AFL Live 2011 Review

by Ben Salter Featured

25 Comments 45 Votes 32239 Views 20/04/2011 Back to Reviews

To say it’s been a long time coming would be an understatement. It’s been over four years since the last AFL game, and while the PS2 incarnations were, frankly, terrible, AFL fans were happy just to get their fix. They wanted to be able to play their code of choice as soccer gamers had been doing for years. While footy fans have been starved of a solid experience since the NES days, there’s no denying their cravings for an AFL game. Big Ant Studios has taken a risk in what they hope will be the first of many in a long running series. It’s finally time to see if all that work has paid off.

What AFL Live Got Right

The best AFL game to date - AFL Live has easily surpassed every AFL game released before it. Yes, it even rivals the NES classic (which we remember as being better than it actually was). It rectifies many of the issues that plagued the IR Gurus games of last generation and is the most comprehensive AFL experience ever crafted. It’s the first game by a new developer of a sport that has never had a standout release. As such, it cannot, and shouldn’t, be compared to the likes of Fifa. However, AFL fans who desperately desire a virtual footy fix will love it. If you spent considerable time on the PS2/Xbox games, AFL Live will blow you away.

AFL Live Review

Basic gameplay components - It was imperative that Big Ant nailed the basic gameplay, and for the most part, they’ve done just that. There are heaps of missing features, and plenty of room for improvement, but the foundations have been laid. Players move in a somewhat realistic fashion and the general flow of play is quite good with an awesome pace. Results are diverse, and unlike past AFL games, you can’t assume you’re going to win on the harder settings once you’ve learnt the A.I. patterns. They mix it up and offer a genuine challenge with relatively accurate tactics.

Player positioning and tactics - While not perfect, it’s the difference between a decent AFL game and the shambles we’ve had to put up with thus far. No longer do your players stand in position until the ball comes. They move like actual AFL players, to the extent they can in a video game. Furthermore, tactics actually work. Past games have had the option to adjust your structures, but they never did anything useful. This time around players will position themselves according to your directives.

Controls - While not perfect, they’re arguably the best we’ve ever seen. Once you understand ruck work with the right control stick, it’s a stroke of genius. It’s a massive learning curve, but well worth it. Once you’ve mastered it, you’re never assured of winning the tap. That might be to the disliking of some players, but it makes everything so much more realistic. Goal kicking has been simplified to include the player’s natural arc. While it needs to be tweaked a little, it vastly out shines those of the past.

AFL Live Review

Custom teams - The ability to not only create your own teams, but edit the stats of existing ones almost solves the issue of developers not being able to accurately rate every player in the competition. The options are all fantastic, but unfortunately they cannot be used in the official 2011 AFL season mode. Hopefully this can be fixed by a patch, as it’s a massive oversight on the developer’s part and undoes all of the positives that customisation brings to the table.

Auto-interchanges - With the modern pace of the game we don’t have time to make every interchange ourselves. The auto-interchange system is surprisingly accurate. There are some blunders, like a midfielder to CHB or a ruckman to rover, but it generally works well. The player has the option to set how regularly interchanges occur or can make them completely manual. There’s also an option to use the D-pad, which is more useful in non-stop multiplayer. Ridiculous changes tarnish the system, but could be fixed by an option to remove players from the rotation. It would be almost perfect if the player could make ruck or defender changes manually, while forwards and midfielders automatically interchange.

Online offers longevity - With limited solo options, online is where players will spend a bulk of their time. It's a great system for such a small audience, with minimal traces of lag and no real problems finding a match. The population several weeks after launch will determine how much life AFL Live has in it.

AFL Live Review

What AFL Live Wrong

Shocking bugs and glitches - There are far too many glitches for a modern game. It’s great that there’s a patch on the way, but it won’t fix everything. The biggest game crippling bug stops you from being able to complete a season with specific teams, so far Carlton, North Melbourne and Port Adelaide, without simulating a match that otherwise freezes the game. That’s unacceptable. For that matter, freezing in general is one of the game’s biggest failings. Getting through a season without it locking-up at least once appears impossible.

