GC '07: Speedball 2 Hands-On

We meet with The Bitmap Brothers' Mike Montgomery and get our hands on the upcoming Speedball 2 remake for the first time.

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LEIPZIG, Germany--Earlier today, during a visit to Frogster Interactive's booth at the 2007 Games Convention, we had an opportunity to check out a work-in-progress version of Speedball 2 for the PC. Currently scheduled for release toward the end of this year, the 3D remake of the classic Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe promises to improve upon the original game with a number of new and expanded features. But, as we found out during our hands-on time with the game, every effort is being made to remain faithful to the spirit of the 1991 game.

The most obvious difference between the two games is, of course, that the upcoming remake features 3D graphics. As a result, the development team has been able to implement a number of different camera angles, including a few that have you playing horizontally instead of vertically. Purists will tell you that the only way to play is vertically, using the camera positioned directly above the arena. While we're inclined to agree, the other camera options do a far better job of showing off the new 3D player models.

It's not just the appearances of the players that have changed for the Speedball 2 remake. All-male team rosters are a thing of the past in the 24th century it would seem. The new female and droid players have quite different attributes from the guys, making them good choices for certain roles or positions on the arena floor. For example, men are the most powerful players, but women are faster, and droids are more resilient. Other differences among the players include such things as their intelligence, their stamina, their accuracy, and the size of their cone of vision, which is significant when you want to use the new passing system.

Passing is far from the only aspect of Speedball 2's gameplay that's getting reworked for the upcoming release. But before we talk about the new features and controls, we should point out that there's an option to play using only a single context-sensitive button--just like in the olden days. If you choose to play with the new control scheme, you'll find that you have buttons for tackling, charging, dodging, jumping, and manually selecting players. You can also select specific players to pass to before releasing the ball by holding down the same button that's used for switching players when you're on defense. That's where your player's vision is important because the only players you can pass to in this way are those that the player with the ball can see.

The number of buttons that you have to use with the new control system is a little intimidating if you remember the original game, but we're pleased to report that it didn't take us long to feel comfortable with them. We're still not entirely convinced that the jump button is necessary, but it's purportedly very useful for skipping over incoming tackles, and you can certainly pull off some spectacular shots on goal while in midair. The most welcome addition is undoubtedly the option to take control of different players manually because in the original game, you'd always default to the player closest to the ball, who wasn't always the one you wanted if an opponent was bearing down on your goal.

Another new feature that you'll likely have to concern yourself with if you want to compete against some of the world's best Speedball 2 players online is team tactics. By tapping a button during gameplay, you can tell your team to play an attacking, counterattacking, or defensive style. Speedball 2 will support up to four players online simultaneously (that's two versus two), and we're told that there will be plenty of leaderboards to let you know how you really compare to the rest of the world. Because--lets face it--most of us who played the original game think we're something special.

Speedball 2 will feature 32 teams (compared to the 1991 game's 16) divided up into four leagues, and you'll have the option to play as one of those or create your own custom team. If you want to make your own team, you'll be able to choose its name, the style and color of its uniform/armor, as well as its emblem--either from one of the 32 already in the game or by uploading an image of your own.

Additional customization options may become available when tools for mods are released sometime after the game arrives in stores, and it might even be possible for those of you with creative tendencies to build your own arenas. Oh, and don't worry, there will definitely be a guy yelling "Ice cream! Ice cream!" in the crowd. We look forward to bringing you more information on Speedball 2 as soon as it becomes available.

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