In the years before EA and Konami traded football blows with FIFA and PES respectively, there was another war in football games. In one corner stood Sensible Soccer, revered to almost deity status by its fans. Then there was Kick Off, the veteran series, plugging away comfortably. Needless to say, it’s been awhile since either has graced us with their presence and we could really do with a serious alternative to the PES/FIFA roundabout that doesn’t involve rocket-powered cars. Kick Off Revival is not that alternative.
To put it bluntly, right at the top of the review, Kick Off Revival is a terrible game. I’m always open to accepting flaws, and able to see the good in pretty much any game. Kick Off Revival however, has attempted to dare me to try and find a positive that didn’t come across as mealy-mouthed lip service. Before we get there though, it’s best to tell you a bit more about what the game is about, and what you can do.
It’s about football, and you can play some football in it…sort of.
With that done, I can get onto the serious business of telling you what is wrong with Kick Off Revival that doesn’t have me simply writing EVERYTHING in block capitals and calling it a day. You can go straight into practice, exhibition, online or European Cup from the understandably low-fi menu screen (the game is trying to massage the nostalgia glands by being positively retro) and from these options you’ll be whisked into a top-down view match using one of the 24 European international sides that are 24 pallet swaps of each other with janky player names. Seriously, good luck telling the players apart on any given side, because you’ll be as effective with Albania as you will be with Germany. The developers would have been better served going down the made up teams and players route here as there’s no feeling of individuality to what’s there currently. At least that way you could pretend that they were all drunk Sunday League footballers instead of poorly-constructed virtual players who, upon competing in their first game, suddenly realise they’ve developed amnesia and have no recollection of what football actually is.
Kick Off Revival doesn’t have a difficulty curve. Instead it takes that curve, hits it with a car, batters it with a hammer, kicks it in the head, and urinates on its still-twitching corpse for good measure. I understand that it’s a throwback to Kick Off’s 80s roots, little control explanation due to supposed simplicity, and that old chestnut about being ‘easy to learn but difficult to master’. Revival explains absolutely nothing and doesn’t even begin to approach the vast valley of accessibility. No, Revival locks itself in a house made of impenetrable, stubborn nonsense and refuses to even pop down to the shops in the nearby Welsh village of Challengingbutrewarding. Kick Off Revival is bafflingly a few steps back from a game series that began nearly 30 years ago. There are no instructions for controls, and you effectively have to learn through pure aggressive perseverance until you can fashion together a few passes and get some meaningful shots on target. Sure, sports games can be overwhelming for those not used to them, but I’ve played many, many years of footy games, Kick Off included, and none has been quite as frustratingly backwards to play as Kick Off Revival.
The ball doesn’t stick to your players. I’ll admit, at first I was sure this was just something to get used to in time. I was willing and ready to adapt. Yet when you’ve played several hours and you still have balls inexplicably careening off players and into touch a good twenty times a match, it isn’t the player that’s doing it wrong. Even when you discover how to keep better control, the frequency with which an incisive run turns into a throw in is alarming.The X button appears to control everything from passing to shooting to tackling, and far too frequently the game is undecided about how the context should be set for that. At what point does the game decide when you’re having a shot and not lofting a pass into the box? How are you supposed to master tackling when the game just decides for you what does and doesn’t constitute a foul by throwing a dart, blindfolded, at a piece of paper with yes or no scribbled on it? There’s no card system for fouls either, which almost seems like an admission of how faulty the tackling is. If you do score a goal, there’s no joy to it as it feels as random as the rest of the mechanics. If you sink a few hours into ‘mastering’ a game, you should get better at it, and your time spent with it should be more enjoyable. This simply does not happen for Kick Off Revival. It just feels unfinished.
Nothing shoves that feeling into the glaring light of day than seeing how buggy the game can be. A laundry list of sad, if amusing, tics include goalkeepers bundling the ball into their own net for no earthly reason, own goals being celebrated by the victim, and trickling long range passes being unopposed and siding into the net with all the force of a ladybird’s fart and so on and so on. It’s embarrassing. Kick Off Revival consistently fails to meet any expectation of a half-decent football game, let alone a good one.
I willed myself to think of positives for this game, I really did. I genuinely looked forward to getting my hands on Kick Off Revival, and now I can’t scrub my hands hard enough to wash its oily stain from my palms. I almost wanted to praise the visuals for attempting to capture the spirit of the original games, but then I look at the crowd, and the scenery made of painted cereal boxes and it’s incredibly hard to justify it as anything other than poor. The fact that more content and fixes are promised that should have been in the game to begin with screams ‘rush job’ loud and clear, and as such, this Revival is already dead.