There are six kinds of major sports games right now: football, basketball, American football, ice hockey, UFC and pro wrestling (somehow?). All six of these have amazingly detailed and high budget franchises, which is a major plus to those who are fans of these sports, but the incredible popularity of these games has meant other sports have been brushed to the side with a few exceptions here and there.
Which is strange to think about if you consider the sports game ecosystem from just 10 years ago. Along with the aforementioned games, there was the Fight Night series, SSX and Virtua Tennis to name a few. This ecosystem allowed for ridiculously weird sports to have games. Imagine right now Rockstar Table Tennis being released, or World Snooker Championship, or Monster Jam: Maximum Destruction. Or RAZOR. FREESTYLE. SCOOTER.
There are so many sports that are so obscure but somehow were adapted into video games, and I feel the prime example of that is Gaelic Games Football for the PS2. For those of you who don’t know what Gaelic Football is, it is essentially if soccer and rugby did the fusion dance, with basketball style dribbling, in this case being a bounce and a toe tap every so many steps. The goal of the game is to score the ball in the net (for three points) or to stick it over the bar (for one point).
Gaelic Games Football was developed by IRgurus (later known as Transmission Games) and was released in 2005. This game is a prime example of every sport getting a game, in days gone by. The thought of an amateur sport that is played in very few countries being made into a fully-fledged and licensed game nowadays? Madness.
But hey it’s here for me to play, so let’s take a look at it.
The first thing I noticed about this game was that there was only two language options: English agus as Gaelige (Irish). To be expected from an Irish game, but still a very nice touch (Go rabh maith agat).
The visuals of the game leave a lot to be desired, looking more like the original Syphon Filter than a game that was released in 2005. The gameplay is also pretty lacking and needlessly complicated in places. An example of this is the fact that sprinting for too long will result in a foul, as the player can’t bounce the ball or toe tap while sprinting. A realistic feature but this just inhibits fun. Think of it like a basketball game not dribbling for you automatically while you sprinted. Doesn’t sound too fun, right?
The game also doesn’t allow you to control the goalkeeper, meaning the CPU will just lift the ball and immediately kick the ball out of bounds. Again, not very fun. Pair that with a free kick system that made me think my controller was broken, and you’ve got gameplay that ranges from OK to frustrating.
But what this game lacks in visuals and gameplay, it does have it’s charming moments that can make the game unique. An example of this is the previously mentioned option to have the game entirely in Irish. Another example would be only having three types of barricade ads. The most prominent of them being a “Don’t drink and drive” ad. Very representative of mid-2000’s Ireland.
This game may also contain the most Irish line from commentary ever at half time, “Both these sides will be eager for a banana and a cup of tea at half time.” You’re not going to hear that in Fifa.
So is it a great game? Not by a long shot. But it did seem to do pretty well for itself, selling enough copies to produce a sequel that included hurling as well as gaelic football.
So what’s better, the sports game environment we had then or what we have now? Well that’s really up to interpretation and preference.
Do you prefer an environment where we have fewer sports games, resulting in consistently higher quality, if a little formulaic, games? Or did you prefer the environment where it was a wider spread of sports that resulted in unique and varied, albeit not as consistently high-quality experiences? It’s truly in the eye of the beholder.
I’m going to think about it over a cup of tea and a banana.