But while the single-player stuff is fun, the real excitement comes when you play against another real person. Thankfully you have a couple of ways of going about this, including both online and offline options. The online modes probably won't blow you away; Speedball 2 offers a choice between a non-ranked player match and a ranked match, both of which allow you to play your own custom league against the rest of the world. Unfortunately this is kind of a niche game, so the online mode suffers from two very distinct (and very troubling) problems. One problem is that very few people in the United States are actually playing this game, so finding an online game can be somewhat tricky (even at the peak hours). The other problem is that once you do find somebody to play against it's generally somebody who has been playing the game since 1990. This can make for a very uneven experience, which isn't a lot of time when you're just starting out.
Like a lot of classic games revived on the Xbox Live Arcade, Speedball 2 gives you the option of playing it with the classic 1990s graphics or the brand new polygonal visuals. Don't get too excited, though. While the graphics have definitely been upgraded, there is still a lot of work to be done before they can be considered up-to-date. Still, the graphics get the job done, even if the straight overhead perspective makes everything look a little funnier than it needs to be. If you were to take a side by side picture of the two visual modes you would see a big difference, but in action these two games look oddly alike. Part of the reason for this is because the animation is right out of 1991, which is kind of jarring when you're looking at slightly updated polygonal characters. I suppose that when it comes right down to it the graphics don't matter that much, but it would have been nice if this game wasn't so depressing to look at.
While there are other futuristic sports titles already available on the Xbox Live Arcade (see: Cyberball 2072), Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe is the only sport worth downloading. With its strong (albeit limited) multiplayer modes, slightly updated graphics and quick matches, Speedball 2 is a fun way to waste away an afternoon. Even if you've never played Speedball 2, I have a feeling that once you get into the swing of things you will find that this is your new favorite professional sport.
Speedball 2 doesn't offer a lot of frills and extras, but it does prove to still be a solid action/sports game that is just as violent today as it was 17 years ago. Fans of Speedball should be impressed with what Bitmap Brothers have done with this franchise and new players shouldn't have much trouble seeing what the appeal is. It's not for everybody, but Speedball 2 is worth checking out.
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