X2 Football delivers realism with solid controls

Posted: June 4, 2009 in Sports

The most popular sport in the world is football, and I’m not talking about the kind where 350-pound men tackle each other. While I’m not a huge fan of watching the sport, I’m even less of fan when it comes to playing these types of video games because of questionable controls. While Gameloft’s Real Soccer 2009 is considered the king of soccer games for the iPhone/iPod Touch platform, it may soon abdicate its throne to X2 Football. Why? Simply put, the graphics and animation aside, the controls in X2 Football are so intuitive to use, that the game just feels more real and responsive. I literally pulled out Real Soccer to do a comparison, and it’s pretty obvious which has the better control scheme.

From a 3D graphics and animation standpoint, X2 Football offers some impressive visuals that run smoothly on my iPod Touch 2g. With 4 different camera angles—far, scenic, near, and goal to goal, the players and the gameplay transitions provide depth and a certain realism that quite frankly Real Soccer doesn’t provide. The game offers 3 modes of play: Tournament, Penalty Shootout and Training. The penalty shootout involves playing against another team taking turns at penalty shots. When kicking, you flick the ball in the direction you want to kick. In defending a goal, a pair of translucent hands appears that you guide to block the opponent’s kick. Under Training, you can practice several areas: Free Training, Right Corner, Left Corner, Free Kick and Penalty.

Undoubtedly, you will spend most of your time in Tournament Mode. Tournament Mode provides several cups/leagues to play in with 50 national teams to choose from:

African Cup/African League
Asian Cup/Asian League
European Cup/European League
North American Cup/North American League
South American Cup/South American League

X2 Football has four AI difficulty levels: average, good, hard and expert. I would suggest that you play on hard if you want a challenge. By no means am I a soccer whiz, but average was relatively painless for me. However, the hard and expert levels will push you.

In the Options menu, you have a good amount of customization available including half length, injuries allowed, offsides, bookings, player names, replay, radar (mini-map showing the location of players), time of day, and commentary. Commentary definitely adds to the feel of the game, and delivers a layer of excitement along with the crowd noise. It’s a nice touch that you can turn on or off, but I recommend you leave turned on.

The game offers what you would expect in terms of team management where you can view player stats, make substitutions, and choose team formations among other things. An Autoswitch option is available that automatically switches your controls to the player nearest the ball.

As I mentioned, X2 Football’s controls are done extremely well. You can pick this game up and intuitively start playing effectively right away. The floating joystick is well executed because it appears wherever you touch on the screen so you don’t need to worry about anything blocking your view. The X2 SMART buttons take little to no time to understand. A set of funky looking buttons appears in the bottom right corner of the screen. Through the use of these three buttons, you can defend and attack. The buttons switch from lob, pass and shoot on offense to slide tackle, charge and pressure on defense, and while it sounds complicated, they’re pretty easy to grasp. When a button is pressed, a power bar appears above the player signifying the level of strength to be used.

The devs may want to consider adding an option to flip the orientation of the controls based on individual preference. One of the things I don’t like is how the control instructions are documented in the loading screen because they disappear as soon as the game finishes loading. While you can access the control instructions from the menu, it would make sense if you could control when to dispense with the instructions.

I enjoy the gameplay in X2 Football more than in Real Soccer because the controls are so much more intuitive and responsive. A directional marker appears for whichever player you’re controlling, and the instant replays allow you to watch from different angles and speeds. At anytime, you can access the options or pause by tapping the mini map in the upper right corner. For me, the game seems to flow better in X2 Football, but I will say that Real Soccer has more depth in terms of teams, the use of real player names, and the ability to choose different stadiums. But at the same time with Real Soccer, some of the players tend to run around like headless chickens, while in X2 Football, they seem to behave more as a real team.

So what should you choose? If you want a solid soccer game that has enough depth on its own with terrific controls, X2 Football will more than satisfy. If you want authenticity in terms of real player names, the ability to choose different stadiums, and wifi multiplayer, then go with Real Soccer. For me, I’m more than happy with the polish and gameplay that X2 Football delivers.

Albie Meter: 4 stars (recommended for those who want a solid soccer game with realism and great controls)

Check out my impressions on TouchArcade at http://toucharcade.com/2009/06/07/x2-football-2009-real-tennis-2009-rise-of-empires-and-dj-mix-tour-now-available/

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