Preview: Sociable Soccer – Football’s Coming Home to VR

British developer Jon Hare’s Sociable Soccer is making Mexican waves in VR.

The imminent arrival of Sociable Soccer on Steam Early Access has been met with an enthusiastic response. The spiritual successor to the hugely popular 16-bit era Sensible Soccer, Sociable Soccer is designed to deliver the football videogame that FIFA and Pro Evolution Soccer are shying away from; a sturdy experience born less of automated flash and more of player skill.

Sociable Soccer screenshotIn VRFocus’ most recent hands-on, this was clearly evident. Sociable Soccer harks back to the day when tutorial systems and face-mapping weren’t even a dream in the developer’s minds, and instead the core gameplay has to be rock solid. Sociable Soccer is a videogame that demands the player knows how to control the ball, how to tactically push forward and how to retreat when necessary.

The standard 2D monitor version of Sociable Soccer shown to VRFocus at Gamescom 2017, Cologne, appeared to be in good shape. Significant improvements in visual design and AI were immediately evident, but also advances in the tightness of the player control and selection were important revisions. A number of other statistical additions – numbers of teams, players and leagues in addition to many others – were also touted, but not available for evaluation in such a short demonstration.

However, the Samsung Gear VR version of Sociable Soccer hadn’t changed much since VRFocus last had the opportunity to get hands-on with the videogame. Tower Studios was honest with their desire to get the Steam Early Access edition of Sociable Soccer prepared prior to launch before returning to the virtual reality (VR) versions of the videogame, which is understandable, and promised that the studio would strive for parity between the 2D and VR editions of the videogame across all formats.

Sociable Soccer screenshotEven without the updates seen in the 2D versions, Sociable Soccer presents an appealing case for a traditional football videogame in VR. Taking the viewpoint of a cameraman on the sideline, the panning of the player’s camera is controlled by their own head and, as lead designer Jon Hare rightfully stated, the player’s eyeline will naturally follow the ball just as with watching a live football match in the stands.

Despite the disappointment of little progress being made with the VR edition of Sociable Soccer, the evidence of significant improvement in the 2D version has left VRFocus wanting more. Sociable Soccer is a return to basics for football videogames, and any fan of the genre in the 16-bit era will be calling for just that. Sociable Soccer is set to launch for VR formats – now including PlayStation VR – early next year, and VRFocus will bring you more details on the progress of the title as soon as they’re available.

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