Hands On With Speedball 2

Speedball 2 is being remade. It’s not Speedball 3 or anything like that, it’s a remake. It’s a new game attempting to cash in on the success of the old by replicating it with contemporary tools. To provide an analogy from cinema, it’s Clooney, Soderbergh, and chums remaking Solaris because the original Russian film is lost to a bygone era, but nevertheless carries incredible value for anyone who remembers it. Speedball 2 was the only future-sports game that ever really made sense. It was as near to perfect as any game has ever been. It’s being remade in 3D, on the PC.

Can that possibly be a good thing?

Perhaps it can. Kylotonn obvious have love for the original game, and they seem to understand its techno-chrome aesthetic. They want to get armoured men colliding on a steel pitch /just so/ and that’s a commendable intention.

They’ve provided RPS with a preview version containing a handful of arenas a bunch of teams. Once I’ve navigated the clunky menus and sorted out the terrible default graphics settings, the game runs smoothly. It sounds like Speedball 2 and it almost looks like it (but not quite).

The problem is that it doesn’t play like it.

They’ve added a button. Actually they’ve added a few buttons, but only one of them doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. It’s not that adding of keys to depress repeatedly is necessarily a bad thing, but Speedball 2 was an example of the perfect single-button design. You moved with the stick and you tackled and threw with the button. That was all the game needed, and it worked. It was efficient. Anyway, in this remake one of the buttons they’ve added switches you to the closest relevant player. In the original this switching was automatic. They should have left it that way.

As things are now the switching is semi-automatic. While it does switch to the ball-carrier most of the time, you have to manually switch if you’re not in possession of the ball. This also causes a lag in switching to a player to which the ball has been passed. It doesn’t take all that much to get used to this system, but it’s a matter of redundancy – you simply didn’t need that new button, and it should not have been included. The switch should always be automatic. I should imagine Kylotonn have provided manual switching to allow players greater control over their game, but I think it just sends us waddling towards over-complexity. There are jump and run buttons too. These are kind of extraneous, but not exactly a big deal.

The crucial problem with the manual switching is that it makes a long pass incredibly tricky. You want to be able to know that once you’ve lobbed it across the pitch you’re going to be able to continue your charge towards the goal in a single, fluid motion. Accidentally deselect the passed-to player, and, well, you’ve fucked it up. All this combines to make the smooth passing and tackling of the original game rather more awkward. It’s exactly this kind of awkwardness that I was praying this new game would not deliver. It’s especially bad with the speculative long pass. You throw, manually switch to a player who’s nearby, and then try and get into position – except in the half-second it’s taken you to press the button, it’s basically too late, as one of the computers players has started moving in on the ball.

(It’s a particular bugbear of Gillen – the pair of us are kind of writing this – that computer players don’t have to wrestle with a control system, and are capable of things which are simply physically impossible for humans to do – like an RTS where they’re giving equal attention to both sides of a map at once, or whatever. We digress.)

Anyway – this sort of increase in complexity kind of falls apart when the game’s as fast-moving as Speedball II is. There’s simply not enough time, in the way the game is paced at the moment, to do all this stuff manually. Speedball II’s one button system wasn’t just elegant – it also suited the way the game was played. It wasn’t FIFA, y’know.

But perhaps adding new stuff is in the spirit of this “remake”. The new arenas are all quite different, and provide different power ups for the players on each one. This isn’t sticking to the tiny, ancient template of Speedball 2, it’s creating a larger, quite different future sports beast. Hell, even the “Ice Cream!” guy is different.

(TREASON! – Retro Ed)

And I’m nothing if not unreasonably optimistic, and I’m therefore assuming that the final game will have some kind of auto-switching option that is missing from this preview. It is evidently unfinished, and there’s supposed to be two modes for the game, advanced and classic, or something like that. The preview code only seems to contain a single mode – and that’s the advanced one, I hope.

That said, Kieron’s unreasonably annoyed that the female characters don’t have helmets and the post-score replay shows the person celebrating rather than the goal itself. RPS Good Cop/Mad cop in full effect, I suspect.


  1. The_B says:

    I too hope for exactly the same.

    Although if they have to have that button in, I’m going to make sure it’s in a stupidly hard to accidentally press location.

  2. roBurky says:

    If they’re adding all those features etc, how can it be a remake? I would have thought that a remake would be updating the tech, adding modern stuff such as online multiplayer, etc, but preserving the mechanics. I’m confused.

