The World Cup is just around the corner, so it's easy to presume that the majority of the globe is pretty hyped about the tournament. With that in mind, Ubisoft have decided to try and capitalise on this by releasing a game endorsed by England and Liverpool superstar, Steven Gerrard, called Pure Football. Unlike most of the other football games though, Pure Football is a 5-a-side affair, much like Academy of Champions which was released last year by Ubisoft. It promotes a much more arcade feel, with the majority of rules left on the actual pitch - something which is promoted in the initial cutscene for the game.
The Campaign Mode starts off with a custom-made nation, and a bunch of rag-tag players. They also get the chance to make their own player, who will be the linchpin of their team throughout the campaign. It's possible to select a kit (home and away) and a logo, and from here the objective is to qualify for the World Cup. The team, as expected, starts in the bottom ranking spot and to progress they must win events. Winning will typically promote a player's team up the rankings by one spot, but it's also possible to fall down the rankings by losing. Points for very slim originality in its concept, and a few more for how players improve their squads.
There are a few different scenarios to each event. These range from winning by x amount of goals, winning a 3/5 minute match or taking part in a tournament with three other teams. The amount of variety isn't exactly huge and with only 17 different teams, there isn't much vaiety in the opposition either - not even all of the nations are competing in the World Cup. As players progress through the campaign, they will go against progressively harder teams and in each match, it's possible to obtain players from the opposition teams by meeting certain objectives. This could be, scoring a certain amount of goals, having a good pass percentage completion rate, or only allowing a certain amount of opposition shots. Once they're unlocked, they can then be selected for the player's team. Pure points can also be unlocked, via gameplay, and these are used to upgrade the player that was created at the start of the campaign.
The gameplay is based around a 5-a-side mechanic, and in essense, it's all very simple. Players can pass, shoot, play a long ball or a through ball. Nothing out of the ordinary, but how they work is, due to the arcade nature of the game, slightly different. As the game is called 'Pure Football', some aspects of the game rely on a 'Pure' mechanic. Whenever shooting or crossing, players are greeted with a circular bar which fills up. It initially starts green, then has a small segment of white, and red afterwards. The green section denotes a normal action, with differing power, but the white option denotes a 'Pure' action. This is the best that can be done and doing this will add 'Pure' points, which can be used to upgrade things. If the bar gets into the red, this denotes a bad action, so a shot will go off target and a cross won't meet another player.
The problem with most of the actions is that they just aren't overly responsive. Passing is a bit annoying, because AI players don't necessarily move into useful locations, crossing is sometimes temperamental as to when it wants to work (sometimes it simply does a long ball despite players being in the box). The through ball isn't really anything of the sort, it's just a manual pass in a straight line which players can control the strength of. The defensive side of the game doesn't hold up much better either, as the normal tackling can be quite annoying. Holding down the 'pressure' button causes players to shadow their opponents, but it's not possible to run while doing this. It's also possible to side-step, but even if a tackle is made there's no guarantee the defender will win the ball. If this is the case, a reckless sliding tackle will certainly bring them down, and as there's no ref, there's no penalty - unless consequetive fouls are committed.
The system initially feels very boring and clunky, but it does seem quite competant after a while. However, it's more about adapting to the system, than the system actually becoming good. It performs its task of being a football game, but there's very little inspiring about it, and with the defensive side of the game being quite poor, conceding bad goals is quite a realistic possibility.
Graphically, Pure Football is pretty decent. Each of the 230 players present in the game do actually look like their real-life counterparts though, which is impressive. The sound is sometimes questionnable though, as often there's a random voice that sounds out encouraging words in a very stereotypically English accent, even when there are no English players on the field. The sound is also decent, but nothing about it stands out.
Upon completing the Career Mode, it's possible to upload the finished create-a-player for the rest of the world to buy. To compete online, players must re-create a team, plus any secret (legend) characters they unlocked throughout the career mode. The online is plagued with lag though, something which absolutely kills the game as timing is exceedingly crucial. There also don't seem to be any penalties for people rage-quitting, which is very disapppointing. It seems as though Ubisoft attempted to take online seriously, with plenty of unlocks available and a league system, but other aspects are very inadequate.
Pure Football is a pretty solid 5-a-side football game, but it doesn't really excel in any way. Steps have been taken to make the online experience a good one, but it's let down severely in other areas and it really hampers the experience. The actual gameplay is quite clunky and the career mode is also pretty short. It all just points to a game that was pushed out in time for the World Cup.