No career and lack of features - No career mode is a massive disappointment, as is the lack of overall features. It feels like the barebones of a game, rather than the finished produced. While I’m the biggest advocate of AFL Live being a stepping stone to bigger and better things, it’s hard to justify the $100 price tag to anyone who isn’t desperate for an AFL game. The Wii version includes state leagues such as the SANFL, VFL and WAFL, but they are nowhere to be seen in AFL Live. A single season, quick matches and online just isn’t enough for a full price game.

Advanced gameplay needs work - While the basic gameplay is a shining light, too many small issues collaborate to blemish the greater experience. Sprinting doesn’t seem to make any difference – Michael Gardiner can chance down anyone; marking doesn’t always make sense and umpires call decisions only to do the opposite. Clearing out of defence with a kick is borderline impossible and none of the injury settings are realistic. All of the camera angles have their strengths and weaknesses; while it’s great that Big Ant gave the player so many choices as to how to view the action, none are perfect. Close broadcast works best in general play, but it’s impossible to put the ball out in-front of a lead. The option to use this in general play, but to revert to behind the player when they go behind the mark would have offered the best of everything for single player and online. All of the options consider two people playing, and fail cater for one person per screen.

AFL Live Review

Steep learning curve - While not a mistake, it’s something to be aware of. On one hand, nobody will dominate early. It takes at least a season to understand how to handball correctly; for the first 5-10 hours it feels like you get tackled instantly and anything other than spamming handball is impossible. The positive is the depth is allows, but conversely it might scare off potential fans as it takes too long to master general play. It’s compounded by the lack of features, as by the time you truly understand how to play, there’s nothing new to explore.

Terrible commentary and audio - Like all low budget sports games, the commentary is severely lacking. There are only a handful of phrases, it stops for half a match sometimes and Brian Taylor comes in at random times with pointless statements that are wrong and irrelevant and then fails to say anything else. The music is just as bad. In a game that’s all about sitting in menus, creating players and editing your teams, there are only two songs. That’s approximately 7 minutes of audio constantly on repeat; it’s enough to drive any man to loathe Hunters & Collectors.

Lack of stats - Statistics are crucial to the success of sports games; they need to be as detailed and comprehensive as possible to give the player a sense of achievement. AFL Live needed to offer complete match summaries including players’ stats for each game and more reasoning as to why their form has been affected.

AFL Live Review

Player accuracy - For the most part, they’ve done a fantastic job with players, but the mistakes have already reared their ugly heads. Without looking for them, West Coast’s Jack Darling is called Jeff, and Port Adelaide’s Paul and Daniel Stewart – one a mid-sized half-back and the other a tall forward/part-time ruckman – have their stats mixed up. It wouldn’t be so bad if they were fringe players, but Paul is in the starting 22 in the backlines, where he should be, and has a terrible rank unless he’s moved up forward. Likewise, some of the player ratings are incomprehensible. That was bound to happen, and could have easily been fixed if gamers were able to take their custom team into the 2011 season.

Team line-up menus are unusable - Big Ant has tried to be clever by using a colour-coding system to show positions, but it’s gone horribly wrong. Instead, it’s too complicated and difficult to see where all your players are. It needed a basic match line-up system to easily show all players, their position and who they are playing on. I shouldn’t need to go into the tagging menu to see who my back pocket is covering. Furthermore, it desperately needs an option to see opponent player stats. Without an intricate knowledge of every AFL player, you don't know which defenders to put on which forwards. Even then, that wouldn’t be enough, as you wouldn’t know their in-game stats.

Perhaps most disappointingly, there’s no easy way to see player stamina or injuries in the team menu. In-game each player has a stamina bar and is marked yellow or red when injured, but these are nowhere to be seen in the team selection menu. Making the all-important sub becomes nearly impossible as there’s no way to easily identify which of your players has nothing left in the tank. The menu system is too complicated for its own good and doesn’t show the basic information any virtual coach needs to make informed decisions.

