"Up there Cazaly, in there and fight" ...ah yes it's coming up again to the one day in September where the men are sorted from the mice and someone wins the flag. Last year it was Sydney, hurrah and all for that but unfortunately AFL hasn't had a videogame to match the popularity of the sport for sometime now and it wasn't until Sony took over the license that we actually had some games to look forward to. The first few have been a little lacking but showed signs of where we are now - a quality AFL game. IR Gurus have finally cracked it and the sport has a game to be proud of, it's just a shame it has taken so long.
AFL Premiership 2006 obviously offers the modes that you come to expect - exhibition, season, franchise etc but having this depth in a game which is only going to be released in Australia is quite astounding. IR Gurus have really taken an EA approach to the game in trying fit anything and everything associated with the sport into the game and have done quite well. The real meat and potatoes obviously comes from the franchise mode where there is so much depth AFL fans will appreciate the small touches that the developers have included.
Obviously in franchise mode you pick your team, and try and win the flag continuously ala the old teams of clubs such as Carlton and Adelaide. This is harder than it sounds especially because IR Gurus have definitely gone for a more simulation approach rather than an arcade format for the game this time around. You will have to deal with suspensions from the judiciary, injuries across multiple games and tough opponents across multiple seasons. For those who don't want to have to deal with the inter-season negotiations and changes, single seasons can be played out as well beginning from the NAB Cup or even the start of the Final series.
As stated, the developers have gone down the simulation path for this one and it has paid off handsomely for them. Rather than kick the ball and hope for the best, you have to kick, get in position and try and mark the ball, just like in the real game. There is a lot more fouls as well and if you play rough, you're going to lose players as well as matches. This may turn a few gamers off especially because the first hour or so is a lesson in frustrating sports games. Not because it has poor controls, but because the simulation is of such a level that you really have to work hard to learn how to play this game.
In terms of licensing the game is unmatched. With the one hundred percent exclusive license from Demetriou and his buds working down in Melbourne, IR Gurus have had unprecedented access to clubs but there are a few disappointments with the graphics and licensing. However the good outweighs the bad. The atmosphere of the sport is captured incredibly well via commentators such as Dennis Commetti. The Channel Ten crew has been dumped in favor of the superior Nine, with Brereton providing supporting comments. The players are also officially licensed via the players association and all the big names feature heavily and obviously can kick the ball much better than others due to the accurate statistics system.
The licensing also continues regarding the stadiums with every team's stadium featured such as the MCG, Docklands, Gabba and Subiaco just to name a few. They have replicated them to the nth degree and it is easy to tell where the game is taking place via the architecture rather than having to read the text. The TV style presentation is also a carry on from the license with the game featuring Friday Night Football, Sunday afternoon football etc. To add to the effect even more, the cameras used to replicate that used during TV coverage with a side on view by default, and angled view used for instant replays of goals.
Naturally with this many positive comments for the stadiums, the graphics have to be impressive and for the most part they are. There is still a little room for improvement and perhaps it's time they moved on from Renderware but the motion capture and detail of the players is good enough. One thing we did notice is there is not as much detail as you might expect. For instance Barry Hall hasn't had hair for years, yet in AFL 2006 he does. Obviously this is a level of detail you expect from a publisher like EA, but it still kills the authenticity of the game somewhat.
AFL Premiership 2006 is the best AFL game yet but still has someway to go before it can compete with the FIFA and NBA's of the sports gaming world. What it sets out to do it does well and considering we're now entering the PS3 era, it's exciting IR Gurus got it so right for what will probably be the final PS2 game and makes us wonder if it jumps to PS3, which we are sure it will, what we can expect from those south of the NSW border call the best game of all.