Reviewed on Xbox One, copy supplied by the AFL.
Look, sometimes it’s hard to be critical and still appear unbiased. But also… sometimes something is so objectively terrible you have to hold its head underwater whilst gently sobbing. Nobody wants the savagery, but sometimes you need to go there.
Yeah, that’s a strong statement of intent to start a game review on, but the following is unfortunately something that needs to be done to ensure something like this never happens again.
AFL Evolution isn’t a good game. If it were released fifteen years ago, it still wouldn’t be a good game, but it would make a lot more sense.
Giving credit where credit is due, I think a lot of the issues have to do with the nature of Australian Football as a sport. It isn’t as easy to translate to the gaming world as football (soccer), American football, basketball, hockey, or rocket propelled cars defying physics. The sheer size of the field and the often chaotic start/stop nature of plays make it hard for AI to act logically. That being said, there’s a difference between meeting a challenge and being defeated by it, and in other hands this could have been a great title.
AFL Evolution kicks off with a menu screen where you can jump straight into an exhibition game, play online, start a competition or launch career mode. What is sorely missing is any kind of tutorial or training, which would help ease you into the brutally difficult and tiring start to the experience you’re about to have.
To understand the basic gameplay I had to pause and read the controller bindings, and even then the actual timings and flow had to be found through trial and error. It’s not a great initiation into any game, and the fact that the mechanics are relatively intricate make it a baffling mistake.
Reviewing or intercepting a mark, probably the bread and butter of gameplay, is never fully explained. In most instances it’s easier to perform superhuman runs or hand balling between players FIFA style to get near a goal. It turns out to receive a mark you need to hold a button for a specific amount of time, but even then it doesn’t always work out. On occasion you’ll get a notification that you timed your mark perfectly, only to have the ball magnetically shoot to a different player, often clipping through character models or defying the basic laws of gravity.
Kicking goals isn’t much better, as the sliders and power ups erratically swing from snail crawl to deep in the red, making you spoon your kick. Set pieces are slightly better, but look absolutely disgusting with the wind direction indicator dragging across the screen like a rash of arrows.
Playing against AI opponents ranges from stealing candy from a baby, to having your baby and candy stolen by a giant ogre. Going from beginner to easy mode is relatively doable, but stepping up to mid level spikes the difficulty drastically. It’s hard to retain possession for any amount of time as you get absolutely steam rolled. If it were a matter of ‘gitting gud’ it might be worth persevering with, but getting good would mean having to play AFL Evolution more, so no thanks to that.
The career mode itself is pretty much taken directly from FIFA‘s book, but somehow much nastier looking, which is saying something. If you wanted to keep playing against AI, this would be your go to mode.
After some time getting a grip with the controls I enjoyed the game slightly, but in a sense you sometimes enjoy the games on a long haul flight. It’s not technically good, but it passes the time when you’re literally a prisoner in the sky.
Against friends I can imagine AFL Evolution being somewhat fun, in the same way it’s sometimes fun to see how many chips you can fit in your mouth. You might laugh a bit, but you’re still packing garbage into your face to pass the time.
Picking teams is a bit strange at the moment because all of the Premiere clubs have the same star rating. Maybe the stats aren’t intricate enough to differ beyond player model aesthetics, so the only differences are team colours and faces? Whatever the reason, it’s really weird.
Topping it all off, the graphics, frame rate and general interface are straight up archaic and the general handling of the game would be questionable in the early days of the Xbox 360. The commentary is also fucking abysmal, to the point I singled it out in its own article. Oh, and player models mostly look like drunken caricatures of their real life counterparts.
Saying all this doesn’t feel good, and having to think about the game for as long as I have is awful, so I might try and round off with a positive note and move on forever. There are lots of jerseys to choose from and the inclusion of under paid female teams is a nice touch.
To sum it all up, Quidditch World Cup was a better game and that’s a fake sport for magical children.