Conor Heffernan gets all nostalgic and remembers the iconic PlayStation classic, This Is Football.
Imagine a football game where you could dive, two foot the goalkeeper and play a classic Manchester United team featuring George Best, Bobby Charlton and Dennis Law. Yes such a game did indeed exist in the form of This is Football.
For one brief moment in the early noughties, This Is Football was the PlayStation game for diehard football fans. This is Football’s time in the spotlight was short, but it was oh so sweet.
When Sony decided to challenge the hegemony of FIFA and Pro Evolution Soccer in December 1999, few held out much hope. Even then the two games had established themselves as THE must have football games and it seemed that nothing could be done to change it.
Sony knew she had to do something big. Really big. Her game, This is Football, needed to be different. It had to have features that the other games didn’t. It had to be real and it had to be fun.
Straight out of the gates, This is Football had a feature that allowed players to dive. Diving was part of the game in real life so why not include it in the videogames? The first few games of any TIF season were spent perfecting the perfect dive. Get it wrong and it was a yellow card, get it right and you were king.
Coupled with the most fun video game option ever, TIF had licences to nearly every league in Europe. Forget Pro Evo’s ‘Ruud von Mistelroum’, TIF gave you the real deal and was commentated by the charming Peter Drury, the first TIF proved a winner amongst consumers.
With the introduction of the PS2 in 2000, Sony went back to the lab to set about improving her creation. A new console meant new opportunities. This is Football 2 saw Sony go one step further than 1999 and introduce retro options like the Time Warp Cup. Now you could play as and with some of the greatest teams in the history of football. Maradona, Pele, Best, the game had it all. If that wasn’t your thing, you could play with modern superstars in the Jumper for Goalposts League.
Things just kept getting better. In 2003, Sony endeared itself to Irish fans everywhere when our very own Robbie Keane made the front cover of TIF. A momentous occasion in Irish sport by all accounts. In addition toKeane’s rightly deserved recognition, TIF introduced one of the hardest career modes ever in a football game. Now you could create a Sunday League team and guide them all the way from the non-league into the lower divisions and finally into the promised land of the Premier League. It required dedication and commitment but it made the Career Mode a challenge.
By now TIF had established a reputation for being fun to play. So what if FIFA and ProEvo had better graphics? Which game would you rather play for hours? TIF hands down. The introduction of cheats in TIF, such as novelty large heads, meant that even the developers knew videogames were meant to be fun.
2003 would mark the highpoint of TIF. As the years went by, FIFA and Pro Evolution began to re-establish their dominance once more through better graphics, faster game play and less glitches. TIF on the other hand stuck to its principles that football games were all about fun. Sadly consumers didn’t agree.
By 2006, TIF was discontinued forever. Nowadays it’s occasionally remembered to as that game you could dive in. But it was so much more. In a world where the FIFA games now coast on the fact that it has the best graphics, TIF would be a welcome return. T
IF was a game with soul. It’s time at the top was short, but it’s fondly remembered.
Conor Heffernan, Pundit Arena.