Axis Football 2016 Review (PC)
“We think Axis Football is a lot of fun, but it's certainly not up to current standard for sports simulations in terms of graphics and depth of features.” This is the statement on the future of Axis Football at the bottom on its Steam page. It’s an important admission and perspective to keep in mind as you read my analysis of the independently developed Axis Football 2016.
Axis Football 2016 is a basic American football game, falling somewhere in between simulation and arcade classifications. Its limited playbooks and lack of penalties remove it from any simulation discussions, but its gameplay sticks too true to the actual sport to call it an arcade game. While straddling the border is usually a mark of criticism, Axis Football does a good job of owning the territory it has claimed. It’s not complex, perhaps by design, but is perfect for playing a quick game or two alone or with friends.
In a lot of ways, Axis Football reminds me of past-generation simulations, especially those that appeared on the 16-bit consoles or early PCs. Movement is fluid but lacks physicality; players control almost too well. Playbooks are varied, but relatively limited at eight plays per formation. The AI, on default difficulty, was a bit too easy for me.
Perhaps the biggest departure from past football games is the lack of icon passing in favor of a target-based passing system that’s distantly related to EA’s dreaded passing cone. Basically, you aim a cursor with mouse or stick at part of the field and throw. Your cursor is based on QB skill and movement.
Leading receivers is implied and important, though I found the game a little too forgiving. In my first game alone, I had only one incompletion at the half. Still, it’s an innovating and challenging system. The game is better for including this as opposed to the standard icon-based targeting.
Other features include audibles at the line and individual hot routes for receivers. Unfortunately, there is no fatigue or injuries.
There is no doubt when you load into a game of Axis Football that you are playing an independent game. The graphics and animations are crisp and clean, but by no means genre-standard. Visually, think of an HD N64 or PS1 game. Again, this didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the game, but I had my expectations accurately tempered going in.
Commentary and field sounds are present, but expectedly limited and repetitive.
The user interface, however, is very nice. Throughout, it effectively communicates what’s going on and makes it easy to find what you are looking for, whether a mode or specific play. It probably is the most professional looking aspect of the game.
Modes and Mods
In addition to quick one-off games, Axis Football 2016 introduces a franchise mode. However, without injuries, trades or even a draft, it’s hard to call this mode a true franchise experience. Instead, it’s a bunch of linked seasons. Unfortunately, there are no player stats, so even the joy of seeing a star player develop over a few seasons is absent.
You can also coach a team vs the AI, which I found enjoyable enough.
While I didn’t explore or review this aspect of the game, Axis Football is heavily customizable and moddable. Depending on what fans develop, we could see various additions or changes to the game to make it even more appealing -- think historical teams, fantasy teams, etc. For now, the “non”-NFL cities and nicknames are good enough to not be distracting.
Again, Axis Football 2016 isn’t a “Madden-killer” or even a rival. It doesn’t have an eighth of the features found in the annual big-budget release.
However, the fact that it’s an American football game on Steam and PCs makes it unique. It is playable and engaging in short doses. While certainly limited, what is here is worth exploring, especially if the modding community helps shape the future of the title.
Score: 6.5 (Above Average)