  3. Jim Rossignol says:

    That’s precisely the point, Rob. A genuinely faithful remake would have been a hi-def version of the original game ported to the consoles and their lovely online delivery systems.

  4. Alec Meer says:

    Which is supposed to be happening for XBLA in addition to this, apparently. Different dev though.

  5. Schadenfreude says:

    Hopefully if the XBLA release is good and sells well (and assuming they didn’t use the Megadrive version as the basis then we all know it will) then they’ll get off their bums and release the Chaos Engine [with the British character names]. My first taste of steampunk that.

  6. roBurky says:

    Oh, I thought this /was/ the XBLA remake. I’m so confused now. There are going to be two Speedball 2 remakes simply called Speedball 2?

  7. Jim Rossignol says:

    Yes, apparently two remakes. This is the PC one. (As we cover PC games, and whatnot.)

  8. Citizen Parker says:

    This may be a touch of format heresy here, but if you haven’t played DEATHROW for the original X-Box (back compatible on 360) you’re really missing out. As far as I concerned, it’s the true sequel / remake / whatever of SPEEDBALL 2 that we yearn for.

    It had all the elements of success – simple, responsive controls that led to a surprising amount of depth and varieties of play style. One team might dominate by fancy footwork while another might just beat you to death instead, or trip you up with an incredible passing game.

    Playing through a DEATHROW season remains one of the most fun experiences I’ve ever had in co-operative play with friends. Along with NHL HITZ 2002 (and now REPUBLIC COMMANDO at US$2.50 used thanks to you guys) it is one of the few original X-Box games that you can pry out of my cold, dead hands.

    Oh, and the XBLA version is slated to be a port of the original SPEEDBALL 2, I believe. Seeing as the quality of XBLA ports are all over the map, this is still a pretty sketchy proposition. Now if they’d just hurry up and release SENSIBLE WORLD OF SOCCER on XBLA…

  9. Ghiest says:

    Sensible soccer, Powerdroid 90 and Speedball two are my all time favourite Amiga Games :P

    2 of which are being re-released, I’ve seen videos and rolling demo of Sensi soccer and it looks good, but by the sounds of things the SB2 one is not fairing so well :(

  10. Roberto says:

    Speedball II: Brutal Deluxe Xbox Live Date Announced

    link to gameinfowire.com

  11. essell says:

    “That said, Kieron’s unreasonably annoyed that the female characters don’t have helmets and the post-score replay shows the person celebrating rather than the goal itself.”

    Sounds pretty reasonable to me.

    Boo-urns on this “remake”. The real Speedball 2 is still beautiful, and this looks and sounds like arse. Worse still is that it’s stolen the name, so I now have to keep saying “the real” all the time, when I’m referring to the classic…

  12. jonbly says:

    It’s either a perfect re-creation with better tech, or it’s a waste of time. Brutal Dulux is not a can of paint… er, game… that can be improved on the gameplay front.

    If they’re going to change the gameplay, they should just call it Speedball 3 and be honest about it.

  13. Mark says:

    Did you test the new speedball game for the age-old guaranteed goal ‘technique’? (and by technique, I mean cheap exploit)

    Step 1: Run towards the goal
    Step 2: Lob the ball so that it rebounds off the wall above the goal and the goalkeeper rushes out to claim it
    Step 3: Before the ball comes down, crush the keeper like the pig dog that he is.
    Step 4: Bundle the ball into the empty goal.

    So cheap, but so effective.

  14. doc says:

    Sounds more like Speedball 2100… er… 2. And yeah, jonbly’s right, not much to gain by trying to yank the die hards chains. Come on, right now, I’ve got a Genesis plugged into the switcher just for the SB2:BD cartridge. Anyone that still knows the game loves it, those that don’t won’t care.

  15. fearian says:

    @Mark: Thats the winning tactic that won me most of my matches!

    as for the control adjustments, does noone else remember franticly running left or right after the opposition only to have the view suddenly snap to the goalie? your still pressing left, meaning you run right out of the way while your mate sticks one in the the back of the… uh… hole?

  16. AbyssUK says:

    Saw this in revisit an old story and I am still angry that it was so poorly executed… I even got a copy for FREE and I am ashamed of it there sat in my steam games list….how do I give it away…

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