The Final Verdict

AFL Live is a great first effort from Big Ant Studios and the best AFL game to date. It will satisfy the cravings of any virtual AFL fan, and have them pondering why on earth they ever played the garbage that came before it. The lack of a career mode will hurt longevity and it’s full of problems that were to be expected. There are too many bugs and glitches for a full price game and the whole package is very rough around the edges. The commentary and audio is about as enjoyable as attending your own funeral and the menus are too confusing for the lack of information. Having said all that, the fast-pace basic gameplay is great and has laid the foundations for future AFL games. Be aware of the flaws, but recommended to anyone who has been desperately awaiting an AFL game for the past four years.

By Ben Salter

AFL Live

Platform: PS3 / Xbox / PC
Developer: Big Ant
Similar to: AFL Wii
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AFL Live 2011 Review Comments

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I agree with everything you say, I was most disappointed about the game modes. I thought there would be career mode. Few disappointing things but overall great game to play, and as you said, a good start...
The auto subs needs to be fixed because Robbie Warnock who is 211cm and is a pure ruckman and sometimes forward gets put into the the rover position every time.

But the overall game is very good and I will be playing it for some time.
SO in the wii version you can play a season in the wafl or is it more that you can choose these teams in a practice match?

I haven't got the game so I have no idea how trades work at the end of the season.

I don't think this game needs to be marked down for not having a career mode. Fifa didn't have that until a few years ago and how long has that game series been going on for?

But like you said, i think it needed to work on the basics and from what I've read so far its done a great job at that.

The glitches are pretty bad but I've had some bad ones for fifa 10 which stopped me from getting a 2 player game going without having to format all my info and starting it all over again :S
But that glitch of not being able to go through a whole season is pretty bad.

2 songs could definitely get on your nerves, a way to turn it off or because of the lack of tunes, a better route would have been some generic beats in the background on loop until its feasible to add more than the 2 :)

The biggest fault in this game is the customisation, that surely needs to be rectified, My brother would spends hours fixing up players and teams for pro evo and that was part of its charm.

Great start for big ant and here's hoping in the next few weeks to coming months that the online modes stay active and big ant continues to support it with tweaks and what not. Something EA seldom does!!#%@

no career?? urgh -_- =_=

punk said:
I don't think this game needs to be marked down for not having a career mode. Fifa didn't have that until a few years ago and how long has that game series been going on for?

fifa has had a career mode since at least 2004, and im fairly sure since 2003. thats early to mid ps2 days. considering the pasting that nrl got with its latest release, a franchise mode should have been a given.

punk said:
2 songs could definitely get on your nerves, a way to turn it off or because of the lack of tunes, a better route would have been some generic beats in the background on loop until its feasible to add more than the 2.

wouldnt the best way to counter this be to add custom soundtracks? i seriously dont know why this feature isnt used more often.
Would have bought this if it were a quality game.

But with the likes of FIFA, PES, NBA2K11, MLB The Show, Top Spin and Madden available and all superior titles from what i can tell, this sounds like a sporting game for die-hard AFL fans.
AFL Live is the same as Rugby League Live. No Career. But yet AFL Wii is the same as Rugby League 3 (Wii) Both have Career mode and other compititions. Still very disapointed I would give it a 4.5 atleast AFL 2006 -07 had a career mode. :S

Sandow94 said: AFL Live is the same as Rugby League Live. No Career. But yet AFL Wii is the same as Rugby League 3 (Wii) Both have Career mode and other compititions. Still very disapointed I would give it a 4.5 atleast AFL 2006 -07 had a career mode.

The gameplay is much better than those games though, and that's really what counts. Still, I agree that no career mode is detrimental to its value. There are also far too many bugs and glitches for my liking.
I thought people would be happy they did the online perfect?

I have never had a game like this with no lag at all.

Dusty Lids said: I thought people would be happy they did the online perfect?
I have never had a game like this with no lag at all.

Probs cause no one is using it.

I did not just say that. [Facepalm]

IAMColonel said:

Dusty Lids said: I thought people would be happy they did the online perfect?
I have never had a game like this with no lag at all.

