There’s no denying that sports games have come a long way over the years. EA and Konami arguably dominate the market with their annual releases, while smaller studios such as Big Ant focus their efforts on the lesser popular sports. It’s fair to say that Big Ant has yet to truly penetrate the market at all, seeing as most of their releases tend to lean on a much smaller budget. This naturally comes at the expense of quality, something that’s every bit as apparent in their latest game, Casey Powell Lacrosse 18. You would be forgiven for believing that Big Ant’s one year break from the series would have yielded some notable improvements, sadly that’s not entirely true. Sports games of any category should be engaging enough to encourage fans to return, time and time again.
With that in mind, does Casey Powell Lacrosse 18 have what it takes to stand the test of time? Simply put, no, no it does not. I wont try and pretend that I have the foggiest clue as to what Lacrosse is all about. I knew nothing about the rules of the sport, hell I didn’t even know how many players take to each side. Undeterred, I went in head first fully expecting the game to feed me the basics of play. Enough for me to get by on, at least. Mercifully there’s a tutorial within which proves to be intuitive and in-depth enough to give Lacrosse newbies (such as myself) a fighting chance. Don’t get me wrong, I know that Lacrosse centers around two opposing teams with each kitted member holding a stick with a net attached on the end. This net is used to catch a ball that can either be passed to another team member or thrown into the opponents net goal.
That, ladies and gentlemen, was the limit of my insight to this sport. Clearly this sport finds much more acclaim over in America and Canada. Here in England on the other hand, it’s not very popular, so you can forgive my lack of know-how. Casey Powell Lacrosse 18 offers a collection of modes to dive into. Starting with the Career mode, players are able to create an avatar of your choice, selecting from a wide variety of different features; hair, beards, facial shape and so on and so forth. Career mode enables you to take on the role of an upcoming player or certified professional, as well as allowing you to play manager and throw orders at the entire team. Safe to say that there’s enough content variety here to please fans of the sport that held Casey Powell Lacrosse 16 in high regard.
Those of you that are looking for a more padded and refined experience, well, you’re shit out of luck. Why is that? Well, I like to eat my desert first, so we’ll get to the veggies in a moment. Outside of the deep career mode there’s a creation suite, as well as a few other bog standard additions that we typically see in any given sports game. The creation suite is actually pretty solid, granting access to tools that will allow you to build your own player – as aforementioned, on top of crafting teams and building stadiums. There’s even the option to create team logos if you fancy really getting your hands dirty. It’s a crying shame, then, that the same level of innovation has not been spared for the presentation, or indeed the actual gameplay as far as newcomers are concerned. You see, Casey Powell Lacrosse 18 practically alienates those that have never played its predecessors, mainly due to its harsh difficulty spike.
While the basic controls are quite well refined, the more advanced controls are far removed from anything basic. Players will move via the left stick and utilize a series of commands that are mapped to the buttons. It’s as clear cut as that. However the lack of breathing room, no thanks to the strict AI, doesn’t often leave any room for standard traversal. The overly aggressive AI demands that you acquaint yourselves with the advanced control schemes very early on, almost completely removing any notion of that initial warm-up that we enjoy in other sports games. Trying to pull of a long distance shot or play a skill, for instance, becomes less of a sport and more of a taxing work out. It doesn’t help matters that the commands don’t always register, meaning that you’ll often do little else but flap your stick – or even hit your opposition with it – and yield no outcome.
This may not be so much of an issue for returning fans and series veterans, but I would be lying if I said I was happy with the learning curve here. Casey Powell Lacrosse 18 certainly would have benefited from a better (deeper) tutorial feed, something that actually feeds into the core modes. I’m not asking to be spoon fed, though I certainly question Casey Powell Lacrosse 18’s capability of maintaining the interests of newcomers. When a game is designed to have so many different control systems feeding into one another, it pays off to ensure that the gameplay remains fluid throughout. Here, it just seems like everything clashes at a regular pace. To say that this game was delayed for quite some time, I was surprised by its overall lack of polish. That same criticism can be aimed directly at the presentation of the game. Sure, this is to be expected given the series’ and developer’s history, but that’s no excuse.
Casey Powell Lacrosse 18 may well be bright and colorful, however it’s completely undermined by its shoddy, lazy and quite frankly awful design. Stadium crowds look more akin to the OG Xbox era, being that they’re all pixelated and far from impressive. The poor presentation isn’t exclusive to the crowds, as even the character models fall victim to this. The first match I played I witnessed both teams coming to the court, with each and every member looking identical to one another. Even the respective managers looked like twins, which further showcases Casey Powell Lacrosse 18’s poor copy-and-paste visual structure. What’s especially harrowing here is that the game supports a decent character creation suite, so why the hell Big Ant couldn’t utilize that is beyond my comprehension. This is all rounded off by a crappy soundtrack and a complete disregard to meaningful commentary. Seriously, this isn’t worth the disk-space that it’s written on. It’s like for the few things it gets right, it gets twice as much wrong, and then some.
Casey Powell Lacrosse 18 is a poorly designed sports title at best, despite showing initial promise. This game’s tough difficulty spike and lack of fluid functionality alienates series’ newcomers. Veteran fans will more than likely appreciate what’s on offer, but for those that enjoy quality and quantity, look elsewhere. Copy and paste characters, shoddy visuals, meaningless commentary and much more, awaits those that don’t heed this warning.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.