When playing Axis Football 17, there was always something sitting in the back of my mind whenever I loaded up.
It was a comment from one of the game’s producers about the future of the franchise. Specifically, about what fans would see with Axis Football 18.
“I’d be lying if I said that we didn’t believe we were on to something, and 2018 is going to be huge. [It’s] going to blow people away.”
That simple statement set up big expectations for the 2018 edition of the series that hopes to give football fans an alternative to the juggernaut that is Madden NFL. With new teams and stadiums, new animations, and deeper modes than ever before, is this finally the year for Axis Football to be taken seriously?
Welcome to the Franchise
Axis Football has always had a franchise mode of some sort, but it always felt too bare bones. Other than stat tracking, there wasn’t really anything that made it worth playing.
In Axis Football 18, the new and improved Franchise is, without a doubt, the biggest addition to the game. You start by picking a team that sits in one of three tiers. There are teams in each tier that range from needing a rebuild to needing just a couple pieces to win a championship.
As you improve your team, you have the chance to move up in tiers. Think of the Premier League: finish high enough in your tier, and you can move up to the next level.
Pretty much everything you’d expect to be able to do in a franchise mode is available. You can trade players, sign free agents, negotiate contracts, manage your practice squad, and more. These aren’t first-of-their-kind features, but for everything to be in on the first try for a mode this deep is impressive for such a small development staff.
What makes it even more fun is that every team is customizable. Whether you download an already created mod or make one yourself with real or fictional teams, Axis Football 18’s Franchise is one of the deepest experiences an indie sports game can offer fans.
The only other mode available to players is exhibition play that allows single player versus the AI, local two-player versus play, a coach mode, or an AI vs. AI game. There still isn’t an online option for players, but that was done intentionally in order to focus on improving the offline experience.
The deep customization suite returns with more options than ever for players. From individual players to full teams nearly everything you can think of is customizable this year. The hope now is that the suite includes stadiums in future releases.
Improvement On The Field
One gripe I had with last year’s gameplay was that every player pretty much felt the same. There was no real difference between taking off with a quarterback, or making a big run down the sideline with a running back.
Axis Football 18 feels like it tries to address the issue, but it only fixes a few player control issues.
The one major fix is how QBs control in the pocket. No longer do they move around the pocket as if they were a standard ball carrier. Instead, you will see your QB strafe side-to-side to try and avoid the rush and move around the pocket. It’s a small improvement that makes it feel like a more polished game.
When it comes to the receivers, there are a number of improvements from last year to this that make you feel like the game really is moving in the right direction. The one that stands out the most is that receivers will no longer stop to catch every single pass. Now, if the throw allows it, receivers will catch the ball in stride to help gain the ever-so-important yards after catch. You will also see receivers run accurate routs as well as try to get open should you try extending the play. It’s a far cry from the days of receivers standing around doing nothing until the ball was thrown.
Running the ball also feels fine for what it is, but it still gives off too much of a stop on a dime feel that you got back with games like Madden 2004. It’s just too easy at times to stop, change directions, and go in the opposite direction. That said, it’s not too much of a deterrent to take away any fun from the game.
Where the gameplay falters is on the defensive side of the ball. It’s just not real fun to playe. To tackle a player you simply need to run into them, and everyone just falls down as if they all just finished a round of Ring Around The Rosy. Covering pass plays feels unimportant as well. It basically feels like you’re at the will of the game as to whether or not a pass ends up incomplete or not. It doesn’t give off the sense that it takes any sort of defensive skill to get stops and/or turnovers.
Not Quite Primetime Ready
While the gameplay and mode offerings are entertaining, there is still quite a bit holding Axis Football 18 back from being the game fans and developers want it to be.
Graphically, the Unity-built game still hasn’t caught up to 2018 with it’s player and stadium designs. There have been improvements over recent installments of the series, but it still gives off a Madden 06/07 feel when it comes to player models than something we would’ve seen even as long ago as 2012 or 2013.
The presentation is pretty hit or miss. While the on-field graphics like the play visuals and the score bug look great, the commentary leaves a lot to be desired.
Terry McGovern, the man behind legendary NFL 2K play-by-play voice Dave Stevens, is once again back in the broadcast booth for Axis Football 18. While his calls are solid at times, there’s still just too many audio splicing problems to make it something worth listening to. It gives off a speak-and-say vibe, and quickly became something that I turned off after just a game or two of listening to.
Axis Football 18 is a game that football fans will enjoy. The gameplay has seen a number of improvements, and shows sign of being the series everyone is hoping it can become. And with a deep franchise mode and the ability to incorporate your own players and teams, the simulation fan can spend hours living out the league of their dreams.
If you are looking for it to be the title that gets you away from the Madden machine forever, you’re going to be disappointed. However, at an affordable price of just $20, Axis Football 18 is a game that any football fan should check out.
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*Disclosure: Mike Straw, the reviewer of this product, was part of the beta testing during development.*
If you are looking for Axis Football 18 to be the title that gets you away from the Madden machine forever, you’re going to be disappointed. However, at an affordable price of just $20, Axis Football 18 is something that any football fan — especially fans of franchise mode and customization — should check out.