The first football game to grace the iPhone is the latest in a long line of mobile only titles carrying the Real Football moniker and released as Real Soccer in the United States. Gameloft have already shown that as far as mobile gaming is concerned you can give the reigning champions FIFA and Pro Evolution Soccer a good game, but as they grace the hallowed turf on the iPhone for the first time will they take an early lead in this new championship race?
First impressions are solid if rather unspectacular, the gaming equivalent of Middlesbrough if you like. The presentation is clean, colourful and functional but lacks much of the sparkle we’ve come to expect from Gameloft in the past. There are a lot of modes to choose from as you’d expect including exhibition, cup and league competitions in addition to being able to train and take penalty kicks. Real Football features a wide selection of teams covering all of the major football leagues in Europe and international teams as well however unlike its main rivals none of the team names are drawn from the real world even though player names are included. This does detract from the experience somewhat and you can’t help feel that Gameloft might have been better off settling for consistency over partial realism.
Onto the field of play and first impressions are very good. Visually the game delivers exactly what you’d expect from a handheld mobile title with a bright 3D graphical style that balances a sense of reality with the game arcade leanings. Gameloft have opted to implement a virtual d-pad and A/B button laid over the screen rather than innovate a new control system specifically for the iPhone. During early play this gamble appears to pay off but as is often the case with football this turns out to be a game of two halves.
The player has a good range of actions to perform as they steam towards the opposition goal. The basic short and long passes are in there, along with one-two’s, through balls, chip balls, crossing, headers and the ability to vary shooting and pass strengths. A number of tricks such as step overs are available to the more skilled player which invariably involves tracing elaborate shapes in free space above the A/B buttons. This works well and one does sense a strong connection at this point in the game-play between tactile player input and the movement of the footballer onscreen.
In defence the player can select any of their team members that are onscreen and use a combination of well timed (or otherwise!) close and sliding tackles to dispossess the opposition. Gameloft have clearly ensured all the elements of a great football game are in place but does the title deliver on its early season promise or is it a relegation candidate?
Real Football 2009 does initially delight with some pure football enjoyment but as your skill levels increase the limitations of the touch controls become evident and the game losses much of its early appeal. As you progress through the cup and league competitions the quality levels of the opposition ramps up and you suddenly become aware of how unresponsive the touch controls can be – usually at the vital moment you need a burst of speed to run past an on rushing defender. If you are a fan of fast attacking football and try to play at speed you’ll discover the double tap and hold mechanic for sprinting just isn’t up to the job. This combined with some frankly bemusing defensive AI leads quickly to fits of rage, first at your own inability to pull off the action you desire and then more importantly towards the game for not being able to provide the level of control required.
After making a sparkling start to its football career the story of Real Football 2009 is one of misspent talent – all the right ingredients are there but it just doesn’t deliver a world beating performance when it matters. iPhone owners that want a good looking footie game to drop into for a few minutes and impress their mates will find Real Football 2009 fits the bill perfectly. More demanding players will ultimately discover a game that due to a couple of key flaws doesn’t quite have the stamina to go the distance. In that sense Real Football 2009 is the Stan Collymore of mobile football games. A capable stop gap while we await the emergence of fresh new talent.
- Title: Real Football 2009 (Real Soccer 2009 in US)
- Publisher: Gameloft
- Developer: Gameloft
- Price: $9.99