At Long Last
Barry Hall has just taken a specky over opposition defender Matthew Scarlett. He goes back to line up for goal. The seconds are counting down. The crowd is tense, but screaming madly at the same time. A goal here will win the game for my beloved Western Bulldogs and do something that they’ve not done in real life since 1954... win an AFL premiership.
AFL Wii finally gives Wii owners a chance to live out some footy fantasies from the comfort of their couch. Footy fans with other platforms have been able to play AFL titles for some time now, but it is only just now that AFL football has arrived on the little white console from Nintendo. And you wonder why it has taken so long. The Wii, with its motion controls would seem a perfect fit for Aussie Rules Football.
This is football, not soccer
Unlike soccer games, AFL themed games are few and far between. And compared to games like the FIFA series or PES series, AFL games have in the past been somewhat disappointing. A part of the reason has been the control scheme. AFL football is not as simple as soccer. In soccer, players just use their feet (with the occasional head here and there), whereas in AFL, players carry the football, kick it, handball it and take spectacular marks (catches for those unfamiliar with AFL). Getting all these functions right can no doubt be difficult to implement in a video game.
But AFL Wii works remarkably well in this regard. There are three control options to choose from, allowing gamers to choose which suits them best. There is the Wiimote by itself, the Wiimote and Nunchuck combination, and the GameCube controller. Although I wasn’t able to test out the GameCube controller, both of the Wiimote variations worked fine. Apart from the well written manual, all the controls are represented on screen, making it even easier to learn. When using the Nunchuck combination, kicking and handballing is handled with the A and B buttons, whilst the 1 and 2 buttons do the same for the Wiimote configuration. The power of kicks and handballs is determined by the amount of time you hold down the required button. Once the required power is reached, a simple up-thrust of the controller sends the ball headed in the (hopefully) desired direction. It certainly takes a little practice to get perfected, and I’d suggest practising before heading into a full competition. Running is controlled via the thumbstick (Nunchuck combo) or the directional pad on the Wiimote. The Nunchuck did seem a bit more accurate that the d-pad, but either was fine. Other controls such as tackling, hit-outs and marking are also intuitive and easy to control.
AFL Wii has been fully licensed by the AFL, meaning that all player names and likenesses have been used as well as all the stadia and team sponsorships. And it isn’t just the AFL teams that are on display. Minor leagues such as the VFL and the TAC Cup can also be played. The team editor even allows gamers to adjust player names in the event that a new player gets drafted into their team. Unfortunately all this is letdown to some extent by the player visuals. Some players do look something like their real-life counterparts, whilst most others require a vivid imagination to believe that the in-game players are visual representations of their real-life counterparts. The stadia, on the other hand, do resemble the grounds used in real life. Docklands stadium has the closed roof, the MCG has its huge light towers and grandstands and Canberra’s Manuka Oval has that open country atmosphere. Weather effects work well in the game too. Heavy rain can pelt down on occasions making it hard to separate your players from those of the opposition.
You can play AFL on the Wii. Controls work extremely well to make an exiting and fun AFL game. All current players are available thanks to AFL licensing.
A few issues with the commentary. Player likenesses require a vivid imagination.