Kick Off 98
Amere Eight Months After Kick Off 97, we're presented with the somewhat premature Kick Off 98. Naturally, we're told that this latest version is brilliant compared to the last incarnation, but thenm this time next year (or sooner) we'll no doubt be told that Kick Off 99 is miles better than Kick Off 98.
But we're not influenced by such marketing nonsense. Despite being little more than football by numbers, Kick Off 97 was actually quite playable. Even at the time of its release Anco were working on a new engine, ensuring that the long lineage would continue, and it's fair to say that the original Kick Off and its sequel are genuinely seminal games.
The licence has lost some of its weight now, but market forces dictate that they keep churning them out, and Kick Off 98 has a timely World Cup slant to it, featuring a host of international teams and competitions. The interface is pretty garish and actually getting to play a game is unnecessarily awkward - and the fact that it's accompanied by some particularly irritating music doesn't improve matters.
Oh no, an own goal!
But as any pundit will confirm, it's on the pitch that counts, and it's here that Kick Off98's real failings become apparent. For starters, there's far too much periphery, which makes it a disjointed, annoying experience. This is immediately evident: each game begins with a pointless close-up of the ball, replete with the Anco logo. The nature of football demands something a lot more instant; there's no need for elaborate motion captures of keepers bouncing the ball, and half-time should be no longer than it takes for a drag on a handily placed cigarette. It's also a fair assumption that most people are familiar with the rules: it's not necessary for the shiny metallic words 'throw' and 'in' to come spinning on to the screen whenever the ball is put into touch.
Much of the play consists of jarring tackles in the middle of the park, most of which go unpunished by the referee. All the subtleties of The Beautiful Game are lost, with very little time afforded to the player in possession, making a passing game virtually impossible. On the rare occasions that you do manage to find some space the passing often feels predetermined by the computer, as is the crossing and the shooting, leaving little room for skill or individuality.
A couple of new ideas have been introduced: sprinting when in possession of the ball entails nudging it ahead in a vaguely realistic fashion, and the unique penalty taking system is a nice idea but unfortunately it just doesn't work. The commentary is provided by an actor, and is as poor as the muffled crowd noises it accompanies.
If Kick Off 98 was a Premier League side, it would have to be Wimbledon - it tries its best. With enough determination it could almost become enjoyable for a limited period, but sadly there are just too many other games on the market that look and play better.
Download Kick Off 98
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP