Review – Real Soccer 2008

When I first spotted “Real Soccer” in my local game shop, I was initially under the impression that the game’s name was an indication of a metaphysical breakthrough at Ubisoft labs. Sick of titles stuck with the “virtual” nomenclature, Ubisoft had determined – Matrix-like – that they could decide what is and is not real. I mean, what is “reality,” anyway, right? Yeah.

Sadly, however, the title instead betrays the pathetic lack of sports titles for the DS. Not “this is real soccer,” but “omigosh! Honest-to-goodness real soccer on the DS!!” It makes more sense when one appreciates that the title’s name is Real Football in the UK, and there are probably plenty of British dudes who are sick of us calling our decidedly un-foot-centric game by the name of football, but whatever. I hate British people. They say “cheers” too much.

That bottom map sure is exciting.

Anyway, Real Soccer is fun. Unlike most DS games, which I play only when shitting or transiting, I have been known to occasionally play this game on my couch. The AI is dumb as rocks, and will occasionally run in the other direction while I sprint unimpeded for an easy one-on-one versus the goalie. It’s hard to play defense, and your players seem to run on rails to the point where it’s impossible to keep them from taking the ball out of bounds. And it’s hard to pick the player you’re controlling, or who you’re passing to… and well you get the point. In a lot of ways, Real Soccer blows.

Probably the ultimate way in which it blows (and the way in which it causes me to blow) is the tacked-on mic capability. Ubisoft wants us players to bitch and moan about officiating decisions that don’t go our way by screaming into the mic. When the ref legitimately points out that I tried to take out my digital foes’ kneecaps, and proceeds to penalize me for it, the game instructs me to yell at the microphone in order to reverse the decision.

Unfortunately, I have no doubt that the game can tell precisely when and how I am performing an illegal activity, because it’s a fucking video game. I don’t want to yell at my little box on the subway for doing something I believe to be perfectly fair and reasonable. The ref was not looking the other way, nor was he paid off by nefarious digital gangsters. If he says I performed an illegal tackle, it’s because his accurate analysis of the 1’s and 0’s that make up our little game told him so. My eyes deceive me, the 0’s and 1’s don’t. Unfortunately, if I don’t yell at it (or at least make some noise) than I am sure to get a worse penalty, so I blow on the microphone instead, which is still embarrassing. Hence the needlessly awkward transition that begins this paragraph.

97% of all goals in soccer games are made with bicycle kicks.

Apparently, another thing that sucks about this game is the lack of real soccer players. Since I barely know the names of three of them, I could care less, but apparently this is a big to to serious die-hard soccer fans. That said, I think that even if I were a serious hooligan I might not care either. In our American football universe, we humble gamers have long suffered under the tyrannical rule of turducken-consuming John Madden and his lackluster football franchise. Better game designers have been cowed into inaction by EA’s purchase of the rights to every football player and coach, and I want to take the time here to say that it is bullshit.

I for one couldn’t care less if none of the players on my favorite St. Louis Rams football team are included, and it’s not just because they suck. It’s because the players in my digital football universe are just not the same as those in the real one, and that’s how I like it. I own those players on my Madden Franchise, and I’m pretty sure that if I met – say, Ray Lewis – that the relationship wouldn’t be quite the same. And since monopolization of players’ licenses is what’s keeping there from being greater competition in the sports gaming universe, I care even less about what the players are named. I just want some entertaining gaming.

Similarly, I am willing to look past all the real flaws in Real Soccer because regardless of them, the game is still fun. In fact, my main problem with this game is not its bugginess but the fact that it is too fun in a particular way. As stated above, I enjoy my DS while partaking in bowel movements. I do this several times a day, and there are few things I enjoy as much as taking a nice long cleansing shit while leisurely watching sexually ambiguous heroes fight their way to a happy ending. I can easily shit and do this at the same time. Real Soccer, however, involves rapid, instinctual muscle movements; the kind that occasionally invade the part of my brain that governs other muscle movements (specifically the ones down there). Anyway this is less enjoyable than the shits I am involved in while playing, say, Revenant Wings.

I also find the “league” play a little obnoxious, if only that there is no playoff after the end of what we in the states call a “regular” season. If you aren’t #1 (and dammit, I was #2) the game simply tells you “Game Over” like you ran out of quarters. I haven’t really come up with a good conclusion to this article, so I’m just going to leave you with the same sort of ending so that you can feel a hint of the dissatisfaction I felt when Team Berlin unexpectedly met with sudden doom after an inspiring, odds-defying rise to the (near) top of the standings. Game Over.

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