Probs cause no one is using it.
I did not just say that.

Because PSN has been down for 3 days :P
Where can one purchase this cheap?

CaptnAzza said: Where can one purchase this cheap?

jbhifi dude

Also, There was over 4000 games on the psn before it was even meant to be released haha. Fairly good effort...
The gameplay is fun though. And Addictive. But, this gives big ant and tru blu an opportunity to grow and make it much better. This was really a platform. The next iteration will make or break it.
Yeah solid game. Nothing special, but I wasn't expecting a FIFA or NBA 2K unlike some people...
For some reason I actually enjoy the ridiculous commentary. Reminds me of when I was much younger playing the old sports games. I just wish tackling wasn't so easy, 100 tackles in a game of 5 min quarters is too much.
LOL what do you think the premiership season is??
its the career mode of the game ll
I've been playing this for 2 days now and it's so frustrating .. Maybe I'm just a spastic at it, but while you ask one player to run one way to chase down the ball and then the pc automatically changes you to the next player in front of the ball, he turns around giving up the space. Not to mention that when looking for a team mate to pass to , it's not precise . It's just pot luck really if you kick the ball into the forward line and one of your players is on the end of it.
It's a good starting point but more work needs to be done. Career mode, like fifa, you ge bette as you earn more points towards your player and team. Any why is there only 4 umpiring decision > too high, in the back and holding the ball ?? running too far . Need to be able to jostle while going for the mark, and no way should a big tall slow player be able to catch a small running player ! I'd give it a 2.5 out of 10 and that 2.5 is for graphics although sometimes it's hard to distinguish whch teams.
Its the first game of the series sick of complaints.

If it had a budget like fifa then it would have been up their with it. Its not that hard to understand.

Whats so bad about the graphics? fifa hasn't got that great of graphics i think their pretty poor compared to most other High budget games.
Whats the point in buying this game when you cant even use all the teams??? Crap game! Not worth shit! very dissapointing! How many more years is it going to take b4 they can get it even close to being right?
be even better if they released the PC version as stated on their web site!

As for other comments, rememebr Fifa is EA sports, no AFL game is going to have the money spent on it, like Fifa, NBA etc.
Market is not there, but I say again maybe market would be bigger if they get out the PC version.
I have played the earlyier AFL games and I just really liked playing for my team. Haven't had a go at this one yet but can't wait until I do. :D
this game is pretty awsom but u cant open the etihad stadium roof and ther is no continous seasons which is gay

KainAussie said: LOL what do you think the premiership season is??
its the career mode of the game ll

without continous seasons retard
the game is very addictive, but there is a few things that should be changed to the nest one they bring out

firstly when you make your custon team, it shouldnt take the players out of there actual team and also have a bit more money to spend, otherwise you have all these cheapies

secondly, some of the players are made bad, like brandon matera, scott thompson and bernie vince, matera is a right footer in the game but he is a lefty and the other to are left footers on the game but right in normal life

thirdly, you should be able to make your custom camera up like fifa 11, choosing your height, zoom and stuff like that. i play on end to end far and one of the things that they should change is that the camera should follow where the player is looking towards because you might want to kick it around and play possesion footy, but you dont know where most of your players are

next, the season is bad, you should be able to continue and do draft pics and stuff like that

if they make these changes to the next one they make, it will be so much better and more addictive
i still love the game play tho :D
another thing also is the snaps at goal, when you want to do a normal snap not a banana it does it hell awkward like, and you should be able to snap along the ground :P
For the past four years, i have endured playing FIFA over AFL because the thing I enjoy the most about sports games is creating my own teams.

When this game came out I found it hard to get the hang of, but that is the same with any new game so I stuck at it and after a handful of games, I got the controls down pat.

It is a very enjoyable game but I agree that the inability to bring created teams into the "official" toyota season is disapointing, otherwise what is the point of winning a Brownlow/Coleman medal?
i recon they should make a mode where you can be one player only like there is in some of the nba games

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