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The Woes of Sports Videogame Commentary

Right. Fuck. I think I can do this one a day thing. Let’s give the first proper post a try.

Commentary in sports videogames is rubbish. Almost always.

And I’ve decided I know why this is.  It’s because in, say, FIFA 10, Martin Tyler and Andy Gray aren’t there to talk about the action on-screen. Okay, sure, it’s a simulated effect, with contextually triggered audio samples, so of course they’re not.  But I mean that more fundamentally.  That isn’t their purpose.  Or, at least, it only is on the surface.

No, what they’re actually there to do is teach you to play the game, and advertise its features.  They’re there so that, when the opposition first lobs your keeper, you’re pretty sure this is the sort of thing you could try too, because Martin and Andy don’t shut the fuck up about it.  They’re there so that there is no fucking way in hell that you will ever forget that you have just performed a celebration, just a few seconds ago.  The amount those two witter on about what celebration you’re doing is mind-blowing.  I can only assume that it’s to ensure that anyone sitting nearby who hasn’t bought the game yet will be absolutely certain that this is a game in which you can perform celebrations.

They’re also there to teach you about the actual sport the game’s simulating.  I can’t imagine for a second that someone would stroll into a shop and grab a copy of FIFA without having at least a passing interest in football, but still.  The result of this is that you get some of the most obscenely patronising commentary you’ll ever hear.  I recall one of the FIFAs, many years ago, featured John Motson spectacularly stating that my player had to be sent off because “he’s been booked twice, which, of course, these days, means the red card comes out.”

These days?

Man. I dunno. This awful commentary is one of several hundred things that’s utterly rubbish about the new FIFA, a game the entire sports-fan gaming press seems to have gone utterly apeshit over for no discernable reason.  Hey, guys: it’s a bit better than the last one in terms of what it feels like. But there is no excusing the fact that, across three seasons in Manager Mode now, the fifteen or so injuries my players have suffered from have all been fucking whiplash.  Including the one that Andy Gray described as looking like a pretty bad ankle twist.


One response »

  1. Commentary work in video games has almost always been poor, not because of it’s technical merits, especially now where the range of what they talk about is broader than its ever been due to the quality of the hardware it’s running on, but because every single football game has essentially the exact same commentary as the next football game, from Fifa to Pro Evolution Soccer. This is of course the same in NBA between NBA Live and NBA 2K, the same with NHL and NHL 2K, and this is because there are really only so many different ways you can pass or shoot, which is pretty much what all the commentary is regarding, unless it’s something as lame as the celebrations or a tackle.

    I started this little bit of a complaint with ‘almost always’, because one absolute gem of a game seems to have gone by ignored and even at the time it was regarded as being a poor game (they were wrong), and that’s Olympic Soccer on the Playstation way back in 1996. This game, like Adidas Power Soccer, had a sense of humour behind it, refused to take itself seriously and, at it’s core, be fun, and it was, and a lot of that was down to the rather hilarious commentary, much of which wasn’t focused on ‘the action’, but more the little quips that would come out like “Half-Time, where’s my tea?” and “That’s half-time, pie and peas for me.” It may sound quite pathetic and dull in text, but when playing it and having the commentator scream out “Whackkkk!” when you try to scream a shot in from 40 yards would often reduce a party of people huddled around the television into fits of laughter.

    I long for commentary to be more like that again.


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