No refs! No rules! No penalties! And yet, No Fun!
Futuristic sports games have always been a pain in my side. They rarely follow through on their promise to take you "to the next level of athletic achievement," usually ending up as some awkward hybrid of roller hockey, professional wrestling, and foozball (and why does the ball always glow?). Of course, not all future sport games suck (check out Pitball ). But the overwhelming majority of these games fail to adequately synthesize aspects of good sports gaming.
Excessive verbosity aside, let me dive right in and say that Professional Underground League of Pain (hereafter known as PULP) fully ascribes to my philosophy that nearly all future sports games belong in the Bucket of Sheer and Otherwise Total Crap (or lost in the mail, burned in a brick oven, squashed by a giant foot, etc.)
Okay, perhaps I'm being a bit too harsh. This game isn't completely terrible, but it is indeed quite boring and MUCH too easy.
The plot: For some inexplicable reason, society's greatest misfits, renegades, and all-around screw-ups band together and create the "sport of the future." This unnamed activity involves throwing a plasma ball into a circular 'hoop'. The game field is broken up into segments covering 1 point shots, 2 point shots, and 3 pointers. The trick here is that you must charge the ball with your team's color before shooting it. The charge station is ominously located at the opponent's end of the field (which looks like an indoor soccer stadium). You can bash, poke, bite, maul, maim or politely stomp on the other team, as there are no rules or referees.
You can play as one of 16 international teams, ranging from the powerhouse "Tokyo Tornadoes" to the powerfully inebriated "Tijuana Tyrants." Each team is composed of 6 total players, 4 starters and 2 subs. Every player has certain skill levels (accuracy, speed, etc.), and the team as a whole has a certain amount of expendable energy to upgrade your players.
The premise for this game (like most future sport games) is cool, but unfortunately doesn't work well in practice. For starters, the game is presented and pushed as being heavy on the "pain" element (hence the "league of pain", as opposed to "league of pleasantries"). But the emphasis on fighting and brutality disappears when you play the game. One button is reserved for "fighting." That's it. If you want to fight, simply press the fight button (whoa...).You will then proceed to wave your arms around as if possessed by the Holy Spirit, and anyone on the other team who you strike will lose a smidgen of energy and stumble. You can do this over and over again until they stumble their way down to the ground, after which they get back up for more potential stumbling. Anybody home, McFly?
The gameplay is incredibly easy. There is an astonishing lack of any difficulty setting. This would be fine if the computer was set at a high difficulty, but alas, no such luck. I lost badly the first time I played, after which I proceeded to trash opponents with ease. Way too much ease. In fact, by my second match, I was beating the computer so badly I began to feel like a bully. Psygnosis usually makes challenging games, but PULP is not one of them.
There are several modes of play available: single match, season and tournament. There is no stat tracking - you can't keep a record on how well the individual players have performed. This would have made the game much better, adding a touch of realism and flow.
Not all is bad, however. There are 23 different camera perspectives available. This adds tremendous diversity in how each game is played. But flaws still exist. I found that the overhead views are much more conducive to winning. While they lack the graphical sophistication of the close ups, they make for easy victory. The closer views look great but are confusing to play with, so much so that I chose to only use them during replays.
The aforementioned graphics are good if not flashy. A nice amount of colors are used, and the players move with fluidity. The light sourcing looks good, and the ball gives a nice lens-flare. PULP relies on its excellent 3D mapping to draw you into the game atmosphere. Unfortunately, the gameplay just doesn't hold up.
I suppose you could do worse things than buy this game, such as making fun of the disabled or shooting cats with a rifle. I'd advise serious gamers to save their money or check out Pitball. This one is for amateurs only.