As the popularity of the Arena Football League grows, so does Electronic Art’s representation of the league on home video gaming systems. To follow up last year’s fresh entry into sports video gaming, EA is hitting the Playstation 2 with Arena Football: Road to Glory.
Unfortunately for pigskin fanatics looking for a huge follow up to last year’s effort, sadly, if you took away the menus and put Arena Football and Arena Football: Road to Glory side-by-side, very few people would be able to pinpoint which game is which. Hopping in for one last go at the previous generation of systems, the title adds a new chunk of features that makes Road to Glory more appealing than its predecessor but those features are hardly new to the sports game genre.
As an off-season alternative to the NFL, AFL steps in to provide a more action-oriented take on the classic sport. With teams of eight players taking both offensive and defensive roles on a 50-yard field as well as walls on the sidelines, games are high-scoring, long-passing, smash mouth affairs.
On the whole, EA captures the heart of the AFL fairly well in the presentation of its video game adaptation.
The menus are clean and easy to navigate, the character models are up to par with the Madden and NCAA levels and the animations are less canned than in past sports games. While the main visual focus of the game is spot on, however, the environments are far less appealing. The stadiums are generic at best and the crowds look incredibly washed out. That being said, as long as the game is motion and distracts a gamer’s eye from the surroundings, Road to Glory features a number of well-done collision animations to stimulate a sports fan’s enjoyment.
On the other spectrum of presentation, Road to Glory fails to please with its recycled sound and lack of play-by-play and color commentary. While the title’s sound effects are spot-on with what is happening on-screen, the generic public announcement post-play dictation fails to impress in a field of sports games that emulate the commentary of actual television events. As much as wicked tackles and wall hits are pleasing to the ears, what players do not hear in the field of commentary is the title’s most glaring weakness.
Fans of EA’s other football franchises who didn’t check out the first Arena Football title should be pleased to know Road to Glory plays almost identically to the company’s other franchises. Those not accustomed to the AFL will learn the nuances of the league’s differing rules quickly, thanks to constant reminders and a number of tutorials. While the difference in rules is enough to make the title a slightly different play experience, the implementation of simultaneous quarterback and receiver control is yet another addition that gives players full control over what is happening on the field.
While the feature can feel rather awkward, especially at first, Road to Glory allows players to switch to a receiver before the snap and control the quarterback with the right analog stick. The combination of controls allows players to have full control of the current play but on the same token it takes away a number of useful quarterback controls such as leading and directing passes. Regardless it’s not a necessary option and can be used as a take-it-or-leave-it experiment.
Unfortunately for football enthusiasts, the AFL titles will have players taking to the air for a majority of the game. Even in short range situations, the nature of the game allows for defensive backs to regularly punish runners rushing through the line. A number of different pass plays feature short range options, though, acting as a better alternative to sucker in the defense and give running backs some breathing room and yardage.
Much like the Madden cards and challenges, Road to Glory features a number of criteria that unlock classic (though obscure) AFL teams when met through in-game play. This year’s entry also implements the classic creation features that allow for custom players and teams.
When you toss in the AFL’s developmental league, the af2, Road to Glory’s set of features definitely beefs up quite a bit, but still most of these features have seen the light of day for quite some time and fail to really spike the replayability and value of the title. Even with the injection of novelty, including a field goal challenge, the title still lacks a number of potent features packed within other football titles from even five years ago.
However, it’s not to say Road to Glory doesn’t have its merits. When you boil it down to what counts, the game play is still satisfying and slamming the offense into submission never gets old through the game’s vicious hit animations and trash talking. With the AFL’s trademark walls and nets, a number of play situations that are impossible in other football titles come into light and ensure that players will make use of the instant replay feature to relive the game’s thunderous tackles, wall flips, fumbles and interceptions.
Road to Glory also supports the oft-not-used online features of the Playstation 2 and, even locally, the game can lead to heated two-player battles in the arena. Thanks to the game’s tight controls, the title is easily accessible to anyone who has tossed the virtual pigskin before and at $29.99, it serves as an appropriate bridge to the next Madden and NCAA offerings. While the title lacks on features or revolutionary content, there is still fun to be had in between the walls and Road to Glory is enough to whet the appetite of anyone looking to put a smashing hit on another player.
Arena Football: Road to Glory is rated E10+ (Everyone 10+) by the ESRB and contains Language and Mild Violence.