E3 06: Sensible Soccer 2006 Preshow Hands-On

We score our first hands-on time with Codemasters' great-looking update of the one, the only, Sensible Soccer.


During a recent visit to Codemasters' UK headquarters, we had our first opportunity to play work-in-progress PlayStation 2 and Xbox versions (a PC game is also in the works) of Sensible Soccer 2006. Currently in development at Kuju, Sensi 2006 won't feature licensed player or team names, it won't feature photorealistic balls from Adidas or Umbro, and it definitely won't feature trick moves that you can use to beat opponents with a single button press. What Sensi 2006 will offer is a fast-paced and uncomplicated game of football, in which just about every player on the pitch can bend it like (read: way better than) Beckham.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the long-running Sensible Soccer series, the game is played vertically rather than horizontally, and from the perspective of a camera position high above the pitch. The earliest entries in the series were played using joysticks with only a single button, and while that isn't true of the 2006 edition, the upcoming game is every bit as easy to pick up and play. In addition to a multifunctional button that is used for long balls, shots, and sliding tackles, you'll find a dedicated pass button, a sprint button, and a button used for swapping out players and tactics. You'll use your left analog stick (or directional pad) to control the movement of whichever automatically selected player you're in control of, and, in what is frankly a masterstroke, you can use the right analog stick to move your goalkeeper around if you don't trust him to come out and intercept attacking players on his own. The only other control mechanic you'll really need to familiarize yourself with is using the left analog stick to apply exaggerated aftertouch to shots and long balls, the effects of which really have to be seen to be believed.

Gameplay modes in Sensible Soccer 2006 will include friendly matches, more than 45 different international and club preset competitions, and options to create your own custom leagues and tournaments. All of the players and teams (there are 67 international teams and around 300 club teams) in the game are also completely customizable, so you'll have the option to update them with real-world data quickly and easily. If you're so inclined, you'll also be able to create up to four completely customized teams from scratch.

Sensi is easy to pick up, but don't expect scoring goals to be a walk in the park.
Sensi is easy to pick up, but don't expect scoring goals to be a walk in the park.

Options ahead of each match will include choosing home or away uniforms for both teams, different stadiums and pitch types, weather conditions, and match length. Sensible Soccer 2006 will support up to four players simultaneously, so you'll also be able to choose whether you want to play against or alongside your friends. Regardless of how you choose to play, and regardless of how much experience you have with soccer games, you'll find that Sensi 2006 strikes a near-perfect balance between accessibility and challenge. Getting to grips with the Sensi 2006's controls will take seconds, but that doesn't mean that you'll start scoring spectacular and satisfying goals within minutes of loading the game up for the first time. This is not only because the goalkeepers are already behaving quite realistically, but also because getting into a shooting position in the first place is no walk in the park.

While many football games let you pass the ball between your players with very little effort, Sensible Soccer 2006 makes things just a little more challenging with a pass button that will kick the ball in whichever direction you're facing--regardless of whether or not you have another player there. This isn't radically different to what other football games do, but the ball in Sensi is far less prone to gravitating towards the feet of players than its officially licensed counterparts in games like FIFA and Pro Evolution Soccer.

Sensible Soccer 2006 is currently scheduled for release in Europe in June. No North American release has been confirmed at this time, but we'll bring you more information as soon as it becomes available.

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