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PS2 Review - 'Arena Football: Road to Glory'

by Jeremy Wood on April 8, 2007 @ 12:44 a.m. PDT

Arena Football: Road to Glory is the second iteration of the Arena Football franchise, now featuring more than 40 teams will be made available in Arena Football: Road to Glory and for the first time the user can play as their favorite AFL or af2 team.

Genre: Sports
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: EA Sports
Release Date: February 20, 2007

Every year, right near the end of August and the start of September, a sleeping animal is awakened inside of every sports-loving male. We start to roar wildly at random, bump our chests with one another, raid snack cabinets, paint our bodies and, to an almost silly degree, high-five a lot. Thus, the NFL football season begins. From the months of September through February, the average male can become an unpredictable beast; each Sunday, as different-colored helmets clash upon the fields of green, former allies will become foes, while once-thought enemies may become friends. Loyalty lies with team colors, and those not wearing the mighty, beer gut-baring male's colors instantaneously become the opposition. Communication is henceforth broken down into a series of cheers, grunts and obscenities; the cheers and grunts relate specifically to what happens upon the field, as the obscenities are normally directed at those cheering for the other team.

While all of that may sound particularly barbaric, this savagery only takes place on Sundays and Monday evenings during the NFL season. If you wear rival team colors in your community, then you can expect a steady diet of hostility. Once this time of year has passed, the average male moves on to other sports to appease his slumbering beast within — unless they settle for the less-acknowledged Arena Football League.

EA Sports, fearing it didn't have enough of a grip hold on video game football, decided to purchase the exclusive rights to the AFL license last year. In the previous edition, EA showed signs of promise, releasing the AFL game on multiple platforms and developing a gameplay system that was somewhat flawed but ultimately a great start for a new franchise. Fast forward a year later, to the present, and EA seems to have given up on the license already. Arena Football: Road to Glory is only available on the PlayStation 2, and, in most ways, is a carbon copy of last year's iteration, but it actually seems to have more problems than before.

The most notable addition to Road to Glory is the inclusion of af2 teams. While I'm sure there may be a few people who will appreciate the sincerity, the af2 is comprised of the minor league AFL teams. This becomes quite the paradox, as the AFL is already the ugly stepchild of the NFL. What makes this new addition even more insignificant, though, is that a decent portion of these teams is not available from the start. You initially have to play with the available selected teams and accomplish certain feats on the field to unlock the rest, and even then, a good portion of those teams is not playable in Season Mode.

On top of the rather pointless aforementioned addition are a new field goal mini-game and a new gameplay mechanic that allows you to control one of your wide receivers and your QB at the same time, with each of the opposing thumbsticks. Although the concept may seem sound on paper, it's quite difficult to get used to. You have to try and divert your attention between two positions on the field, correctly run your receiving route and not let your QB get sacked, all the while making sure you don't get your analog sticks confused.

Out on the gridiron, Arena Football controls very much like its superior Madden sibling. Everything's very intuitive and easy to pick up from the start, even if you're void of an instruction manual. If you're not a fan of the AFL, though, you'll probably need a moment or two to familiarize yourself with Arena Football's slightly less-structured rules. At the start of each down, you can either choose a play from the extremely limited playbook or let the coach pick a play for you, and then do your best to replicate the chosen play on the field.

That's pretty much where the problems start. Your running back can rarely pass the line of scrimmage before mercilessly being stomped into the ground, no matter which play you call. Second and one situations at the goal line will almost always force you into a field goal, as running plays usually result in a loss on downs, and passing plays are easily broken up before your receiver's hands get anywhere near the ball. Arena Football does support a telemetry system, where you can gauge your players' stats against the opposition's stats in accordance to your upcoming play selection, but it doesn't necessarily help alter the outcome in any way or form. The only plays that are frequently successful are long bomb passing routes. As long as your intended receiver is quicker than any of the CBs, you'll score a touchdown almost every time.

Aside from the play-calling issues, Road to Glory just doesn't manage to capture the excitement or intensity of an actual AFL game. The pacing is too slow, and most of the exaggerated tackles, such as players being forced over the wall, come off more as silly novelties than exciting gameplay. In between plays, cut scenes are randomly interspersed that display on-field antics, or the coach giving his players a mouthful of verbal abuse. These are supposed to build upon Arena Football's "hardcore" atmosphere, but they're so hokey that you'll either roll your eyes or chuckle at the foolish hilarity. After watching one of your players do an end zone celebration and get tackled by an opposing player before he can finish for the umpteenth time, you'll be inclined to press the X button to skip ahead.

AF: Road to Glory does offer a season mode for both AFL and af2 teams, but the average game, with quarter lengths set to five minutes, even feels as if it drags on far too long. It is almost unfathomable to imagine anyone other than a fanatic completing an entire season before losing interest and moving onto another game. The Season Mode consists solely of playing through your schedule. You're able to sign free agents during the interim, but there's nothing else beyond that. You can also create your own teams or players, but you're not given as much freedom as you might hope for. Furthermore, when you create a player, you're given the option to change his hair color and hair style, but unless you give him long hair, you'll never notice the difference, as his helmet always stays on — even on the character creation screen! D'oh! If you do happen to create a team, the only way you can use it in Season Mode is to literally replace one of the official teams with your own.

There are other ways to bide your time with Road to Glory. The game offers up challenges you can try to complete to unlock more teams or uniforms, but they're mostly boring challenges you'll incessantly repeat until you get lucky enough to finish them. There's also Situation Mode, where you're dropped into a game scenario and tasked with working your way toward a positive outcome. This can be mildly entertaining, but only in very short, concentrated doses.

For multiplayer, Road to Glory allows up to eight players on a single console, or you can take your skills online for head-to-head action. It can be rather difficult to find someone else playing online, but when you do get into a game, considerable lag is apparent. While online, you can also partake in the Field Gold Challenge with up to seven other players. The competition works on an elimination basis; you set up for the kick from progressively more difficult locations on the field until one player's left holding the ball. If it weren't for the fact that the field goal-kicking mechanism is so outrageously simplistic, this might have actually been fun.

On the downside, Road to Glory isn't going to appease you with its presentation either, since there are no visual upgrades from last year's iteration. The character models are still passable but not great, and all of the arenas look exactly the same — very generic. In fact, the only way you can tell players apart from one another is by the color of their skin, or the number on their jerseys, and that's just during close-ups. The crowd seems almost non-existent, aside from when they're shown on the JumboTron. To make matters worse, the game was given a sub-par soundtrack as well. Instead of the normal, fairly catchy collection of EA Trax, Road to Glory is filled with what's obviously EA Trax rejects. They're mostly very unmemorable, cheesy power rock instrumentals similar to what you would hear in a straight-to-video, low-budget action flick.

Arena Football: Road to Glory is definitely going to have a hard time finding an audience. EA's known for recycling franchises on a yearly basis, but they usually still have their heart somewhat in the right place, trying to add at least a few new gameplay mechanics or features each year. Road to Glory comes across more as an obligation to a contractual agreement than a worthwhile video game. If you're a devout fan of the AFL, you might get some joy out of this title, however small that joy may be. The game retails for a measly $29.99, so it's not going to make a dent in your wallet. NFL enthusiasts — don't even bother. The next Madden installment is only months away.

Score: 5.0/10

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