Lacrosse is a very niche sport, a sport that Big Ant Studios has previously attempted to recreate titled Casey Powell Lacrosse 16 in 2016. This means that Big Ant Studios have had two years to develop this latest entry. Once again under the title of the former professional lacrosse player, Casey Powell.
Casey Powell Lacrosse 18 essentially features the same game modes as the previous title, including the career mode. The career mode is the main single player mode, and you can approach it in three different ways, with two being different enough for lasting variety. One option allows you to create your own player and rise up the ranks. Another option is to do the same with the exemption that you play as an existing player. I found this to be rather meaningless since I believe that a good number of the players are not real. The last option allows you to play as the manager, either playing as the entire team or spectating matches from the sidelines. Although the career mode is mostly the same, a small amount of polish has been applied making the overall experiences more enjoyable. Other modes include casual matches, online play and competition mode which allows you to play your own custom leagues/tournaments.
The biggest difference then comes from the gameplay and it can be clearly seen that Big Ant Studios spent a good amount of time getting it right. For starters, gameplay felt much more tight than the previous game. Passing felt more responsive and more realistic, since longer passes are now much more difficult. Furthermore, shooting is vastly improved, shots feel like they actually have power now when you wind up for a shot. You can even win a face off without the randomness in this version, with a simple explanation for how to do so as well. Moreover, the defensive game has also improved, an indication above players heads determines whether they are about to drop the ball under pressure. This presents feedback when you attempt to defend. In addition, players are more likely to drop the ball when you attempt to reach in etc. this makes the defensive much more fun. The biggest simple improvement in my option is the fact that the sprint button is actually assigned to a physical button now. Sprinting is assigned to the L2 button which is a vast improvement over sprinting in the previous game.
The game features a slew of customisation, just like the previous game. However, this time you can also customise the logos and access a stadium editor. These functions, as you would expect from Big Ant Studios, are in depth. The player editor is also brilliant and you can expect to create players to your liking, however it is fairly pointless when you consider that players wear helmets all the time. All creations can be shared with other players, and you can download other player’s creations as well. This resulting in a highly customisable experience.
Unfortunately, despite the polish that has been brought, there are still some bugs and issues that need to be addressed. Noticeably, when starting a match the initial cutscene will have a low frame rate but fortunately quickly stabilises. Furthermore, player movement can be buggy, for example during goal celebrations players would often teleport, or even go through other players, which had a negative effect on the presentation. At one point I was looking below the invisible grass. I also feel that goal replays should be longer, e.g. show the great assist from a teammate. Lastly on some occasions AI was unintelligent, for example, players would often just stand there during a face off ground ball. In addition, I noticed a frequent bug where the CPU team would just lose possession immediately upon conceding a penalty by my team.
Considering lacrosse is a niche sport, I was disappointed by the lack of real tutorials or explanation of the rules. If you are purchasing this game without any knowledge of lacrosse it might take a couple of moments to understand not just the controls, but the actual rules of the sport. The loading screens present information about the controls and a few rules, you can pause the loading to read these tips. Thankfully, the controls are not all that hard at all, and a small box stays on the left during gameplay to remind you of the basic controls. Furthermore, in relation to rules, it would have been nice if the game notified you of what the penalties are when they occur in the game.
Casey Powell Lacrosse 18 runs at 60 frames per second. This time around I did not notice screen tearing, something that was a big issue in the previous game. Visuals, although still rather rough are vastly improved. Character models and environments have more detail, and overall look much more polished. Although not noticeable due to the helmets, a number of players are essentially duplicates which completely removes any authenticity that the game could have had. I would like to see in the next entry, if possible more authenticity and potentially official teams. Bugs are also apparent in the visual department, like the visual bugs during celebrations for example. The presentation also lacks polish and under some circumstances look rough. For example, overall team ratings are not clear compared to the previous entry. Additionally, when using custom logos, it can result in glitches where the teams overall rating is pushed off the screen.
The soundtrack is actually pretty decent, which is of a similar quality to the previous game. I thought that the music fitted the game well and was never annoying or distracting, thus never became a hindrance. In terms of in-game sound, the atmosphere is great, with crowds chanting and sounds of the ball hitting the net all sounding their part. Furthermore, the same commentator returns, bringing along most of his quotes from the previous entry, and as a result it is all too similar. However, fortunately although still repetitive I thought that commentary was vastly improved. Unlike the previous game, the commentary never caught my attention, and was not as buggy this time. However, I did find it quite funny the way that he would say some team names and players/numbers, whereby they would not fit with the tone of what he was saying. This made commentary sound robotic in some instances.
Big Ant Studios have really put some effort into making this niche sport work in a video game format. The vast improvements to the gameplay mechanics, the somewhat improved visuals and brilliant creation centre ensures that this is the perfect choice for diehard lacrosse fans. Some performance and gameplay bugs detract from the overall experience. Furthermore, the lack of interactive tutorials to introduce newcomers to the niche world of lacrosse is disappointing. However, it is worth exploring if you want to experience something new and learn about a fascinating sport with a long history in the process.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.