Back in 2017 there was a lot of hype, anticipation and hope surrounding the return of Australia’s great game to the video game market. A bit like the weight of expectation on Patty Cripps shoulders when it comes to carrying Carlton, Wicked Witch had the hopes and expectations of every AFL fan who plays video games. But in typical Carlton fashion, instead of fulfilling those dreams AFL Evolution was a letdown and was battered from pillar to post by critics and players. I was a little more generous, awarding the game a 6 in my review. However, I’m expecting bigger and better things with AFL Evolution 2 as Wicked Witch has had time to improve on the foundations laid out in the original – there will be no Sherrin-tinted glasses this time around.
With the game scheduled for release in the second half of the season (I’m guessing around finals time), I’ve penned seven things that I believe will make AFL Evolution infinitely better than its predecessor.
Fix the commentary
Obvious call – but I figured I’d start with a cheap one.
Let’s be honest, the commentary in AFL Evolution was awful. Don’t get me wrong, I love Dennis Cometti and Richo, but the delivery of the lines (and the lines themselves) was cringeworthy. Not to mention they were often said in the wrong context or repeated constantly throughout matches. I get the want and need to add footy colloquialisms (and they should), but these have the most impact when seldom used – I mean after 184 times of hearing Dennis quip ‘that shot out like a chocolate bar from a slot machine’, it kind of loses its appeal and becomes more of an annoyance.
Anthony “Huddo” Hudson and Garry Lyon have been bestowed the duties of bringing the digital matches to life this time around. Both are quality commentators, but as we’ve seen, quality commentators doesn’t always mean quality commentary. However the initial teaser video featuring Huddo should be cause for optimism.
Just as long as Huddo’s famous “thirteen” call is included for any player who kicks a baker’s dozen (for the uninitiated: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BHglNVuJ4xc).
AFL Evolution’s gameplay was about as easy to control as the loosest bloke on the end of season footy trip, which is why one of the biggest omissions in AFL Evolution was the lack of a training or tutorial mode. There was nothing to get the players accustomed to the controls and mechanics. Instead players were like a young recruit player for Carlton in the Pagan era; thrown into the deep end without any real idea of what was going on.
Sure it had Free Roam, but that was about as practical as wearing moulds on a wet, sodden Waverley Park oval. It didn’t teach you how to take the mark of the year or kick a torp to win the game after the siren.
AFL Evo 2 could (and should) follow the FIFA (EA) model and have a bunch of skill challenges that not only teach players the basic and advanced mechanics but allow them to compete with their friends and others in online leaderboards.
You fellas wanna come play some marker’s up?
Deeper Coach Mode
How many of us have thought that the people running the club we support have no idea when they’ve made a decision that is baffling to say the least? With a deeper and more fleshed out Coach Mode, players could build a dynasty that would rival Brisbane’s three flags in a row (2001-03), or Carlton’s three wooden spoons between 2002-2006.
While AFL Evolution had a Coach mode, it was about as deep as Carlton’s list, and as so it had plenty of room for improvement. Coaches could adjust membership and merchandise costs, changing them on the fly if need be, upgrade their staff, extend player contracts and trade players come post-season, as well as draft the next stars for the future.
It would great to see these elements fleshed out more in AFL Evo 2, and instead of simply upgrading elements like scouting, coaches could assign scouts on assignments, such as finding the next Tim Kelly in the WAFL or the next Charlie Curnow in the NAB League (former TAC Cup). Other things like offering promotions on the back of big wins (bobbleheads etc.) would be a neat addition. Being in control of the reserves side would take it to a whole new level but let’s not be greedy.
Furthermore, with the media playing such a large part of the industry it would be nice to see coaches able to give press conferences (midweek and post-match) with players able to answer with classic footy clichés like ‘he’s training the house down’, ‘we’re taking it one week at time’, ‘full credit to the boys’, or ‘we knew they’d come out hard’.
More locker room access
No, I’m not talking about Roaming Brian.
Tying into the above juicier Coach Mode, I am talking about more man-management options. Games like NHL and Football Manager have come along in strides over the years in providing players will a deeper off-ice/field experience. In these games coaches will have to deal with players morale levels that will increase or decrease due to a range of factors, which in AFL Evo 2 could be such as being dropped to the magoos, poor form, or not receiving enough public praise from your coach. Coaches could have a little D&M with the player to try and iron out any issues the player has to make them feel loved again.
Expansion – Be the ultimate list manager
Let’s be real, we all love fantasy football and we all think we’re God’s gift to it (at least I do anyway). What better way to show your eye for talent than building a premiership winning list from scratch. I know this was in AFL Evo to a degree with custom teams, but I want the whole box and dice. One thing I’d love to see is the option to create an expansion team and play with them in the AFL season proper with custom designed jerseys and logos. Players could choose from a number of locations such as Canberra and Tasmania (I mean how else are they going to get a team?) and join the AFL as the 19th team or at the expense of another team (sorry Gold Coast, it was never going to work out in the end). You could take on that team’s list or have a total league redraft – a bit like drafting a SuperCoach Draft team. I’m sure Patty Cripps would love playing in Tassie…
Bigger and better gameday experience
Nowadays footy is a spectacle watched by millions of viewers. It’s only right that the digital gameday experience mirror something similar. The NHL has set the benchmark with its pre-game festivities that include pre-recorded footage of actual pre-game commentary (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=369SUTZxy0Q). It’s things like this that add that little bit more realism and immersion to the mix.
Custom banners should be a thing too. Players could have the option of tailoring their club’s banner to suit the match ahead, no doubt bringing out the Bay 13 in all of us.
This one is easily the most important and really goes without saying but the gameplay needs to be refined for it to be enjoyable, with a number of mechanics either OP or too hard to execute without being tackled. Speaking of tackling, this facet especially was a nightmare with every single tackle sticking like glue. Hopefully this is addressed and players are given more time to dispose of the ball or are given a digital Teflon coating. Also, umps put the bloody whistle away. I’m sick of being pinged for holding the ball or a push in the back whenever I do get wrapped up or tackle a bloke.
They still know we’re coming!
I’m under no illusions that lot of these are likely going to be difficult to implement given the likely budget constraints facing Wicked Witch. However, surely all parties involved – particularly the AFL – don’t want another dud release on their hands. All of the above suggestions matter not if they can’t the gameplay right or at least fun. Either way there will always be a handful of diehards (like me) that will support the game no matter what because footy is more than a sport, it’s a way of life.