Real Soccer 2013
Back of the net, or back to the drawing board?
Given EA's vice-like grip on all things football (the licenses, the names, the teams and the stadiums) it's a bold publisher who titles their game as the 'real' thing, but here we are with another edition of Gameloft's popular Real Soccer 2013 series. As with Pro Evolution Soccer, the likes of Manchester United are strictly off the cards, with vague but allusive titles replacing some of the bigger names. Always a pity, never a surprise.
What you can't knock the game for is presentation, and there's a slick engine driving Real Soccer 2013 and providing some very fluid and accurate animations. Less enjoyable though are the controls themselves, and swapping between players, or attempting a tackle that isn't instantly rewarded with a yellow card can often be a tricky proposition. While practice improves things, you often feel as though you're succeeding against the design odds, rather than mastering the game.
The commentary is so bizarre it's hard to articulate, but if you imagine an American's stereotypical image of a drunken Englishman in a top hat, making an after-dinner speech, then you're most of the way there. The fact is that in England we rely on soon-disgraced sexist, boorish, and occasionally racist football pundits to commentate on our national sport, and very few of them speak like Prince Charles. If the commentary here jarring, it's at least comical at the same time.
While it's not a terrible soccer game by any means, it does try too hard to be a simulation, when in fact it's more reminiscent of the arcade-like FIFA games of old, where running down the center of the pitch with a couple of nifty passes, and powering up a 75% shot at the end of it will more often than not get the ball in the back of the net. It's just a shame that defending afterwards can be such a frustrating affair.
Off the pitch, you'll need to manage your players, develop training facilities and engage in transfers to keep the squad lively and your rookie team on the path to greatness. Popular players will need resting too, a process that you can speed up with the currency you've earned, although play long enough and you'll find yourself slowly inching towards the in-app purchase store to make meaningful progress.
Real Soccer 2013 is well-positioned as a free title, as it's an enjoyable enough kickabout, just as long as you don't try to penetrate too deep beneath the surface. There a moments of jubilation to accompany the frustration, and there's just about enough here to make the game worthy of investigation. Just don't take it too seriously as a simulation of the game.
What's Hot: Slick presentation, and a decent enough arcade football game.
What's Not: The freemium model is both the game's blessing and its curse. The controls and commentary are both equally awkward.