Speedball 2 - Tournament revives a popular classic with a new coat of paint and a bit of polish, but keeps the classic gameplay from the original. This brings back a lot of memories, but also raises a bunch of new problems. While some fans of the classic might like the new title, there are issues that arise that will bug both them and those who have never heard of Speedball before.
For those new to the series, Speedball is basically a handball-meets-football extreme sport. It's a no-holds-barred game of the future, full of tackles, power-ups, and injuries. The goal isn't terribly complicated: take a ball and put it in your opponent's goal before he can do the same to you. But this isn't your granddaddy's sports game, as tackling and taking out your opponents is all in the name of the game.
Before the game even started, though, I was hit by the unintuitive and overly complex menu system, a feature that unfortunately permeates a lot of the game. Getting through, I managed to create a new team and get to the meat of the game. You can take a team through a number of matches, winning credits as you complete them. With these credits you can upgrade the stats of your players or, if you feel like holding off, you can just purchase some already-boosted ringers to join your team.
The customization idea is pretty neat, but in reality it wasn't worth the effort. Half the time it's better just to get the computer to auto-upgrade your characters. Additionally, the fact that there are only three models (big guy, big cyborg, big woman) doesn't help the feeling that your players are pretty faceless and generic.
The controls of Tournament have been improved from the simple form of the classic, allowing low and high throws and jumps. While things have changed, they've still remained pretty simple. The biggest problem here is the lag that's introduced between you pressing a button and a player doing something. This is bad enough normally, but for whatever reason the same lag is introduced when it comes to switching the player that you're controlling. In a game as fast-paced as this, the results are pretty devastating; by the time you switch the player to one closer to the ball, it's already been picked up, and thrown elsewhere, forcing you to switch again.
This doesn't even get into the issues with keyboard controls. With a gamepad, it's decent enough, but control with a keyboard is terrible. The WASD configuration only allows for eight directions of movement, and when it comes to firing your ball into a goal past a goalie that's trying to get between you and your objective, or avoiding an opponent that just wants to mow you down, this can become a huge hassle.
The biggest (and most obvious) change is the graphical upgrade to the series. Gone is the two-dimensional sprites of the early 90's, replaced with shiny graphical effects, new arena details and a better - and changeable - camera position. There are issues with things like the ball rendering, which can sometimes blend into the scenery and models, so you might be looking for where it has disappeared to when it turns out your character has been holding it. Other than that however, the graphics are pretty good, and though there are some minor issues when viewed up close, the game looks pretty good from the default distance.
The introduction of a multiplayer should be enough for fans of the original to get hot in the face, and though there's a very awkward registration progress (you have to quit the game and sign up at the developer's website), the game does deliver, albeit a little sparsely on the frills. Keeping track of things like clans takes a little work, as the in-game lobby is pretty bland.
Speedball 2 -Tournament is a fairly mindless sports game to play. Sometimes you can win simply by running around the goalie and tossing the ball in, and as far as strategy goes, the AI just doesn't have the capability to do that kind of thing. Sometimes it positions itself in such a way that a randomly-tossed ball that bounces off the wall above the goalie will fall neatly into your teammate's hands, but that seems to be due to luck more than anything else.
So, the game does deliver its promise - upgrading a classic sports game while keeping the original gameplay intact - but it does it in such a way that introduces new problems and irritations. Bad menus, lagging controls, and some repetitive gameplay mechanics hinder it. It's still a playable game, and has some cool features, but overall, it just isn't enough.