Developer Vivid Games sets out to recapture the nostalgia of The Bitmap Brothers original Speedball with a modern reincarnation in Speedball 2 HD
In the violent cyberpunk dystopian future of 2326, rival gangs have formed a sports league to settle their deadly disputes known as Speedball where the object of the game is to score points either through goals or viciously attacking and hurting the opposing team. Developer Vivid Games sets out to recapture the nostalgia of The Bitmap Brothers original Speedball with a modern reincarnation in Speedball 2 HD.
Vivid Games has essentially kept all the elements of the original Speedball, down to the smallest details like the ice cream vendor shouting in the crowd, but with updated graphics and much more detail. For fans of the original it’s a welcome trip down memory lane, however the rose tinted glasses of nostalgia wear off quickly and you’re left with a 20 year old game struggling to stay fresh and relevant.
Compared to the original, there is much more to see and do from a gameplay perspective. For one, games are now 9 vs 9 rather than the 5 of the original with a much bigger field of play and bonuses spread throughout. You score points through multiple methods; one being scoring goals worth 10 points each, knocking out opposing players for 10 points, hitting a bonus bumper in the middle for 2 and being able to multiply points by lighting up a row of stars along the edge. These additions help provide a bit of strategy and depth where it is possible to win games without scoring a single goal which is refreshing.
Games are fast-paced and simplistic in its control scheme in that all you need to worry about is the action button that shoots, passes, and tackles (when you don’t have the ball). This makes it really easy to pick up and play, however the lack of other controls faults other areas, such as switching players which is done automatically and I found rarely switched to the right player often causing my offensive attacks to fail or have my defence leave itself completely open to attack. It is frustrating and can become a major flaw when the game is tight. This game is also meant to be played on a joypad as a keyboard makes it really difficult for precision passing and shooting.
Off the field, there is quite a deep level of customization as you can buy, trade and upgrade players to build a team that suits your play style. Setting up formations is also a new feature as you can choose to play defensively, regular or offensively to varying degrees. Combined with being able to change a players positions, it adds a level of strategy to the early games when your team is starting out. That being said, as you progress further and your players are almost maxed out, the opposing teams don’t upgrade with you so games become extremely easy until you unlock the Intergalactic Cup which pits you against the hardest teams.
Outside of the career mode, there are quick matches and a local multiplayer option with no online multiplayer support. Unless you or your friends have multiple gamepads, you will have to cram onto one keyboard which is not the most comfortable experience, especially when games are close. Without much more to offer than one off matches, the multiplayer quickly becomes dry and run of the mill.
It’s plain to see that Vivid Games had the best of intentions when making Speedball 2 HD by trying to revive a classic into modern day, but aside from very few differences, it remains almost exactly the same as it did years ago. Character design is very well detailed, but textures look dated and the animations are not what you’d expect from a game with “HD” in the title, not to mention the game runs at an abysmal 30fps which does not help for a game as fast paced as this one.
Although the game itself is fun and a faithful remake of the original classic, the amount of flaws and lack of new improvements make Speedball 2 HD a good idea on paper but poorly executed. Unless you’re a major fan of the original it’s hard to recommend the $9.99 price tag on Steam, but potential for online multiplayer in the future would help its case.
Score: 5 / 10