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Axis Football 2019 is the latest iteration of the Axis Football series, which has been cranking out solid American football experiences ...

Axis Football 2019 Axis Football 2019

Axis Football 2019

Axis Football 2019

Axis Football 2019 is the latest iteration of the Axis Football series, which has been cranking out solid American football experiences for several years now on PC. I had not played the series before this version, but I had heard good things about it. When the chance came along to review the newest edition, I had to jump on it like a fumble.

Axis Football takes a minimalist approach to things, and I mean that in a good way. Every menu and process in the game is clean, clear and streamlined to get you to the good stuff. There are no unnecessary frills, no long loading screens or needless cutscenes. Whether you are in the menus or in the game, everything moves along as fast as you can make decisions. I found this very refreshing, and it made it a breeze to knock out a game quickly. 

While the game offers a few modes of the play, it is clearly meant to be played in franchise mode. If you just want to play a quick exhibition game, the option is there, but really you'll want to jump over to the "full" experience as soon as possible. Franchise mode gives you a ton to think about between games. You are in charge of all team operations, and so you'll be deciding everything from who is starting this week, who the scouts are focused on, and whether there's money in the budget for new bathrooms at the stadium. 

The 2019 version of the game does a lot to expand this part of the experience. You have 16 different slots for various coaches, scouts, and coordinators, all of whom have their own stats and contracts to consider. The practice schedule of your team can be tweaked to focus on particular areas like tackling and special teams. The more intense your practices, the more points you can invest in different areas, but at the same time you run a risk wearing down team morale. That's another new thing in 2019, team morale, which is influenced by many of your decisions, and in turn influences things like contract negotiations and how fast your players develop. 

You'll also now have numerous financial decisions to consider, as I alluded to before. All sorts of facility upgrades are possible, like adding a sauna, upgrading the VIP boxes, or getting the field in tip top shape. Every one of these upgrades offers a benefit to your team, but most come with a hefty price tag. You'll need those funds for retaining star players and signing free agents. Go out and win, and the funds will come streaming in for those airplane tickets to every game. Until then, we're taking the bus. 

All the other sorts of sports sim management decisions you would expect to find are here. You'll need to manage your roster, decide who's starting on Sunday, and always be watching for those rising stars and the guys you just need to cut loose. Trading, drafting, scouting, managing contracts, free agents, and so on, it's all here and fairly detailed, without getting bogged down in minutia. Keeping with the minimalist style of the game, all of these actions are easy to accomplish, with just a couple of clicks being enough to get the job done, no matter what you are trying to do. The only screen I feel like the game is missing is some kind of comprehensive profile page for each player. Unless I just completely missed it, there didn't seem to be anything like this for players. You have to go to several different screens to get all the information (game stats, attribute scores, contract status, etc.) about a particular player. Oddly, the coaches do have a screen like this, where you can review a detailed profile with attribute scores, lifetime stats, and contract status all in one screen. I'd love to see the same for the players next year. 

Now let's get on to the actual games. At a glance, you can see that Axis Football is made by an independent studio, not EA. That said, the graphics have a certain charm to them and come with the benefit of loading quickly and running smoothly. The physics are a bit clunky and at times players will fall over in funny ways that might make you giggle. This was fine by me though, as I had a good time regardless. I used a Steam controller and it worked quite well with no adjustments to the settings. You can play with mouse and keyboard, but I wouldn't recommend it. 

Choosing plays is simple and there is a massive playbook to sort through, with apparently more than 2000 options on hand between offense and defense. If you don't know your dime package from your 4-3 defense, you can always "Ask Mike" for a suggestion. Before the snap you can call audibles and and shift players around. Controlling your player during the action works just the same as any football game since the days of Madden 64. Perfectly timed button presses will let you juke a defender or jump just in time for an interception. Not everything is great about this area of the game, unfortunately. Receivers always stop and stand still when catching the ball, rather than catching it in stride. Player hit boxes for tackling don't always seem to match up quite the way you expect them to. Players also regularly clip into each other and group up in odd looking ways. Overall, the actual game portion is adequate for what it is, a football game on a budget, but there is plenty of room for improvement here. 

One thing I haven't mentioned yet is that the game obviously doesn't have an NFL contract, and so the teams are all fictional. They are also not structured like the NFL as a league. The teams are split into three tiers, and a team must earn their way up to the next tier, and reach the top in order to compete for the big championship. I really like this style of league, it creates an interesting narrative over multiple seasons of a low tier time rising to the top. If your hometown isn't represented by one of the 36 teams in the game by default, you can go to the editor mode and easily put it into the mix. If you must have the traditional NFL teams and logos, a quick trip to the forum will get you a link to a mod which puts them all into the game, with proper rosters and coaches.

So, is Axis Football 2019 worthy of your purchase? I think it depends on what you are looking for exactly. The franchise mode is deep and well done. There is always room for more "stuff" in that realm, and the 2019 version adds a lot to it. Everything in that mode makes sense and is easy to use, while giving you just about all the various options you could hope for. As for the actual gameplay, it isn't bad by any means, but it isn't amazing either. I had fun with it, but I'm a casual player when it comes to sports games. Hardcore Madden veterans might find a lot to nitpick there. That said, I really enjoyed leaning back in my computer chair, controller in hand, and playing a game each time I fired it up. More than once I pumped a fist in triumph on a great score, or sighed in despair, knowing the game had just slipped beyond my reach after a bad pass. 

- Joe Beard

Axis Football 2019 is available on Steam, PS4, and XBOX ONE