Back in the day, football games weren't quite so obsessed with realism, be it in the form of more advanced animation systems, complex weather simulations, or adding yet more blades of grass to the beautiful pitch. Instead, they were all about the fun - partially because technical limitations meant that was all they could be. Stripping away the complexities, games like Sensible Soccer, and, well, Kick Off, put all their efforts into creating an arcade style game that captured the essence of football, without anything in the way of overhead and frills, and became a regular fixture of many a game night.
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Seemingly feeling the football games of today have become a bit too po-faced - a bit too much of a sim, and not enough fun - Dino Dini, the man behind Kick Off, decided the time was right to bring the football games of old back - and so, Kick Off Revival was born.
A PS4 exclusive (at least, for now), Kick Off Revival is, like it says on the tin, a reinvention of the football games of old. If you're familiar with the older footie games, Kick Off Revival will tick almost every box you're looking for - from the second you hear the glorious chip-tune music, to the moment your tiny, blocky players run out on to the pitch, complete with fake names due to licensing issues (Wane Rooney and Harrison Cane are upfront for England, while Jo Hert provides a steady pair of hands at the back), this is a love letter to nostalgia. But if you've only ever really played FIFA or PES, you might find this a little bit tricky to get to grips with, as this is nothing like your modern football game.
Perhaps the biggest difference here is that the ball doesn't actually stick to your feet in Kick Off Revival - at least, not without holding a button. Unfortunately, there's nothing in the way of a tutorial to tell you this, and so your first few games are mostly spent running around the ball rather than with it, as you try to figure out how best to attempt something even approaching a dribble without having to sit and watch the ball trundle slowly away. Before too long, though, the bits start to fall into place, and you'll soon be having plenty of fun - especially if you're playing against a human opponent, and laughing at each other's incompetence. Even taking a corner is harder than it looks.
Unlike most modern games, Dino Dini's Kick Off is a game that focuses entirely around one button - the X Button. Everything you do, whether it's a pass, a cross, a shot, or a header is handled on that one button, with the difference between a pass and a shot being determined by some witchcraft that seems to take into account where your player is, how long you hold the button for, and what you do with the analogue stick.
Seemingly, under the surface, there's a pretty complex list of things you can do to modify your shots, whether you're adding after-touch for gorgeous curving free kicks, or simply tweaking how high you kick the ball, if you're looking to chip the keeper. Unfortunately, as the game has nothing in the way of a tutorial, you're mostly left to figure this all out for yourself. Somehow, that means that, despite only using one button, Kick Off Revival is one of the least intuitive games we've played. It took us getting on for six games, for example, to realise that we could hold X to hold the ball close, and dribble with it.
That said, if you're playing against someone who's equally as bad as you, not being the best whiz kid at the controls doesn't really matter, and so it's great that Kick Off has support for both local (1 v 1), and online (1 v 1) multiplayer, letting you take on your friends, no matter where they may be. Even here, though, things are a little bit on the ropey side, as rather than putting you into a lobby and letting you choose a squad, you instead have to set the team you want to play as before you invite your friend, or accept their invite. An unusual choice, to say the least.
For those looking to test their skills against the computer, you can face off using a number of European national squads in a single match, or the game's flagship European Championship mode, based around the recent Euro 2016 tournament, which England so gracefully and traditionally crashed out of at practically the earliest opportunity. With all the same groupings as the real thing, you can take a team of your choice all the way from the groups to the finals, doing your best to erase our defeat at the hands of the mighty Iceland from your memory.
So, is it worth picking Kick Off up? Really, that depends on your stance. If you're a stickler for detail and realism, and you're willing to shell out on a brand new copy of FIFA every year, just so your favourite team has their latest shirt sponsor, and Ronaldo has slightly more polished abs, then Kick Off probably isn't for you - the game doesn't even feature the offside rule, and no matter how bad your foul, you'll never pick up a yellow or red card, at the time of writing.
But if you like a bit of a kick around, you enjoy facing off against your friends, and you're looking for a cheap and cheerful arcade-style game that provides a perfect stop gap while you're waiting for the rest of your friends to show up, then Kick Off could be right up your street. At such an attractive price point, it shouldn't be too hard to encourage all your friends to take the plunge, and set up some round-robin tournaments too. With new modes and options promised to be added in the coming months, Kick Off's brightest days may be still to come!
Format Reviewed: Playstation 4