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Pure Football

Soccer and see.

Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

Pure Football has a theory. The theory goes that somewhere out there in the wild, gated communities of Esher there exists a sub-culture of professional football players who, rather than accepting defeat after matches, send each other text messages that say things like, "We wuz robbed. Rematch on Sunday. No referee."

It's hard to imagine that this sub-culture exists anyway (after all, most footballers are too busy with their other sub-cultures of golf, Ladbrokes and sexual violence), but Pure Football doesn't exactly sell it very well.

The introductory cut-scene, flown in from 2002, made me physically recoil in embarrassment despite an enjoyable cameo from Steven Gerrard's face (apparently on loan from a child's drawing of the Incredible Hulk, unless there's a subtext about overcoming the adversity of severe anaphylactic shock that I somehow missed). "Are you tough enough?" you're then asked.

The rest of the game's presentation does little to convince you that footballers are tough. The players are FIFA Street-style caricatures with a touch of The Tick about them, all bulging barrel-chests and spindly legs; they actually look quite cool, but they run and play football as though bipedalism is their second language.

The music is an amazing runaway train of brass, electro and a woman making ghost noises. It's the sort of thing you might hear if you were looking for an ammo box in a science-fiction shooter but hadn't walked over the invisible line that triggers the next wave of enemies yet: weird, looping and excitable whatever happens on-screen.

I don't know why I called my team the Gallahs. I wish I hadn't now. Here they show Turkey how it's done.

It also plays in the background constantly, and there's no commentary or - in keeping with the cashmere-sweaters-for-goalposts theme - spectators, so there is zero atmosphere to any of the matches. This means you have to listen to the players shouting generic footballisms like "Nice one keeper" and "Give it" over the music, but at least all the voice samples are in English and some use regional accents, so you get the impression Pelé is Scottish, for example.

The irritating thing about all this is that Pure Football doesn't have the sense to acknowledge how silly it all is. FIFA Street 3 was a bit achingly cool at times, but there was a degree of self-awareness about it: its approach to accommodating renowned stick insect Peter Crouch, for instance, was to make him taller.

Pure Football occasionally leans toward self-awareness - every goal or penalty miss is met with a cutaway to the player in question overlaid on a big footbally slogan, like "Bottled it" or "Early doors" - but upon closer inspection it looks more like someone's watched a Danny Dyer DVD and made notes. And the only video of Danny Dyer it's OK to watch is the one where he gets hit in the face several times by accident.