December 20, 2013
Almost everything about Speedball 2 HD is the same as the original version. This means you will take over a rather poor Speedball team named Brutal Deluxe and you are tasked with winning all of the major trophies within a certain amount of time.
Teams are comprised of ten core players, with three subs. These are then split into the four different positions: your keeper, three defenders, three midfielders and three attackers. Each player has quite a range of stats and early on you’ll want to assign positions based upon these. However, your ultimate goal is to just max them all on every character.
Diving into the gameplay, all matches take part in a metal arena. Your main objective is to score a goal, but there are quite a few different ways to score points and also, increase the points you get for standard scoring. First up, you get 20 points for a goal, but you can also get smaller totals, such as 2 points for hitting a node at each end. These can then be multiplied by throwing the ball through a loop-the-loop which is on each side of the arena.
Speedball a very violent sport, so the objective is to take possession by nailing the opposition. This is where the stats come in, because they make a huge difference. If you have managed to acquire a very strong player early on, he will be able to fend off attacks from weak opponents, run faster and basically just be a powerhouse. Likewise, if the opposition have players who are significantly better than yours, they will steamroll you.
This very element highlights how out of date the AI is. Even going against a team that is equal to yours on paper, you can quite easily rack up scores in the hundreds. If you play against a team who are worse on paper, you will annihilate them. The AI is very easy to exploit and if you have strength on your side, it becomes a bit of a humiliation. Despite this, should you be paired against a team with considerably better stats than your own, they will also hammer you. It means the experience is never all that challenging, as while there will be a few instances where you’re on the receiving end of a bad result, the majority of the time that’s not the case.
You can, ignoring cup competitions, conceivably go through the first season without even conceding a goal, such is the nature of the AI.
Still, when it comes to the core gameplay, Speedball 2 is pretty simple, but still rewarding. You can either choose to throw the ball when in possession or tackle someone when out of possession. It’s how you perform these actions that makes all the difference. And when you do end up in a match that’s quite close, the strategy and tension that the developers surely hoped to garner comes out in full force.
For this reason, the lack of online multiplayer is questionable. In the past, Speedball 2 came alive when playing with friends, but Speedball 2 HD only supports local multiplayer. That’s fine if you have a few Xbox 360 controllers lying around, but PC gaming isn’t exactly known for local multiplayer. It means the lack of online multiplayer comes across as a missed opportunity.
Graphically, Speedball 2 HD looks pretty decent. It’s very faithful to the original graphics, but with a slight upgrade to make everything have just a little bit more sheen. This is true in actual matches, but can also be seen in the varying menu screens.
Speedball 2 HD is a competent remake of a 90s classic, but it doesn’t achieve anything beyond this basic level of competency. The AI is still just as easy to exploit as it was back then and with no online multiplayer, it means there isn’t that much challenge offered by this experience. Still, the gameplay is still fun and while you won’t have too much trouble winning everything, you will likely still enjoy doing so - it’s just a shame more wasn’t done to try and update the experience.