Kick Off Revival – Review

Title   Kick Off Revival
Developer  Koo Games Ltd
Publisher  The Digital Lounge
Platform  PlayStation 4
Genre  Football
Release Date  June 24th, 2016

kickoffrevivalrev1In the ’90s, during the very early days of the FIFA franchise, the battle of the football games wasn’t being fought by coders from Japan and Canada like it is now. The two giants of the genre were home-grown affairs from England. Sensible Soccer and Kick Off were both similar but most players only liked one or the other, and the majority of them preferred Sensible. Kick Off had its fans though and they were fiercely loyal. Especially to Kick Off 2, the most iconic title in the series created by Dino Dini. And now Dino is back with Kick Off Revival, a game that stays true to the original formula of top down, minimalist football action.

Back before motion-captured, fully-licensed, life-like players, this is how it was done and Kick Off Revival steadfastly sticks to its retro sensibilities. The graphics are simple, the action is fast and the game gives you no assistance. That means no assisted passing or shooting. Now, in theory that’s all good. I grew up on this style of football game and given that FIFA and Pro Evo consistently fail to innovate, taking inspiration from the classics is actually kind of refreshing. However, Kick Off Revival has problems. These problems are huge and numerous. You see, Kick Off Revival is dreadful.


I’m a Sensible guy (in footballing terms). Let’s get that out of the way. But I was excited to get my hands on Kick Off Revival. Right now, the common retort to bad reviews of this title is ‘get good’ so it’s important to let you know that I’m not bad at the game – I’ve won matches against the AI and humans alike. It is worth noting though. The frustration that will permeate this review isn’t to do with the difficulty, it’s to do with every other aspect of the game.

kickoffrevivalrev3Dino Dini timed the release of the game with the Euro 2016 tournament and it shows. In reality this game would be better off syncing with the next World Cup as it is clearly unfinished. A day one patch added things like corner flags and the ability to save during the game’s only tournament mode but it’s still missing plenty of key features. It has a single player mode (exhibition matches or the Euro 2016 tournament), local multiplayer and online multiplayer. A practise mode sits on the main menu too, which is a good place to start because, despite the game’s control system using just one button and one stick, the controls are surprisingly complicated. And not in a good way.

In every other football game, shot and pass power is usually dictated by how long you hold down that button. In Kick Off Revival, how hard you kick the ball is dictated by how far you push the analog stick. Indeed, holding down the button actually puts you into a close control mode, so the whole thing is incredibly unintuitive at first. On top of that, you control the ball rather less well than I can in real life when you’re just running with it, but if you try to use close control, the AI will rob you right away. You’ll need to practise a lot.


Unfortunately, none of the nuances of the control system are explained in the game. So, Dino Dini ended up releasing a series of flow charts that explained it. So much for intuitiveness. The controls get even worse during set pieces as well, with penalties and corners being particularly harrowing. Eventually, if you stick at it, you’ll start putting together some attacks and stringing together passes. Even when you start winning, the ball always feels at the edge of control and, as such, even goals feel party based on luck (and mostly based on the dreadful goalkeepers). A total lack of replays further strips away the glory of these moments.

kickoffrevivalrev5Even if the controls had been perfect, Kick Off Revival still wouldn’t be good. There are no options. You can’t change the difficulty, the length of matches or even adjust the sound or visuals. Those are the basic things that are missing (before other ‘would likes’ such as a camera zoom option or player/team editing). You can apparently change your formation (although it’s not apparent how) but this doesn’t matter as forwards tend to goal hang a lot. There is no offside rule in this game so that goes unpunished, as do the horrifyingly violent slide tackles. You can, and will, concede fouls all over the place (nearly all my goals against come from penalties) but there are no red and yellow cards. Which is RIDICULOUS. The physics feel ‘off’, the rules of football are barely implemented, you can’t control the goalkeepers (not even for penalties) and players will randomly do things such as kick a ball out of play when they are going over to take a corner (before you’ve even had a chance to control it).

Timed to coincide with Euro 2016, this game is powerfully unfinished and, while Dino Dini claims that’s okay because he said it was still being worked on, I can’t remember a game coming out in such a clearly alpha build. It really is a joke. That said, Dino is going to be adding and fixing things as he goes along, but as his current mindset is telling him the game is good (contrary to almost every professional and amateur review out there), it’s hard to know how much he’ll be able to improve things.

Online play improves things a little by at least making sure both players are crippled, but a mandatory (and entirely pointless) thirty second wait at half-time really kills the momentum. And of course you can’t do anything during the wait (remember, no options) so it all just feels a bit arbitrary. And shit. The final stab in the foot comes from the presentation. Retro-styled or not, the graphics are straight bollocks. The ugly stadium (there’s just one), the basic player models and the ‘Interface Design for Infants’ menu give this game a ‘college project’ feel. The sound lacks atmosphere and excitement making the whole thing feel empty. FIFA may be flash over substance but at least it makes you feel something now and again.


As ever, the counter-criticism from the game’s handful of fans is ‘you’re rubbish at the game’, but I’ve really got to the point where I can compete. The game is just unfinished, soulless and almost offensively basic. It has been released in an appalling state and it remains to be seen if Dino can improve it to a point where it is ever good. If he does that’ll be a footballing shock that makes Leicester winning the title look like John Terry saying something racist.

  • 16-bit football is a good thing and this occasionally feels like that
  • Online play is mostly acceptable
  • Bugged
  • Ugly
  • Bad controls
  • No options
  • Urgh

If you're looking for a retro football game, crunch your PS4 up into a ball and kick it into your bin. You'll feel better about that than if you buy and play this abomination. However, check out its progress over the next few months and who knows, if Dino saves it and gives it some much needed care, attention and actual talent, this might end up being average. And that would be a triumph of sorts.

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