A legend returns, and it’s gonna kick your ass up and down the field.
Dino Dini’s Kick Off Revival is a game that I’ve wanted for a long time. After spending a good portion of my youth making my way through a myriad of football games (Actua Soccer, FIFA, ISS (now better known as PES) along with management games such as Ultimate Soccer Manager and the mighty Championship Manager. Football games were part and parcel with my gaming education, and Kick Off was the cherry on top of that particular cake.
Kick Off was a brand that had its own unique perspective on the beautiful game. Back in the day of joysticks (remember them?) and the almighty ‘one button to rule them all’ control system, Kick Off was a wonderful experience that stays with me even to this day. I shared this information with creator Dino Dini himself when I was fortunate enough to meet him at EGX Rezzed earlier this year, and it appeared that I wasn’t the first to share that particular sentiment. Kick Off lingers in the same part of my gaming conscious along with Cool Spot, Zool, Chaos Engine and many more, and to know that it’s returned to grab a whole new generation of gamers along with a bunch of grown ass adults who played the originals to death, it’s reassuring in the current industry climate. Kick Off doesn’t scream from the top of the buildings as much as it taps you on the shoulder, like an old friend who recognises you from across the park and wants to catch up. It’s surprising that it’s here in the first place, but you’re very glad it is.
So here we are then, 27 years later and Kick Off Revival is now available to play on my shiny PS4, spitting out a 1080p resolution in full high definition, the game I played to death is suddenly sharing hard drive space with my precious Rocket League and TellTale experiences is something I shouldn’t take for granted. Revival returns not trying to dethrone the FIFA’s and the PES’s of the world, it’s not even trying to compete, but it’s a solid reminder of when games kicked your ass and you had to learn the crap out of them to get anywhere. Kick Off Revival is the antithesis of the modern football game, but does it really have a place in this brave new teraflop world?
So you’ve got one button (X), which allows you to pass, shoot, head, tackle (which takes you near enough from one side of the pitch to the other), they feel somewhat unbalanced and seem to appear as if from nowhere when you’re attempting to reclaim the ball, at times you can get away with it but mostly you’ll end up causing a foul (I gave away many penalties when trying to just clear the ball, instead I ended up tackling a player in the box thus pretty much conceding the game by default, even if most penalties tend not to go in from my experience).
Games are fast, frantic and bonkers in a Rocket League kind of way, this is not meant to be a full on simulation of the beautiful game, not by a long shot. Holding down X will allow you to keep hold of the ball whilst dribbling, though it’s arbitrary when you haven’t really got much control anyway. Again, like Rocket League, dribbling the ball takes far more focus than you’re probably used to in more serious simulations. Dribbling will also slow you down considerably, which can be frustrating when you’re trying to get away from an opposition that’s moving much faster than you are. Realism is not the order of the day here and I don’t suppose it was ever meant to be. FIFA this ain’t, the sooner you realise that the more fun you’re going to have with Kick Off Revival.
The visuals are in a crisp high definition, and makes the game look naturally superior to its predecessors, but don’t expect much from the game in terms of having much to look at. The ‘retro’ tone of the game is so inescapably present and correct, there’s every chance you could be easily put off by its aesthetic if you’re used to a more realistic visual representation. I can certainly live with the old school visuals of the matches themselves (and to be fair, if you look closely the animation on the players during celebrations and throw-ins are smooth as silk), it’s the buildings that surround the pitch I have a small issue with. It all looks a bit garbage, and not in a retro kind of way. It just looks lazy. I could of made it in 3DS Max and I’m about as bad a programmer as you’re ever likely to meet.
So what’s missing? Well, an awful lot, but if you come into the game with the right mindset you know you weren’t going to get it anyway. There are no options to work on tactics, no substitutions, no formation changes, no red or yellow cards, you can’t really change your approach in any aspect and every single team plays exactly the same as each other (There is word that missing aspects will be added in future updates, but for now they are nowhere to be seen). If you’re serious about your realism it’s going to be hard to recommend a game like Kick Off purely because it’s the most arcade retro football game that’s probably been made in, well, 30 years. All these missing aspects which are included in other football games as standard may throw you off, but it simply isn’t what this game is about. Again, this isn’t a simulation.
There is also no offside rule, which as Dino Dini pointed out himself, takes the fun out of the game. I’m not going to argue with that.
Your available modes are single player, two player, practice mode (which, admittedly, doesn’t teach you a damn thing and is more just a kickabout without another team present), a tournament mode (very Euro’s, but again, it’s just a series of matches one after the other. Don’t expect much here in the way of competition statistics and the like), and online play, which is a nice addition, even if it seems to be rather difficult to find a match at the moment. I played a few games online and it was certainly fun, but it’s funny when you come across a player who also has no real idea what they’re doing and each game ends up 0-0 because you’re both just slide tackling each other into oblivion.
So then, Dino Dini’s Kick Off Revival is a special kind of experience that you’ll only enjoy if you jump in with both feet and just roll with it. There’s very little of the game which can be considered a realistic interpretation of a sport the whole world adores, but that’s not the point. The memories you have of playing this game as a kid will come flooding back and remind you of a time when games kicked your ass and you had to properly learn how to play it in order to get anywhere. I imagine it’s going to be quite the tough sell to anyone who don’t get what it’s trying to achieve, and FIFA/PES aficionados may scoff at the visuals and the relentlessly difficult gameplay. This is Rocket League if the game was actually football, this is the beautiful game if you’re five years old sitting in front of a Mega Drive.
There’s nothing else like Kick Off Revival. You’ve just got to want it.
DINO DINI’S KICK OFF REVIVAL
Dino Dini’s Kick Off Revival is available now on PSN for £7.99 or at retail for £14.99
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review we were provided a copy of the game.