Arena Football: Road to Glory REVIEW

Arena Football: Road to Glory Review (PS2)

The Arena Football League is scrappy. For 20 years now, it has fought tooth and nail to become a popular sport in the US. It never tried to compete with the NFL, or any of the other major sports for that matter. It never tried to be a mainstream event. The AFL knows what it is. It’s an exciting and action-packed version of football that is played by big strong men that were mere fractions of a second too slow or a half a dozen pounds too light to make it on Sundays. Professional athletes being paid to play a game, in front of fans willing to pay to see the product that they produce.

Over the past few years, the AFL has begun popping up more and more. You’d hear the stories about the celebrity owners like Jon Bon Jovi and John Elway. You’d turn on NBC on a spring Saturday and catch a game that you didn’t even know was on. You’d even catch the occasional highlight on your local news. You even heard about that big sports gaming developer that dropped an Arena Football title to, generally, pretty good reviews. With a new pact in place with minority shareholder ESPN, the AFL is teetering dangerously close to legitimacy. Well, at least as much as the NHL has these days.

With all of that, it’s no surprise that EA Sports decided to drop a second installment in their new AFL franchise with the release of Arena Football: Road to Glory on the PS2. As I said last year when I took a look at the debut version, I won’t get into the X’s and O’s of Arena Football. There are websites out there that can explain it a lot better than I can. Or, my suggestion: simply watch a game one afternoon and you’ll pick it up rather quickly. In a nutshell, the sports of Arena Football is a fast-paced, pass-heavy, high-scoring competition where combined scores are far more often over 100 than under. It’s kind of like playing Madden with your 12-year old cousin.

The nicest thing that I can tell you about Arena Football: Road to Glory is that it is just as good as last year’s version. The worst thing that I can tell you about it is that it is just as good as last year’s version. In fact, it is pretty darn close to being last year’s version.

Try as I might, I was only able to uncover a few notable changes when compared to the 2006 release. Unlike last year, you will find some creation function for players and teams that were not in before. It’s hard to call that an enhancement when it’s something that is so elementary in today’s sports gaming genre, that it should really be an a given.

Controls on the field are the same, with the game still slanted heavily towards the passing game (as they should be). They did add the ability to control both the QB and the receiver at the same time during a sequence. I thought that was a rock-solid idea even though it did add to the learning curve to the offensive controls, but I did find it difficult at times to not lose focus on my QB or instinctively force them into some strange synchronized swimming maneuver.

The Telemetry system is back and, to me, it's still the best part of Arena Football: Road to Glory. If you’re not familiar with last year’s game, this system basically keeps you updated on the condition of the players on the field, the situations and tendencies; all in real-time. When I first encountered the system, I was sure they were using this franchise to test the feature for Madden or NCAA releases. I still wouldn’t be surprised to see a migration.

Arena Football junkies will be happy to know that they have also included the AF2 in Arena Football: Road to Glory. For the novices out there, the AF2 is essentially the minor leagues of the AFL. If you thought the Chicago Rush and Grand Rapids Rampage were obscure, wait till you meet the Bossier-Shreveport BattleWings.

The sensory experience goes largely unchanged this year as well. While there appeared to be a few new animations, there was no significant improvement in how the players looked or moves. There really isn’t any personality to the arenas and you don’t feel drawn into the action like you can in other sports titles. I know the AFL is trying to add more flash to their broadcasts since joining ESPN, including hiring ESPN Radio’s Mike & Mike as their #1 play-by-play team. On a bright note, I thought the soundtrack was full of a pretty good, yet predictable, collection of hard rock tracks. Not to sound like a broken record, but there’s so much that could have been done here that just simply wasn’t.

I had high hopes for this new franchise when it made its debut last year. EA Sports does not help the sports gaming industry's (usually untrue) stigma of the "roster upgrade release" by putting out a product like this. With only a few minor changes, most of which should have been in the game last year, it would be impossible for me to recommend this game to anyone who still owns the previous release. Die-hard Arena Football fans may buy it simply for the inclusion of the AF2 players, but, even at the $29.99 price point, it is not worth a purchase for most returning players.

I still believe that this is a franchise that has legs and with the right dedication to improvement, can be a legitimate hit series. If you passed on last year’s version, it is certainly worth a look. It would be a shame if the decision on whether to continue with the franchise into the next-gen were based on the improvements from last year's product to this.

Arena Football: Road to Glory Score
out of 10