I’ve liked soccer for a long time. I play the hell out of FIFA every time it comes out, and I even enjoy the World Cup versions that come out every four years. I only dabbled with the Street series, but from what I can remember it was a pretty solid, if not mindless, experience. Since EA’s pretty much got the real 11-on-11 version of the sport covered, and there hasn’t been a FIFA Street game in years, there’s been some slack to pick up. That’s where Ubisoft and Pure Futbol step in. Well, Ubisoft sure steps in something, and it’s really unpleasant.
You’ve got four options when starting up a game of Pure Futbol. You can play an exhibition game, start a campaign, hop on Xbox Live, or turn the game off. Since I actually needed to play the game in order to review it, that last choice wasn’t really an option for me. Exhibition mode is pretty self-explanatory, and doesn’t offer anything different than you would expect from a generic sports title. The game’s campaign mode has you creating a character to captain a team, and then gives you twenty-eight days to become the number one team in the world. There are a series of different match types you’ll have the opportunity to test your mettle in like first to two, round robin, mini-tournaments, and more. You’ll be able to recruit players from other teams provided you can meet the match requirement for unlocking their contracts. Many of the requirements are pretty easy to complete, like not getting called for a penalty or taking “X” amount of shots on goal, but others, like scoring on your first shot on goal or allowing a set number of shots on your goalie, are pretty tough to complete. You also earn experience points during these matches to build up the stats of your created captain. It’s all very basic, and plays out quite a bit like the old Street titles used to, only without any of the fun. Trying to play a match online was an exercise in futility as there are little to no people playing this game. It’s nice to know the option is there, I guess.
The biggest problem with the game comes with the action on the pitch. Slow, sloppy, and chock full of maddening moments, a game of Pure Futbol is anything but. The game relies on 5-on-5 matches, which take place on a small soccer field, yet for how few players there are on the pitch, and how open the field is on a breakaway, you never quite feel like the game is moving at the right speed. Everything about the soccer in Pure is slow. The passes are slow, and rarely reach their target. Pure Futbol uses a meter when powering up a shot on goal, and thus most of the shots are in slow motion. Corners are also in slow motion since they rely on the exact same meter. Players run like they’ve been in a marathon for the last three days, and God help you if you use turbo. A mere tap of the sprint button sends your player dashing down the field, with little to no control of the ball, almost always ending in a turnover. That’s the perfect way to end a breakout. The game’s tackling system is extremely flawed as well. You can either slide or step tackle an opponent, but nearly every slide tackle will build up your Foul meter, which when full, results in an automatic penalty kick for the other team. Step tackles are pretty much damn near useless. By the time your player actually attempts the defensive move, the opposing player is already past him. Oh, and the computer will step tackle you at will, and you will always lose possession. The AI is criminally terrible on both ends of the ball, so often it evens out. Though it should be said that instead of relying on good plays, the computer is extremely cheap, and there will be times you find yourself at the mercy of repeated soft goals from midfield.
While I find the propaganda-infused art style of Pure Futbol to be somewhat enjoyable and different, the game’s presentation isn’t anything to write home about. Pretty much every character looks exactly the same except for skin tone and hairstyle, and the odd bulkier body model, and the game’s soundtrack is about as uplifting and memorable as a library on Tuesday afternoon. Player animations aren’t bad, but they’re also not that special. The pitches are extremely boring, and the lack of referees of any kind is odd. Of course, since the developers barely coded any intelligence into the opposing players, perhaps hoping for them to create a referee program is asking a bit much. The whole look and feel is eerily reminiscent of the earliest Street titles, and that’s troubling considering how far graphics have come in the last five years.
Were Pure Futbol a downloadable game, perhaps I wouldn’t have expected so much from it. As it was, I didn’t really have any expectations at all when I started the game up, but Pure Futbol couldn’t even reach my exceptionally low bar after a few matches. The controls are iffy, the soccer is inconsistent, and the game simply cannot hold its own against the far superior products EA released ages ago. Perhaps one day, some developer will be able to recreate the magic of the old Street titles, but all Pure Futbol creates is a steaming pile of easily forgettable garbage.