currently only shown in the 3D isometric view but I’d expect this to change with an update.
Whilst FIFA and PES battle it out for the best football simulation, Sociable Soccer sticks to the SWOS tradition of letting the gameplay do the talking; I like the fact there’s no through-ball button as it means that any defence-splitting pass or cross into the box is done with skill and although I like both FIFA & PES, they never quite match the satisfaction of bending a ball into the box for a striker to finish like SWOS.
At the time of writing the computer AI isn’t great and the goalies appear to be just below Mignolet-standard (see pics!) so if you want to truly challenge yourself it’s best playing against another person but having said that I’ve still found myself enjoying the game trying to work out new scoring angles, trying different methods to open up defences and playing as smaller teams against some giants. There’s also a few competitions to test including a Boss Mode which puts you in charge of different teams with various challenges such as winning a cup or finishing in the top 10 in a league – whilst not quite the management feature of SWOS it’s a nice touch early doors.
At the end of the day it’s a game of two halves and this is an Early Access title so expect plenty of updates and bug fixes - the Steam community are constantly feeding back errors as well as making suggestions on features to improve the game.
Personally, I’m enjoying being able to play this game early; discussing the game on the forums to help the programmers make improvements to the game is a great addition that I’ve never experienced before (mainly due to this being my first Steam game!).
There’s so much opportunity for this to be a great online title and the fact that so many SWOS fans want this to succeed I can see it going from strength to strength with every update and eventually making a serious title challenge on Sensi as the fan’s favourite.
Review by Darren Browne - Aka Kingmonkey25
More info on the game: