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Super Arcade Football Review


The next time someone asks me what superpower I would want, I’m going to opt for the Sensible Soccer aftertouch. Whenever something is just missing its target, I’ll be able to bend it subtly back in the right direction. Missing a throw at the bin? I’ll aftertouch it and send it back on course. Chucked a frisbee over the fence? It’s coming right back. Darwin Nunez missing a sitter on the telly? I’m going to aftertouch it from my couch. Honestly, I don’t think you should sleep on the Sensible Soccer aftertouch superpower.

There’s nothing quite like scoring a goal with maximum aftertouch. Every shot feels like it’s been made by Roberto Carlos, starting from outside the post and then bending just inside it. I spent ages mastering the art on Sensible Soccer and Kick Off over the years. And now that skill has inexplicably become useful to me again! Thanks, Super Arcade Football. it’s just as purely joyful as it always was. 

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Super Arcade Football is clearly made by a team who loves Kick Off and Sensible Soccer at least as much as I did. The perspective is the same, with a kind of bird’s eye view of the action. The aftertouch is the same. And perhaps even more importantly than that aftertouch, the names of the footballers are the same. It wouldn’t be Sensible Soccer without a complete lack of official license, leading to the developers creating some subtle but clever variants on player names. 

From the very start, it’s clear that Super Arcade Football is rather special, and not a cheap football hack job like we often see on the Xbox Store. That’s because it seems to have a Todd Boehly approach to populating the game with modes: i.e. instead of being picky about what to include, it’s just gone and included everything. 

There are pre-fab tournaments that you can pick up and quickly start. These are great because they not only include the obvious – your World Cups and Champion’s League style setups – but there are some bonkers, leftfield inclusions too. You can play a tourney where you have to make do with a team full of strikers, or everyone’s slower than Razor Ruddock. We loved window-shopping for new ways to play, just to see what the devs dreamed up.

There’s a Quick Match, which will be the mainstay of many a multiplayer match (Super Arcade Football allows up to four players on one console), and Online matches where you and four others can swiftly play someone else in the world. There’s not a huge number of people currently available for a game – we only managed to find two games, and both of our opponents scarpered pretty quickly, presumably on the hunt for the 10 Online wins achievement – but it’s great to have that online capability. You’d be surprised how many budget footy games don’t bother. 

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Most importantly, there’s the Story mode, which is something that developers OutOfTheBit Ltd absolutely nail into the top bins. They’ve pulled the same trick that they did in Super Arcade Racing – a game that we’re also lucky to be playing this week – where a traditionally simple arcade-like game is given a full-blown campaign. In Super Arcade Football, you can play dozens of carefully curated matches against CPU opponents, and those matches each have their own tics and curiosities. 

In Story mode, you play the shaggy-haired Martin, who wanders into Balarm F.C., his favourite club and a bit of a fallen giant, only to be offered the club for a quid. He buys it, installs himself as manager, and then takes the team on a dream run to the pinnacle of Europe. It’s Ted Lasso, basically, but with a Championship Manager fan replacing both Ted and the owner. On the way, you gain a monocled nemesis (and his horse), and a love interest in the form of a rival manager. 

The campaign takes the form of a shedload of matches, all with different sub-objectives that will gain you more stars (frustratingly, there’s no real use for them – at least that we could find), like scoring from outside of the box and avoiding yellow cards. But the matches have their own quirks too. Sometimes you can be playing indoor football, with the ball bouncing off the sides of the pitch. Other times you can be dodging meteors, or getting stuck in oil slicks. Basically it’s everything that Gianni Infantino should be doing with football right now. Forget three-team qualifying stages: we need bears running across the pitch. 

But while I’m smitten with these additions, and they did a lot to keep me interested, they’re more of a footnote, as the main focus is the football. And the football is as slick as you’d hope it would be. 

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Perhaps surprisingly, everything is done through the A button. When in possession, you tap A for a pass, or hold it for a shot. Everything is contextual: hold A from the wing and you will likely do a looped cross. Aim at the goal, and the A will be a howitzer shot. There’s an auto-pass at play, so the ball will tend to lock onto the player you’re aiming at and land at their feet. And, of course, you can apply aftertouch to move the ball once it’s on its way, bending the ball into the path of a forward runner, or moving tantalisingly out of reach of the opponent’s goalie. 

When not in possession, the A becomes a scything tackle. That’s fine, though, because Super Arcade Football leans into the ‘Arcade’ of its title and lets you get properly physical. We’re getting close to ‘Red Card’ territory, a lesser known football game that lets you crunch into other players, and even rewards you for it. Here, you can cut away legs from the back, and even start some off-the-ball shenanigans, and Super Arcade Football tends to let you off. We say ‘tends’ because it’s reasonably erratic and is certainly capable of handing you a straight red or yellow for something that you didn’t even get pulled up on before. We’d have liked a touch more consistency.

That one-touch football is going to be polarising. It’s certainly easy to pick up. There’s no need for tutorials or onboarding as you can immediately start competing, and the earliest matches are so simple that you’re going to be banging in four or five per match. From there, you’re picking up tricks as you play through the Story, eventually being able to take on the latter matches which can veer to the extremely hard. 

But Super Arcade Football also drags that skill ceiling way, way down, to the point where some players – I suspect – will find it all a bit one-dimensional. By mid-point of the story, I felt like I had already reached my zenith. I was scoring goals from the same places (diagonal across the goalie; cross and bicycle kick) and I was approaching the games in much the same way – even when there were occasional meteors. 

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It’s also got its game-specific quirks that hopefully get ironed out. Most footie games have them, so we completely understand when it happens to a £8.39 budget title. The AI on the goalies is extremely suspect, and you’ll be cursing your own on more than one occasion. They perform super-saves, but if there’s a shot straight down the middle from the halfway line? Well, suddenly they go a bit David James. 

It’s extremely hard for a team to clear their lines, too, with goalies only capable of punting it about a quarter of the pitch. Without a radar (a big miss), you can often send it out to Devid Peckham who will lob it back at goal. Of course, you can take advantage of that too: it’s often easier to reclaim possession from the opponent’s goalie than dribbling it there yourself. Just punt it up to Seeman, and then circle round him until he gives it back to you.

But while Super Arcade Football is too simple, and I longed for a keeper-rush, a through-ball or some kind of dinked lob, I can’t deny that it’s as slick as Jock Greelish’s hair. With the one-button controls, you can pull off extremely precise shots and passes thanks to the auto-aim and aftertouch, and it all amounts to a game of football that is far, far superior than most of the sub-£10 football tosh that we tend to play. On the budget end, we can’t recall an alternative that is this good between the sticks, or this fully featured. 

Sensible Soccer and Kick Off fans rejoice! You’ve finally got a spiritual successor in Super Arcade Football on the Xbox. Now, let’s party like it’s 1999. 

You can buy Super Arcade Football from the Xbox Store

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