When I saw the words “Authentic Soccer” adorning the cover of Pure Futbol, I assumed I was in for a gameplay experience that was at least somewhat grounded in reality. While players do have to adhere to the laws of gravity in Ubisoft’s second outing to the soccer pitch (after the decent Academy of Champions Soccer on Wii), that’s pretty much the only similarity between real soccer and Pure Futbol. But that’s fine. A little misnomer could be overlooked if the game delivered a fun arcade experience, but sadly, that’s nowhere near the case.
Pure Futbol uses five-on-five soccer in a style that’s reminiscent of EA Sports’ FIFA Street series from years back. Shots leave smoke trails behind them, there are over-the-top dribbling moves, and crosses send the world into a slo-mo mini-game of sorts. Depth is added to each of the two shot types in the game thanks to a meter that must be charged to a point before releasing the button at exactly the right moment. The mechanic is fine, but it totally zaps the user’s ability to aim the shot. No matter how hard I tried, whenever I perfectly hit the timing of the shot meter and landed a “pure” strike of the ball, my control was totally eliminated. The same goes for lesser shots that don’t quite land in the “pure” section of the shot meter.
For a soccer game, shooting the ball is obviously important, but Pure Futbol stumbles right out of the gate with a shooting mechanic that removes entirely too much control from the user. Other moves don’t perform all that well, either. Too often simply dribbling and cutting on the field tries your patience as your player is slow to respond to simple inputs like making a quick pass. Speaking of passing, players are really, really bad at it. While their passes are usually on target, they have no sense for how to pace them properly in different situations. If a player is making a break towards the goal, the pass should be crisp and quick, but in Pure Futbol it looks no different than if a defender made a leisurely pass back to his goalie.
Speaking of goalkeeping, the AI of your net minder doesn’t fare much better. I once had an opposing forward shoot on goal, only to have my keeper dive in the opposite direction. The offensive player made no move to fake out my goalie, so I have no idea what he was thinking diving the other way. The artificial intelligence only gets worse from there with players who pass and dribble the ball directly out of bounds from time to time.
The AI in Pure Futbol is, in a word, bad. Sadly the campaign mode doesn’t help. You have a limited amount of weeks to take your created team and its captain from the bottom of the barrel to the top of the heap. I’d be fine with this setup if only games were presented in a creative and different way. Needless to say, they aren’t. All you get are games with a standard time or score limit and that’s about it. Different locations on the map might provide a tournament and you’ll earn players that can be used in your lineup, but the overall structure of campaign mode falls flat in a big way.
My frustrations worsened as the poorly designed foul system showed itself. Pure Futbol penalizes players for slide tackles that aren’t penalties at all. It’s made even stranger by the fact that you’re playing on fields with no referees and in environments that feel very “street” with no acknowledgement of that undeniable fact. Why are fouls called at all? In my mind, they have no place in this sort of game.
Online gameplay is just as bad, as none of your actions in the single-player campaign mode carry over to Xbox Live or PSN. Instead you’ll have to rebuild an entire team using “Pure Points” that are earned in-game. I suffered tremendous lag in my online efforts, but that could’ve been due to the location of my opposition more so than anything else.
Graphically, Pure Futbol is a real mess. The framerate suffers quite a lot whenever the camera zooms out to reveal a good chunk of the field (which it does quite a bit). Player details are cartoonish and you’ll have a tough time deciphering who’s who on the pitch. Animations are also very angular. It goes without saying that Ubisoft has a long way to go if it wants to compete in the soccer market. The one upside is that the presentation elements that pop up after goals are exciting enough.
Pure Futbol is a mess of a soccer game. Its cover claims that an authentic experience awaits, but what’s actually in store for players who pick up this game is far from the real deal. That’d be fine if the game embraced its arcade roots, but it shuns them instead.
The mechanics that are present don’t produce a functional soccer experience and the AI only hurts its chances of providing any sort of fun. I’d say players scratching and clawing for one final virtual soccer game before the World Cup kicks off later this week might want to give Pure Futbol a quick glance, but most sane people will just look to any other title on the market for a better time.