We’re in the fourteenth minute of stoppage-time at the end of the second-half and Real Madrid and Chelsea are deadlocked at 3-3. Then a long ball is hoofed forward, Ivan Helguera gets a head to it and suddenly – Luis Figo is through on goal! He shimmies past his man and barrels down on the goalkeeper. A weary Carlo Cudicini knows there’s nothing he can do – there was nothing he could do about the three identical goals he conceded earlier, and Figo blasts the ball in to the roof of the net from all of four yards. Madrid are in front with what’s surely the last kick of the game.
The referee blows his whistle and the fans are… lifeless. They continue to just stand there and sway gently like sullen teenagers at a music festival. Never have a group of animated figures looked less animated. Not that Billy Turner, who’d been playing as Real Madrid in this absurd match, cares.
While others may be perturbed by the crude animation or clumsy gameplay of This Is Football: 2003, a game which is now nearly ten years old, Turner merely revels in its idiocy knowing that his victory had very little to do with the fact that he was behind the controller, as while modern games have an increased focus on skill and tactical awareness, This Is Football sticks with the age-old cocktail of good fortune and the ability to cheat.
This Is Football, you see, was the first – and last – game in video game history to include a “dive” button. You could be clean through on goal and have to make the decision to either a) shoot, or b) throw yourself to the ground. And nine out of ten times you can guarantee that the striker won’t be shooting.
This was a game that seemed to realise it was ridiculous. For one it had Kieron Dyer on the cover. It also put very little effort in being able to defend without fouling/assaulting your opponent. FIFA 12 revamped its defending mechanism to make it almost impossible to tackle people, instead forcing defenders to be positioned well and to force a mistake. Where’s the fun in that when you could be hacking at shin bones?
TIF doesn’t need ‘tactics’ or any of that nonsense, instead making every single defensive button “lunge.” You can either lunge surreptitiously or you can lunge like a convicted criminal with nothing left to lose, but don’t be fooled – you will be lunging.
By the time Chelsea lead 3-2 against Real Madrid there had been an unusually high number of red cards – nine to be exact. Fernando Hierro had seen red for spear-tackling Eidur Gudjohnsen, Eidur Gudjohnnsen had been sent off after his fifth dive, Graeme Le Saux went after he hacked down Fernando Morientes in the box, while I believe Morientes begot Winston Bogarde, and Winston Bogarde begot Obed by Ruth, Obed begot Jesse and Jesse begot David the king.
Ah, the beautiful game.
Just reeling off those names brings back so many memories, a time not so long ago when football seemed a lot more naïve – or at least I certainly was – and its video games seemed to somehow reflect that. You didn’t have to faff around with “tactics” or “positioning,” the newest incarnations of FIFA almost becoming as complicated and at times frustrating to play as the game itself. This Is Football doesn’t even bother with differentiating between the abilities of different players – they’re all the same, only their names have changed. It’s a Stalinist utopia inspired by Bon Jovi lyrics.
When you play This Is Football you get eight minutes of unmitigated chaos, ending in accusations of cheating and essentially what boils down to an insult to football.
And it is hilarious.