As the first Premium title available on DSiWare, there’s a certain amount of expectation surrounding Gameloft’s Real Football 2009. Do you get enough game for your 800 Points?
First things first – Real Football 2009 is more or less a straight conversion of the same game that was released on DS a few months back. The download version lacks some of the leagues and teams you’d find in the boxed version, but aside from that there’s actually a great deal of content for your 800 Points. There are six cups and six leagues as well as exhibition and penalty shoot-out modes, and a decent range of training modes that help you get to grips with the controls before heading onto the pitch. There’s also a huge range of teams to choose from, with 60 international teams and 98 club teams from all over Europe. Sadly there’s no edit function to rename the teams or players, but with a decent number of the teams boasting licensed players there’s no need to put up with your Wayan Rownies or Davidd Bickom.
Once you’ve chosen your game mode and team, you’ll see the usual TV-style presentation of the stadium, the players and fans before you get to kick off. Anyone who’s played a football game over the past ten years will be immediately familiar with the style and the range of controls too, with through balls, lobs and a range of tricks all easily accessible from the face and shoulder buttons. This being a DS game there are full touch screen controls, which you’re advised to learn from the in-game tutorial before stepping onto the pitch to avoid many nasty defeats and angry outbursts.
Essentially the touch screen controls are gesture-based, with a line towards a player bringing about a pass, a curved line for a long ball over the top and holding the stylus on the screen charging up power for a shot on goal. Some of the gestures used are rather counter-intuitive – drawing an h and holding the stylus brings about a lob, for example – but once you’ve mastered the basics it actually proves a novel and satisfying way to play.
These controls were present in the original DS title though, so what have Gameloft added to justify its release on DSiWare? Well, you can use the built-in camera to snap pictures of anything you like to paste onto the ball, giant stadium screens or even players’ heads. It’s a passable attempt at DSi-specific features, but the photos often end up blocky and unrecognisable, and mapping your face onto a player means you can still see your face even from behind, a truly bizarre sight. Of course, the more imaginative you are the more fun this feature will be; every player should paste a photo of a potato onto Rooney’s head.
Once you’ve abused the camera features and learnt the controls, you’ll be into the game proper, and in all honesty it’s not a bad kickabout. It’s remarkably fluid for a handheld game, and there are rarely boring passages of play as the ball bounces from player to player. One gripe with the controls is the difficulty of pulling off diagonal passes due to the DSi’s very flat d-pad, but other than that all controls are accurate and responsive, though there is an annoying delay whilst players are sprinting as you wait for the animation to end before pulling off a pass. Once you’ve taken this into account, however, you’ll be sliding the ball around with all the finesse of Brazil in 1970.
The graphics are typical DS fare in a lot of places, with some blocky textures and low polygon player models, but the presentation and animation is very good. The sound quality is as you’d expect in a pocket football game – there’s no commentary or speech, but the sound effects are decent enough, with sampled chanting and cheering in the background adding to the atmosphere of each match.
Although primarily an arcade-style football game, Real Football 2009 does cater for the more serious football fan with different formations and tactical decisions available, all of which are controlled by the touch screen. Dragging a player’s icon around can put them anywhere on the field, and a slider alters how aggressively they defend or attack, allowing you to fine-tune individual players to suit your style best. It certainly adds more depth to the play, although it’s questionable whether it genuinely makes a huge difference to the outcome of a match.
On the whole, Real Football 2009 is a good stab at a downloadable football game, with more content than you'd expect. Although the DSi-specific features make it hard to recommend this version over its boxed DS counterpart, at 800 points it’s still reasonably cheap for what is essentially a fully-featured football game. The inclusion of Wi-Fi Connection play would have boosted this dangerously close to must-buy status for DS football fans, but as it stands, this is still a recommended buy.