Review by Lindsay M.
I am a terrible Canadian. I know the sport of lacrosse was first documented here (or at least in the area that would later become Canada) and I know that long before Europeans invaded North America the sport was played — in an early form, of course — by local Aboriginal tribes. The popularity of the sport seems to have moved south as Canada later embraced and recognised ice hockey as its national athletic pastime. Otherwise, the extent of my knowledge on the current game of lacrosse is that it is a sport that encourages all the things that would get players a penalty in hockey, and that it was the sport of choice in the first American Pie movie.
Related reading: I'm not the only one unfamiliar with the sport to pick up Lacrosse 16 — read Matt's review here.
Casey Powell Lacrosse 16 tears me up inside. It makes me alternate between ecstasy and extreme guilt. I was raised on hockey. My local NHL team was formed when I was still young and I always felt as though we almost grew up together, me and the Ottawa Senators. I have wonderful memories of weekends spent yelling “CAR!” and having to move nets off the street to let vehicles pass, of dozens upon dozens of home games (and even some away) taken in with those I love most, of the utter sadness I feel when I remember my own sister is a turncoat. Hockey runs through my blood. Lacrosse may often be compared to hockey, but they are absolutely not the same sport. For me to enjoy anything lacrosse would be like… well, it would be like my younger sister becoming a Leafs fan. I would never — could never — live it down.
But the ecstasy felt while playing Casey Powell Lacrosse 16 almost vibrates through my body (although maybe that’s just the controller). There is something magical here that I will attempt to pinpoint, which I find quite funny because magic and full contact team sports don’t exactly go hand in hand.
Going into this as a full-on lacrosse beginner, there are certain things I needed to learn quickly about the sport itself. There are two teams. It’s played with a small rubber ball, and the players use long sticks with small nets on the end of them. Offensive players use the stick to catch, pass, and hold the ball until they can get it into the opposing team’s net. Defensive players use their body and their sticks to prevent the other team from scoring. Past that, all I can recommend is that if you’re going to play the game the Wikipedia article on lacrosse may come in handy for explaining why the referee is giving you a penalty every minute.
Lacrosse 16 puts just about every part of the game in your control. Want a 100 per cent current roster? The game will ask you when you first boot it up to download the most popular fan-created teams, which are assuredly the real teams (you can create your own players, which is a handy substitution for the lack of a license in the default game). Want to quickly play a game on your couch with a friend without putting a lot of thought into it? There’s an option for that. Want to play an entire season starting out as a rookie that looks like Mr. T? Minus the chains, you can do that too! Kick up your heels and relax by playing a season as the coach and watch from the sidelines. If being hands-on is more your thing, be coach and play every game as the entire team (victory would taste that much sweeter).
When creating a character, the menus behind menus are nearly endless. There are about a hundred ways to alter the face alone, then there is hair, skin, body, etc. You can even choose the colour and length of the player’s body hair — an option I never knew I needed, but now never want to live without. Then you give the player a first name and a last name, specify their number, and choose from far too many voiced commentary surnames or nicknames. It was while scrolling through dozens (or was it hundreds?) of names the commentators could call you that I realised how much depth this game goes into. Casey Lacrosse would have still had my interest (and that of many others, without a doubt) without a small detail like that, but all the small details build up to such an immersive experience that is surprisingly vast for a video game about a rather violent sport played with long sticks.
For a sport I knew very little about, Lacrosse 16 made it remarkably easy to pick up the controller and start the game within a couple of minutes. For one, you can choose the difficulty at just about every turn and I learned that setting everything to “freshman” made me an instant superstar. But more importantly, important tips are shown as loading screens. This in itself isn’t so abnormal, but Casey Lacrosse 16 actually lets you scroll through several screens of tips while loading, and won’t actually move off that loading screen until you've decided you've had enough of reading the tips. The tips from those load screens got me through many a bleary-eyed game with renewed enthusiasm. While you’re playing, little “suggestions” will show above your player’s head — what action they may want to do based on the position they’re currently in. The consistent reminders let me quickly grasp the controls, and I was left agog and how I was actually playing lacrosse. Well, kind of… but it still counts.
In all honesty, the only part of the game that left an off-putting taste in my mouth was the camera angles. When left on its own and you’re playing as a lone player (rather than playing as the whole team, so the camera can follow the ball itself), the cameras like to do all sorts of wonky things. The issue is that they are actually correctly focused on the ball, but that means that sometimes your player is lost in all the commotion and you end up doing something stupid like running off the field while trying to find the little guy. In addition, I have a hard time seeing the ball against light jersey colours and the net at the end of the stick. I would like to emphasise that this was the only part of the entire game that made me frustrated or even the slightest bit unhappy, and it wasn’t a deal breaker in the slightest.
Taking all that I’ve just written into consideration, I think I can understand where the magic of Lacrosse 16 lies: it gives off an air of excitement that reminds me of my hockey memories. I can’t judge the game based on the rules of the sport, which I still cannot seem to fully grasp despite hours of play. But I can judge the game on the depth it contains, the way it looks (oh come on, we all know it matters), and the feeling it gives off. Casey Powell Lacrosse 16 scores high in all categories, with thousands of customisation combinations available for both the players and the rules/difficulty, crisp graphics that I imagine represent the actual locales quite accurately, and the feelings of excitement and competitiveness that linger long after one puts the controller down.