24 October 2017
While I very much enjoyed doing my match report for Sociable Soccer, it wasn't much of a review, more a celebration of the silliness that I loved from the original game, replicated in the spiritual successor. For the younger and more luddite scamps among us, Sociable Soccer has been directed by Jon Hare, responsible for seminal 90s footy games Sensible Soccer and Sensible World of Soccer. If you're of an age, and played computer games, the likelihood is you played and loved Sensi.
You will also have been disappointed with efforts so far to revive the franchise. The turn of the century effort was simply bad, failing to capture the mechanics of the original and running like an amputee pooch on all but the most powerful machines. Another attempt was made in 2006, going for a big head style, and released unfinished on consoles that didn't support patching. We Sensi fans have had our share of false dawns.
Sociable Soccer is very early access, so it does have some problems at this stage of development. The AI doesn't seem good enough at the moment. I've not been challenged in any vs the AI game I've played. The goalies are also presently weak against balls with a bit of curve on them. As I said, early access. All of this can be improved, and forgiven for now, because they've got so much else right.
There's a sideways view on the action, which I jipped off immediately in favour of the traditional overhead view. Modern games such as FIFA and PES are more about close control; Sensi and Sociable both provide a wider view of the pitch which allows you to think more strategically, making long balls, sorry, I mean cultured distanced passes, much easier to achieve.
This is complemented with Sociable's other big USP, after touch control. It's completely unrealistic. Even Messi doesn't get to alter the flight of a ball after it has left his foot, but it works in a computer game, and feels so damn satisfying when you get it right. Beyond the short pass, nearly everything else in FIFA and PES feels situational. It's rare to use the lob button outside of a cross. Sociable opens all that up, the combination of wider view and a wider range of passing providing the keys.
In its present state, it won't be unseating the twin juggernauts of FIFA and PES as many folks go to footy game, but for me, it has already passed one of its biggest tests. Does it feel like Sensi? I can say that it does. If they can sharpen up the AI before the retail launch, it'll feel like a winner.