Reviewed: March 27, 2007
Released: February 22, 2007
In this, the final days of the beloved PS2, there are still millions of gamers out there who simply cannot spring the bread to pick up Sony’s new monster machine. Those gamers (myself included) are clamoring for some – any – release for their outdated PS2’s. And of all the developers out there hearing the call, EA is definitely making a conscious effort to answer the gamers’ desperate pleas.
While there really has not been a noticeable amount of innovation within the most recent releases, the past few months has seen EA releasing a string of veritable “best of” editions of their most popular franchises – Tiger Woods, NASCAR, Madden – many of which are garnering ratings that eclipse those of the new console versions. Still, there is a point where the releases start bordering on the category of shameless rehashes. Such is the case with Arena Football: Road to Glory.
One year after the release of their technically competent, yet easily overlooked, representation of the Arena Football League (AFL) – EA is back for a second round with Arena Football: Road to Glory. And while there is no doubt that last year’s release was solid enough gameplay-wise to warrant a second season, the fact the franchise failed to garner very much attention in terms of sales makes one wonder why EA even went through the trouble?
The answer, is in Arena Football: Road to Glory itself; the simple fact that the game is nearly identical to last year’s release shows that EA was not jumping through any hoops for their AFL franchise this go-around. Throw in a new roster update, add in a handful of novelty tricks here and there, and dish it all out to the masses – and just hope enough people buy it to recoup the losses.
Arena Football: Road to Glory is every bit as solid as last year’s release of Arena Football. It just lacks enough of anything new to make it worth the trouble.
For those who are not in the know; Arena Football follows most of the general concepts of standard NFL-style football, but with the fast-paced, over-the-top, close-quarters action of indoor soccer. The rules have been tweaked significantly to not only fit the 8-man teams onto the 50-yard playfield, but also to encourage high-scoring action and spectacular tackles.
Everybody knows that EA is one of the most respected names in video games, and with the immense popularity of their keystone Madden series, there is little doubt that they know a little something about football.
That being said, the overall gameplay mechanics of Arena Football: Road To Glory are as rock-solid as that of EA’s NFL game – only with a bit more speed, and a bit less finesse. Don’t be mistaken, EA’s Arena Football series is not a Blitz game – the action here is realistic (for the most part) and challenging. The pass-heavy play (rushing is all but nonexistent in Arena Football) might get a bit frantic at times, but that is more a result of trying to make sense out of the overpopulated and undersized playfield than it is to over-the-top antics of Midway’s series.
Really, the only issue I have with Arena Football: Road To Glory’s gameplay is that it is a near carbon copy of last year’s game. In fact, other than the addition of the AF2 teams (Arena Football’s minor league), there has been very little added to make this year’s model unique from the previous.
That’s not to say that last year’s model did not include some really neat stuff – like the aptly titled “Be the Receiver” mode which gives the gamer the opportunity to run passing routes as the receiver, effectively setting his own pattern to the end zone. Be the Receiver was easily the best part of last year’s release, and it has thankfully made its way into Arena Football: Road To Glory.
But while it can occasionally be cool to play as the lesser known AF2 teams, their inclusion in the game really does not add or subtract to the overall fun, and really only has limited appeal to those gamers who live in the home cities.
Arena Football: Road To Glory looks good on the old PS2, and the developers have done a great job of capturing the visual intensity of Arena Football with great lighting effects and awesome crowd-level camera sweeps.
No surprise, the characters look every bit as good as their Madden counterparts, and retain a decent amount of personality to their movements. The crowds are generally hidden under the cover of darkness during play – which is fine since EA has never been known for throwing a whole lot of emphasis on their paper-cutout crowds. Still, they have achieved a nice sense of excitement what with the popping flash bulbs and great arena signage strewn about.
Road To Glory does a great job capturing the in-the-arena feel with its intense crowd swells, gameplay sound effects, and arena announcers. Sadly absent is any form of broadcast announcer or color commentary – which is especially surprising considering EA’s penchant for having top-notch voice talent in their games. The arena announcer does a stand-up job announcing the results of each play, but without any of EA’s trademark commentary the game sounds a bit desolate.
If you are interested in this niche sport and have not yet played an Arena Football video game, it would be safe to assume that Arena Football: Road To Glory is your best option – especially with its budget price point, the game packs more than enough solid gameplay to warrant a purchase.
But for those of you who have already played through last year’s model, Arena Football: Road To Glory just lacks enough incentive to coerce veteran footballers into signing another year-long contract.
For the second year in a row, I have had a lot of fun with EA’s fledgling Arena Football series. There is no denying that Arena Football: Road To Glory has a bit more to offer than last year’s debut – but not enough really to warrant a second purchase for owners of the first game.
Arena Football noobs and hardcore AFL fans really owe it to themselves to give Arena Football: Road To Glory a try, though.