Seeing as football is the world’s most loved, most watched sport, you’d think there would be more room in the gaming market aside from the two heavy hitters. But if truth be told, for more than two decades, Konami with their PES franchise, and EA with the might of FIFA, have absolutely dominated the scene, so much so that other pretenders to the crown have not even bothered to turn up.
But this is where Unfinished Pixel come in. Hot on the heels of the rather decent Super Tennis Blast, and then the relatively fun Super Volley Blast, comes Super Soccer Blast – an arcade-styled football game that is looking to win over a new set of fans.
The problem is, whilst there is probably space in the market for a decent arcade football game, this isn’t the game to fill it. And that is all due to a number of bugs, glitches, and a footballing experience that is far from honed.
Super Soccer Blast really does take an arcade look at things, with bright, colourful cartoony visuals that are a far cry from what we have come to know and love from those games that try to replicate every minute detail of our beautiful game. That’s not necessarily an issue though, as graphics do make a game not. But then, when combined with some rather slow-paced, pedestrian-like match experiences, and an utter dearth of content to get involved in, things never really get going with this arcade option.
Hitting the pitch in the normal manner will see you allowed the opportunity to choose from a number of preset teams, with fun kits that border on the replication of those that the real-world superstars wear. In fact, I’m amazed that Unfinished Pixel have got away with the likenesses they’ve used here, especially as there are no official licenses in place. But that’s not stopping them with Soccer Blast, and if you wish to play as a team called Liverpool, or another called Barcelona, both with parody badges that are pretty close to the real thing, then you can do so. But hey, I’m no lawyer.
There are 10 club teams included in all, taking in a variety of the biggest teams from around the globe, plus another 16 national sides, pretty much covering all of the most iconic teams. Who you choose in Super Soccer Blast matters little though, as along with the team name and crest, everything else is totally made up, with random fake player names filling out the rosters as the matches play out. If those teams don’t suit you though, the opportunity to create your own team, amending the squad roster and creating random kits, crests, flags and brands is appreciated. You can go deeper still with a full character editor should you so wish to, making the perfect – or freakiest – player you can imagine. Props go out to Unfinished Pixel for allowing such an in-depth editor.
Let’s be honest though, messing around and creating new players will only get you so far with a football game, and whilst EA can get away with it due to the depth and knowledge dropped into their Pro offerings, this is certainly no match to that.
In fact, this is no FIFA anything, as Super Soccer Blast is massively stripped from there on out. You see, trying to involve yourself in a number of matches will offer the chance to work your way through one of five preset tournaments – again, with the opportunity to create your own custom competition if you wish. From those present, you’re probably looking at a couple of hours of gametime on the shortest match length – with a League of Champions, Mediterranean League, Mondo Cup, EuroChamps and Fiesta Tournament bringing together a number of different teams for a chance of success. Win any of them and you’ll be rewarded handsomely – with the knowledge that you have managed to battle it out against some of the most tiresome football-themed gameplay I’ve come across.
The problem is that no matter which of these competitions you play through, or if you decide to run a quick one-off custom match, the on-field matters will be the same throughout. And that is where Super Soccer Blast comes massively unstuck. Again, that’s mostly down to the fact that as football fans we’ve been treated to some rather solid, hugely exciting moments in the gaming scene, with both FIFA and PES pushing out annually updated experiences that delve into the finer footballing arts. I guess I shouldn’t compare because, well, apples and oranges and all that, but this is still a football game at heart. Just not a particularly good one.
Yep, no matter whether you play alone against the AI (across difficulty levels ranging from Very Easy up to Hard), or with and against a local sofa-based mate, across 5 minute matches or through a full 90 minute slog, the football experience delivered here fails to excite. The pace of the action is too slow, the passing system when you are trying to pick out a teammate is inaccurate; it’s dodgy at best when attempting to ping a wazzed through ball, scoring a goal never feels earnt, dribbling is pretty much a non-event, and utilising any form of tactic or team strategy is thrown out the window from the very first whistle.
In fact, the only really good bit of gameplay that Super Soccer Blast excels in is found in the brilliant sliding tackle, as the arcade physics take hold and see players screaming about the pitch like an old-school 1970’s hardman. There are seemingly no red or yellow cards to worry about here either; the fact there is no ref, nor linesman, to pick up on any misdemeanour probably helps.
That’s not to say you can’t foul players in Super Soccer Blast, for you can. But you should possibly consider not doing so as this runs the risk of the opposing team refusing to take the freekick, crashing your game and sending you spiralling back to the Xbox dash. This isn’t an always-on regular occurrence, but it’s happened to me more times than I wish to detail with Super Soccer Blast, with the whole game pretty much on-edge throughout – even in terms of the camera, this occasionally stutters and lags in its attempt to keep up with play.
It’s not helped that further to all that you’ll find opposition players either running around like headless chickens (in the Very Easy difficulty), or playing out of their skins as absolute world beaters, scoring from 50 yards without a care in the world. It’s hard to find a proper optimum difficulty that will see your skills tested and let you build on what you’ve learnt whilst still keeping games close. And no matter what skill level you are playing on, players from either team will often be found standing next to a ball, afraid of what might happen to them should they decide to pick it up and go for a dribble. Then, when you do make it through a half and want to scour the stats to see how you are getting on, they are consistently incorrect, nearly always showing one team with a possession rate of 0% no matter how close the game. It’s the little things that make a game, but in Super Soccer Blast it’s the little things that ruin it.
For the potential that Super Soccer Blast on Xbox One brings, it consistently fails to deliver, with bugs, glitches and an overriding rushed feeling provided throughout. Even though the in-game mechanics aren’t the best, it could well have still been an arcade football game worth playing. But it comes with a severe lack of game options, zero online capabilities and enough bugs and glitches bubbling around, ready to explode, to ensure that this is one to avoid. After previous success in the sports field – particularly with Super Tennis Blast – I’m sure the team at Unfinished Pixel will be working to rectify the problems that keep cropping up, but in the meantime stick to your FIFA and PES. No matter how much you might complain about them.