Handball '16 Review (PC)
I always enjoy checking out games that represent under-represented sports, including cricket, lacrosse and rugby. Part of the enjoyment I gain is the challenge of learning a new sport and a new set of rules.
So I was excited to have the opportunity to look at Handball 16, a game based on a sport I know little about that released on most major consoles. Read on to see exactly what Handball 16 is and whether or not the game is worth your time.
Handball essentially mixes basketball with indoor soccer, where a goalie and net replace the hoop and glass. Offensive players need to remain outside a crease where they attempt to pass and move the ball until a proper shot can be made. Spins, jumps and clever ball movement increase the odds of a score. The goalie can use hands or feet to deflect shots. It’s a very straightforward game, but one that rewards strategic play.
Handball 16 describes itself as a handball simulation, which seems accurate. Everything is realistically paced with no arcade handicaps outside of a slight slow down on shots. Authentic players, leagues and teams (if you know them and/or care) are included, which, if nothing else, shows the seriousness that the game attempts.
As for modes, you get one-off matches against the AI or local/online opponents, a season mode and a career mode. Options are fairly limited with all of these ways to play. Career mode doesn’t offer much in the way of customization, nor does Season mode allow any type of transactions. In other words, you really need to like the gameplay in order for this game to really be engaging.
Unfortunately, I found the gameplay to be very static and bland. I understand this sport is much more methodically paced than basketball or even soccer, with play stopping after nearly ever shot. But during a play, it seems like most players stand around watching the play unfold. You can call plays, not unlike an NBA game, but these often feel just as effective as winging it.
Other problems persist as well. The handball equivalent of taking a charge is way too effective. Goalie response seems very random, especially considering how fast shots come in. Shooting will take practice as well because most of my shots flew very wide or high of the seemingly large net. Admittedly, my ignorance of the sport may play a large role, but nothing felt intuitive or even very exciting. Control issues aside, the gameplay also felt very repetitive -- though many outside America might say the same about basketball.
Graphics, at least on the PC, are really a mixed bag. The courts and lighting look really good, creating another level of authenticity. The crowds, however, are nearly static and look like something you’d find in a game a generation ago.
But the players are the real issue. They move in a very stiff manner and foot movement doesn’t seem to relate to actual speed. Passes look okay when the receiver is looking at the passer, but other receptions look pretty odd and unnatural. Then there is the issue with players not directly involved in the play standing/shuffling around, arms outstretched like zombies.
To the game’s credit, the visuals do a good job helping newcomers with contextual button guides above the ball carrier at all times. Also taking a nod from other modern sports games, calling a play brings up an on-court graphic to help guide your movement.
Commentary and sound are decent, with the expected amount of repetition
First of all, realize most of my opinion comes from someone interested, but totally unfamiliar, with real life handball. An expert might have a totally different view of the sport and of this game. Of course, most of Operation Sports' readers are probably also unfamiliar with handball.
As a game that attempts to represent one of those relatively minor sports, this is a good effort despite a relatively limited set of features. Gameplay, as bland as it is, does offer something new and is certainly functional. In all, this game feels like an indie title you’d find on the Xbox 360, like the well received College Lacrosse 2012.
Unfortunately, this game comes with a much steeper price tag of $40. At that price, I can’t recommend this title to anyone except a die-hard handball fan who's hankering for some virtual action.
Score: 3.5 (Subpar)