Legendary Eleven brings football back to the 90s

Is Legendary Eleven football turned up to eleven?

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m hardly an authority on the FIFA and Pro Evolution Soccer games. Whilst I have played, and enjoyed, a fair number from both series, I tend to prefer a more arcade-style experience these days. Games like Sensible Soccer and even the FIFA Street series have been ones I’ve enjoyed a lot for their fast action and refusal to take themselves too seriously. I’m surprised that it’s such an under-represented genre these days. Legendary Eleven feels like an effort to recapture some of that arcade fun that the sports sims of today seem to lack. So let’s kick-off my review of the Xbox One release.

Legendary Eleven is very open about what it is right from the outset. The bright colours and fun player design make it clear that this isn’t going to be a realistic representation of the sport. Taking to the pitch as a country of your choice — no club level football here — results in a 90s arcade-style voice-over announcing the teams before kick-off. The players are caricatures of legendary footballers of the past and have a sense of personality about them in terms of looks. There are no licenses here, with players all being given only a first name, but if you’re familiar with football then you’ll be able to work out who a lot of them are.

Legendary Eleven
Just look at the length of those shorts…

Once the match has begun, you’ll be quite at home with the controls if you’ve played a modern football game — short and long passes, through-balls, shooting, and tackling mapped to the usual buttons. There are a few control presets, but no option for your own set up sadly. Additionally, the X button functions as a ‘skill move’ (called a Dribble here) and a ‘take ball’ button. On defence, pressing this will have your player step in and try to take the ball, whilst on attack the skill move will counter this. It’s a nice system, but does seem to work more in favour of the attacking team. You can slide tackle, but this seems unreliable and often results in a red card.

Passing the ball and using skills to evade tackles will build your team’s meter. As long as you maintain possession you can use your meter to unleash a Super Shot that will result in a goal nine times out of ten. Should you lose possession, your meter will quickly drop back to nothing unless you reclaim the ball within a few seconds. This promotes a passing style of play rather than trying to brute force your way through the defending team which is quite nice. Having said that, the game does descend into charging your meter and then scoring a goal from end to end as once a Super Shot has begun, nothing can interrupt the animation.

There is a problem with all this though, and that’s that there is absolutely no tutorial. None of this is explained to you. My wife and I played a few matches when I first loaded this up, and neither of us knew what the meter was, nor how to use a Super Shot. Even after having played for a few hours, I still have no idea what the numbers on the meters mean. I know that they increase when you score a Super Shot, but I don’t know what they do. There’s no explanation of the skill or tackling system, and no practice mode. These seem like basic features that are just not present.

Legendary Eleven
The Super Shots look impressive but there aren’t that many different animations for them.

Not only that, there’s no online matchmaking. Whilst you can play online by inviting someone on your friends list, there doesn’t seem to be a way to play against a random, or similarly skilled, opponent. It should also be noted that it’s limited to two players when playing online and locally. If you like to play together against the CRP (as we do) then there isn’t an option for that. I realise that this game is meant to be a throwback to the days of arcade football games, but these are some modern features that really shouldn’t be omitted.

In terms of single player, there is a fair bit of content. There are a number of trophies to win through tournaments based in different world regions. It’s pretty fun, albeit irritating, to take England to the European championship finals only to lose (not on a penalty shootout though, as that feature also appears to be absent). Winning these tournaments will unlock stickers for your sticker album. This is a neat feature that really tries to hammer home that 90s style. Meeting criteria will give you more stickers that get added to your book to be used in future matches. Different stickers provide you with boosts that allow you to customise how your team plays somewhat. By selecting four from the more than thirty available will give you faster players, or auto-charging meter, and other benefits. I really liked this addition as it worked well from a gameplay standpoint and felt really on-brand with the game’s aesthetic.

Beyond that, there are Legendary Matches that have you replay historic matches with their own victory criteria. Maybe you’ll need to win when you’re a goal down at half time, or perhaps the objective is to hold out for a draw with only ten players. Legendary Eleven isn’t the first game to feature this, but it’s still a solid option for the solo player. I liked how they were presented as newspaper headlines with short descriptions of how the match played out in reality. The lack of licenses was a bit more glaring here, as referring to Maradona as ‘that player’ when talking about the infamous hand of god incident does stand out a little. It’s not a big issue, but it was noticeable.

Legendary Eleven
When in play, everything runs very smoothly.

Whilst Legendary Eleven does have its share of flaws and some missing features, it is a fun arcade football game in short bursts. The matches are quick, fluid, and feel satisfying to play. It’s certainly not something for the serious football-sim aficionado, but if you want a quick and light-hearted football game, this will fit the bill. There aren’t many games like this out there these days, so it’s great to have something to scratch that arcade itch.

Legendary Eleven is available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and PC via Steam.

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