Platform: PC (Reviewed), PS4, Xbox One
Release Date: 3/9/2016
Lacrosse has always been a niche sport in North America, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a loyal following in the video game market.
The sport is fast-paced, exciting and downright fun to be around. It just has the makings of a sport prime for a successful video game run.
Enter Cross Studios, led by former player and now coach Carlo Sunseri. The studio has put out lacrosse games on console dating back to College Lacrosse 2010 on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Since then, the studio has put out a number of lacrosse titles, including an National Lacrosse League game.
The games were fun, but, admittedly, lacked any sort of polish or depth to keep you playing for more than an hour, at best.
Fast forward to 2016 where Crosse Studios and Big Ant Studios, thanks to a wildly successful crowdfunding campaign, released the deepest and most polished lacrosse game to date. Casey Powell Lacrosse 16 may not come from a major publisher, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t things to love about the first lacrosse title on the new-gen consoles.
Casey Powell Lacrosse 16 doesn’t feature licensed Major League Lacrosse teams or NCAA teams, but the game’s creation suite — known as the Lacrosse Academy — allows players to create, upload and download teams. And that’s just a taste of what the surprisingly deep creation suite has to offer.
Players can create teams, players, coaches and even referees. The visuals on the player models are much better than expected, and really stand out as a major pro for the game.
From the way the stick head is strung to how many colors you have on your jersey, there is no shortage of options for you in the Lacrosse Academy.
Moving away from the creation suite, the game mode offering is another aspect that is impressive in Casey Powell Lacrosse 16. There are the standard play now and online offerings as well as a career mode.
Career mode allows players to either take control of a team or play as an individual player on the team of his choice. Should you choose the latter, you can either start out as a rookie/freshman trying to earn your spot on the roster, or even take control of an established star. Starting out as a rookie in college allows you to fight your way up the roster ranks, build your player as you see fit and even get drafted into the big leagues.
Coach mode is exactly like any other franchise mode in a sports title. You choose your team, and work towards building a championship-caliber program. Before even starting the mode, you can choose what teams are in your league based on what you’ve done in the Lacrosse Academy. It’s yet another way that this game allows players to make it their own.
As a coach, it’s your responsibility to choose the right sponsorship deals, sign and draft the right players and make the trades necessary to turn your team from a cellar dweller to title holder. Player scouting and drafting is impressive as are the trading mechanics.
You can’t just decide on who you want, and always get them — unless you select that setting in the career mode setup screen. Trading for players requires a fair deal for both ends that may include players, entry draft picks and even supplemental draft picks.
One gripe, albeit a bit nit picky, I have about the career mode is that, for a game that allows so much customization, you’d think there would be the ability to change team names or even add teams to the league as the years go by. Alas, that option wasn’t presented.
Of course, as is the case with any game, the gameplay is what really matters. With Casey Powell Lacrosse 16, the gameplay shines at times, but falters just too much.
The controls, albeit a bit complex at the start, didn’t take too long to pick up. There are a number of different ways to check, pass and shoot. Even winning a faceoff has different methods, though they all look the same when your fighting at the “X”.
Visually, the player models look great and so do the stadiums and fields. The grass looks realistic, and the varying crowd levels really makes the game feel more realistic when it comes to the feel of the game. A larger stadium won’t fill up, but the smaller fields will be packed to the very last seat. It’s a subtle touch, but a nice one nonetheless.
When the game is firing on all cylinders, it’s a fun time that truly encapsulates everything that makes the sport great. The fast-paced action, the incredible displays of passing and shooting, and the hard-hitting physicality are all on display when things click. Unfortunately, I’ve found the game dealing with clipping issues far too often, which led to things that just made no sense.
There were many instances where a poke check or a slash goes, literally, right through a player or their stick. You’d think that this would cause a player to lose control of the ball, but that just didn’t seemed to happen. It felt way too hard to knock the ball out of an AI player’s stick, but felt incredibly easy to lose control of the ball to the simplest stick check.
Speaking of the AI, even on the highest difficulty, they just seemed to get in the way too much. You call for an offensive strategy, and it never really felt like the players were going to where they needed to be. During the single player portion of the career mode, my teammates would much rather pass on an open shot right in front of the goaltender than bury a shot. And why, oh why, does my attacker like to stay away from the net when charging in on a fast break?
There is also the feeling that, no matter what your speed is, you just move slower than your opponent. It’s hard to tell whether you just can’t sprint fast or there is a magnet issue when it comes to avoiding and dodging defenders. Even switching to the lowest possible difficulty, I still found it next to impossible to pull off swim moves and other dodges because the defender just seemed to always stick to me.
As far as in-game presentation goes, the variety of camera angles available is great, but the play-by-play had to be muted after just one game. Not only does it get repetitive, but often times, the commentary would mention a play way after it happened or make a statement that makes no sense at all.
“This player has been an offensive star all season” is not something that should be said when a player scores his first goal of the year in the first game of the year.
Players also liked to celebrate goals with the very repetitive dance celebrations no matter what the circumstances.
Up 11-7? Celebrate the goal with a dance. Tie the game at 13? Celebrate the goal with a dance. Down 11-3? You guessed it, celebrate the goal with a dance.
It’s moments like that that really keep this game from being as good as it could be.
Casey Powell Lacrosse 16 is a game that offers a surprising amount of depth and replayability for an indie title. From the deep creation suite to the solid career mode, there is a quite a bit to do no matter how you want to play. For a game with two years of development though, it feels like there wasn’t enough time spent fine-tuning things like clipping, AI, and off-timed commentary and cinematics.
The $50 price tag may also scare many potential buyers away for a non-AAA sports title. At the end of the day, however, there is no doubt that this is the absolute best lacrosse video game offering ever to be released.
Casey Powell Lacrosse 16 was reviewed on PC. A download code was provided by the publisher for review purposes