AFL Premiership 2007 Hands-On

We take to the field with a finished version of the upcoming AFL Premiership 2007 for the PlayStation 2 in this exclusive GameSpot AU preview.

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More than 900 players have been crammed into AFL Premiership 2007.
More than 900 players have been crammed into AFL Premiership 2007.

When it comes to Australian Rules Football video games, Melbourne-based dev house IR Gurus has been the only team in town, producing the last four titles released down under. IR Gurus is back again this year with AFL Premiership 2007, which is set to hit Aussie stores on June 28--less than a year since the 2006 game was released.

Those expecting massive changes to last year's offering will be disappointed--AFL Premiership 2007 looks and plays extremely similar to 2006, with only a few noticeable refinements added. This sense of similarity creeps in right from the start, with the game featuring a full-motion video introduction sequence that's reminiscent of the 2006 version (albeit packed with new highlights from last season). All of the same game modes are back in the 2007 version--even the selection menus look only slightly updated. IR Gurus has stuck to the same game engine that was used in the 2005 version, so AFL Premiership 2007 doesn't feature any impressive graphical leaps from its predecessors. Some new depth of field and light bloom effects have been added, but for the most part, the series' almost trademark ill-defined players and jerky movements are back in force, which will probably irk many gamers now used to seeing next-gen graphical detail in their sports titles.

All this is not to say that AFL Premiership 2007 lacks any updates at all from 2006. The changes are there, but they're subtle rather than revolutionary. Some additions have been made to make gameplay--particularly offense--more enjoyable. For a start, AFL Premiership 2007 automatically switches to a down field view every time a mark is successfully taken, making it easier for a player to see which team mates are free to pass or kick to. New evasion moves have been added to the mix, with all ball carriers now able to pull off a sidestep or spin to attempt to get away from would-be tacklers. And to make it more accessible for beginner players, the game has completely removed the ability to overpower a kick in Easy mode.

As you'd probably expect, the game's player roster has been completely updated for 2007, with all 900 registered AFL players making an appearance in the game. The same goes for all of the AFL teams' various home and away uniforms. In a nice touch, AFL Premiership 2007 will allow players to choose from a number of uniforms for their chosen team in any game, including classic strips, clash guernseys and more. IR Gurus says each team will have at least 10 uniforms to choose from.

Perhaps the biggest addition to AFL Premiership 2007 lies off the field. IR Gurus has added to the game's already expansive career mode to include a new training option. In the career mode, players will now be faced with a calendar that outlines their games and training sessions week to week. Each in-game week will feature one training session, with players able to choose from a number of training variables to put their squad through depending on what areas they'd like to improve. Focusing on skills training, for example, will raise skills-based player attributes such as speed and agility, while focusing on body will increase strength. Focusing too much in any one area, however, will lead to attribute declines in others. Training can be set for the entire team, for groups of players such as midfielders and forwards, right down to individuals. Even training intensity can be set, with the more intense sessions leading to bigger gains but having a higher chance of injury. Unfortunately, none of these training sessions are actually playable--all a gamer need do is set them to their requirements, and the game's AI will perform the rest.

Coupled with the massive player database, the addition of a training mode further skews the AFL Premiership series into more serious simulation territory. AFL fanatics will most likely love the customisation available to them, which makes the exclusion yet again of a create-a-player option puzzling. Gamers can, however, change any attributes of any of the existing players on the AFL Premiership 2007 list.

With so many gameplay elements similar from the last game, our impression from a quick hands-on session with AFL Premiership 2007 was that it was, in essence, more of the same. The game's controls are practically a carbon copy of the 2006 version, and players seemed to react with the same sluggishness to controls as previously. With the AFL Premiership 2007 set for release in a few weeks time, we'll rack up the play hours for our full review soon to see whether IR Guru's refinements have resulted in an improved experience.

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