AFL Evolution 2

Bobbing up like a cork in the… what? They’ve sacked commentator Dennis Cometti?! Still, it’s how you play the game that matters, or so we’re told, so how does AFL Evolution 2 shape up?

Getting the commentary out of the way, Richo has also been given the heave-ho. Poor Richo. New to the commentator’s box are Garry Lyon and Anthony Hudson. Seeing as they basically recorded a bunch of footy words which then got cut up to apply to every single game, the result is A biT stiL-teD, but could be worse. We’d have preferred Dennis and Matty though.

The first AFL Evolution was feature-packed and this one’s just as huge. It’s huger than Aaron Sandilands in fact. Pick a league, any league. From juniors to the home and away season to the AFLW comp, they’re all here. Current team rosters are in place and detail is great – you can actually recognise most players, and that’s not just because of their tatts.

You can play exhibition matches, full seasons, online, offline, player and coach careers, up to four players and more. Most every variable you could name is, well, variable. There are menus oozing with options, although some are best left alone. We found the standard camera view to be too far from the action – even on a 55” screen – so pulled it in one notch. That’s fine, but whichever player then lined up for goals against us wasn’t onscreen. Oops.

Regardless of little glitches like that above, presentation is, for the most, quite ace, although some of the crowds sound a bit thin. Then again, in 2020 that could be called accuracy. The year’s events have caused issues for the new real season-emulating ‘Gameday’ feature, as with only one round going down there’s not a lot to play with. Hopefully the AFL will buy their own island soon and they’ll get the comp cranked up again in isolation. Mind you, that one round without crowds was quite unsettling.

AFL Evolution 2

Anybody who has the first iteration will know that it played OK, but needed improvement. Generally, this does play better. While the kicking mechanisms have been improved, especially when going for goal, marking remains as incomprehensible as Brian Taylor. Wowee!

Yes, AFL Evolution 2 is still saddled with an alarmingly steep learning curve – even if you know the actual game better than the Fox Footy brains trust, it doesn’t mean that you’ll slip on the virtual boots and let rip the moves like Dusty. Every button does something, then something else depending upon whether you’re in possession or not. There’s a lot to take in, beyond the split-second timing that’s often required to pull anything off that’s worth pulling off.

We acknowledge that AFL footy is more complicated than trying to fit “Anthony McDonald Tipungwuti” on a business card, and as such our wish for non-convoluted controls remains unanswered. Like its predecessor, what AFL Evolution 2 desperately needs is a simple, pick up and play arcade mode. One button to kick, one to mark. Fun over technicality – and accessibility for all.

“We acknowledge that AFL footy is more complicated than trying to fit “Anthony McDonald Tipungwuti” on a business card…”

As it stands, the difficulty cliff facing any gamer picking this up will require hours of acquaintance to get even vaguely in step with the game plan, let alone a non-gamer mate who you’ve hooked up with for an online game (there is local co-op, but in these lockdown times that is, of course, pretty much a no-go other than with immediate family. We’re compliant!) Even jamming the game into the lowest difficulty level can cause hours of frustration when the AI opposition takes EVERY SINGLE BLOODY MARK against you!

The built-in teams seem fairly accurate, at least judging by the one team that we really know and love, the Tiges. Mind you, Sydney Stack wasn’t an automatic start. So, we subbed him in before playing our first game and guess who kicked the opening goal? Go Stack!

Ultimately, if you were hoping for AFL Evolution 2 to do an Alex Rance-like transition from list clogger to back-half GOAT, it hasn’t happened. But it has taken small steps towards rising above the label of good ordinary player and, considering that it’s a niche game developed by a small local team, it certainly deserves an encouragement award.

Or, as the magnificent Dennis may have said if he hadn’t been sacked, you may go into this game optimistically, but if you weren’t a fan before then you’ll come out misty optically.

AFL Evolution 2 is available now on PS4 and Xbox One, and is coming May 14 for Nintendo Switch.

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