Club Football Hands-On

We don the strips of Manchester United and Arsenal as we check out the PS2 and Xbox versions of Codemasters' upcoming soccer game.

Earlier today we paid a visit to the invitation-only area of Codemasters' E3 booth to check out Club Football on the PlayStation 2 and Xbox. The game, as we've reported previously, is unusual in that 17 different club-themed versions will be available for each platform when the game ships in Europe this October. For the purposes of E3, Codemasters is showing Manchester United Club Football on the PS2 and Arsenal Club Football on the Xbox.

The first thing that struck us about both versions of the game is that, considering the fact that there's still five months of development time left, the game looks surprisingly polished. All the players from the teams that have been licensed for their own official versions of the game looked as realistic as those in a FIFA game, and the game's stadiums and presentation were also nearing the quality you'd usually expect of an EA Sports game. The similarities with FIFA pretty much end there, though, and Codemasters isn't embarrassed to admit that as far as gameplay is concerned, it's doing its best to emulate the formula of Konami's sublime Winning Eleven 6 (Pro Evolution Soccer 2 in Europe).

As fans of the Winning Eleven series, we were able to pick up and play Club Football without any instruction from the Codemasters representative we were going up against. Even Konami's system for automatically having defenders chase after the ball with a single button press was in place, and actually the only area of the gameplay in which the development team has gone with an entirely different system from that used by Konami is in the taking of free kicks. In Club Football, you'll basically get to choose a point at which you want to strike the ball, rather than using any arrows or such devices, and although it's sure to take some getting used to, the system appeared to work pretty well.

Club Football's biggest unique selling point is that if you're a fan of, for example, Manchester United, you'll be able to create a version of yourself in the game's editor and step out onto the pitch at Old Trafford alongside highly realistic models of your favorite players. When creating our character, we were amused to see that it's possible to create a player who'll look wholly out of place next to the athletic real-life players, so even if you have a belly that overhangs your shorts, there's a good chance you'll be able to create a player who actually resembles you physically.

If you're playing the Manchester United version of the game, you can also look forward to reading about the club's history, checking out player profiles, and unlocking movies showing some of the club's most significant goals in history. So, if you're a fan of one of the 17 club teams that will have its own version of Club Football, there are plenty of reasons why you might consider buying it--even as an alternative to a Winning Eleven game. If you're not a supporter of one of the 17 clubs, however, the same features that appeal to fans of the clubs will most likely put you off buying the game completely.

Club Football is currently scheduled for release in Europe in October, and although no North American release has been confirmed at this time, we're assured that trans-Atlantic crossings for at least the most popular club editions of the game are still under consideration. For more information on Club Football check out our previous coverage of the game.

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