At last, Virgin's much-touted World Cup game arrives. And while it would be churlish to point out that the last ball of that tournament was actually kicked on 12 July last year, in fairness the game isn't based solely around the exploits of that heady summer in France. History today is what we have here, with the game featuring every World Cup from 1958 to the present day, including the qualifying tournaments. A mammoth feat, this involves more than a thousand international teams and some 16,224 players, fact fans.
Impressive indeed, although it could be argued that the time might have been better spent improving the game, as it certainly isn't instantly playable. For all Virgin's heavyweight marketing campaign (adverts in The Guardian, don'tcha know), in many ways it has more in common with Supermatch Soccer and last year's risible official England game Three Lions than it does with FIFA or Actua. Incidentally, we're into boxed copy territory here, as we expressed doubts over an early version we were sent for review.
These doubts have been largely borne out, and while Viva Football is a bold attempt at simulating football - making use of space, playing the ball behind the defence - there's a school of thought that says football games should be the equivalent of edited highlights. Even the keenest of fans will concede that large parts of a real football match are inestimably dull, and it's only the importance of the occasion and the lung-bursting ecstasy of a goal that erases the memory of the despair that precedes it. The same can't be said about a mere video game, which needs to be constantly entertaining. What developers Crimson have succeeded in doing is recreating all the tedious parts of football: the misplaced passes, the numerous offsides, niggly challenges, aimless free kicks and wayward opportunities.
Furthermore, with muted crowd noise and no commentary, the on-pitch player voices are more in keeping with One Man And His Dog than with The Greatest Show On Earth.
Football games have arguably reached a plateau, and elements such as atmosphere are becoming increasingly important. For those who were there, footage of the last World Cup can still raise hackles on the back of the neck. Unfortunately, Viva is unlikely to rekindle such memories. But if you relish frustration, enjoy low-scoring matches and have an unhealthy interest in the history of the World Cup, this game might be worth shoplifting.
Download Viva Football
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP