“GOALS KEEP COMING! The Lions. IN FRONT! By a STAGGERING margin.”
“Fletcher. PUTTING ON A CLINIC AS HE ADDS ANOTHER GOAL!”
“Cloke. GUN BARREL STRAIGHT!”
God bless AFL video games. Without them, how would the above ironic scenarios ever have seen the light of day, to the relief of supporters of the teams in question and the snickers of every other player?
Where else does Dennis Cometti sound like he’s borrowed Stephen Hawking’s speech synthesiser?
And where else does Joe Misiti have red hair and thighs wider than the goal posts?
AFL video games have been notorious for their imperfections ever since Nintendo first released Aussie Rules Footy back in 1991, when if you stomped their foot on the floor in anger it would totally reset the NES system.
But in the years since, the shoddy graphics, commentary and gameplay have gone on to become perhaps the most enduring and celebrated features of computerized footy, responsible for some of my fondest moments growing up with the game.
My first memory of an AFL video game is from about a year after I got into the real thing. It was 2003, the start of the AFL Live series and what in my opinion was the golden age of footy video games.
Who cared if you could only kick drop punts, or that the team rosters were from last year, or that sometimes the numbers disappeared, leaving square cutouts in player’s backs so you could see right through them? With AFL Live 2003 you could take screamers with the touch of a button, start a season from the finals rather than round one, swap sides mid-game if you were losing and tell the team how you wanted them to play (with far better results than yelling from the stands at an actual game).
When AFL Live 2004 came out the following year, I could use last year’s game as a way of judging the progress of AFL gameplay. Snap and torpedo kicks now possible – good. Training and pre-season modes – good. Only six venues – unfortunate.
Dennis Cometti on the commentary team? Good, though he could never seem to get the Port player’s names right:
“Tredrea (actually Carr). Gets the ball and sends it long down the field! Wilson (actually Tredrea). Strong eyes.”
Speaking of the commentary team, did Gerard Healy ever actually listen to Dennis in the pre game? In case you’ve never played a match of 2004, let me give you an idea of how most of them begin:
Dennis: “With the Demons struggling for form and West Coast needing their first win, I’m tipping. The Eagles.”
Gerard: “I disagree Dennis. I’m going with. The Eagles.”
Any doubts as to whether the developers of the ‘Live’ series were taking the piss were promptly quashed the following year, with AFL Premiership 2005.
Aside from the draft and being added to the career mode and set shots now controlled by a giant orange arrow, Dermott Brereton replaced Healy at Dennis’ side. So was born the greatest comedy double act the Australian gaming world had ever seen before or since, characterised by Dennis not taking any of Dermie’s shit…
Dennis: “Derm, your thoughts?”
Dermott: “None at this stage Dennis.”
Dennis: “I agree with you there, Derm!”
…Dermie running out of ways to describe a player with more than three goals to his name…
“This man is king of goals!”… “Keep ‘em coming, ‘e says!”… “How many different ways can you say, THIS GUY’S ON FIRE?!?!?!” (One, Dermott, ONE)
…and showing off his sure-fire way of telling what species the players were…
“Neitz – with a miss – shows he’s human.”
In 2011, AFL Live was released again on PS3 and XBox 360, with hyper-realistic gameplay, state-of-the-art graphics, all 18 teams, 13 stadiums and six different player modes to choose from.
It seemed it was the end of AFL video games’ unpredictable ‘puberty’ phase, which was good news to the gaming websites but made me feel somewhat melancholy, like my footy childhood had ended with it.
Like my first live match, my first goal in junior footy and the first time the Saints made the finals when I started barracking for them, the fantastic flaws of the early games will stay with me forever as memories of a time in my AFL journey that I remember fondly, though can never return to.
But I’ll always look forward to the next slapdash video game with comedy for commentary. With Brian Taylor and Richo currently in the box and the sexual tension between Dennis and Bruce McAvaney escalating with every match, surely it can’t be far off!