There’s something about lacrosse that has always fascinated me. Although I’ve never actually played the sport, its frenetic pace and netted sticks gives it a certain stand-out appeal. However, if – like me – you have only a rough grasp of only the basics, Casey Powell Lacrosse 16 won’t exactly ease you in gently.
This latest sports title from Big Ant Studios (Don Bradman Cricket, Rugby League Live) takes an immediate stumble during those crucial first steps. Without any sort of comprehensive tutorial system, players will need to sift through the game’s menus and memorise the control layout before things can even get off the ground.
If you happen to be playing with friends who have absolutely no idea what lacrosse is, this is by no means a good introduction to the sport. It makes the blind assumption that players have a working knowledge of the sport’s ins and outs, from offside and penalty rules down the various types of checks (defensive maneuvers) and how to use them in live play.
Having some kind of dedicated training mode would have definitely gone a long way to improve the experience. Even for huge sports games like FIFA, tutorials and hints mean next to nothing if players don’t have a practice scenario in which to experiment using the various techniques on offer. As a result, the initial learning process in Lacrosse 16 feels a bit trial and error as you dive straight into league games and exhibition matches.
The actions available to players will depend on which team has possession of the ball, alternating between attack and defence. Naturally, the former half of play revolves around the rapid chaining of passes as your players look to find space for the perfect shot. Defensive play, meanwhile, involves marking up in order to intercept the ball, as well as rushing players with a series of well-placed checks.
Being the attacking side is obviously much more fun. Although it can often seem like you’re doing the job with half a toolset, scoring an epic dive shot is nothing short of exhilarating. Playing in defence, however, can be a dull and often infuriating affair. Although it’s fairly easy to move and position players, the confusing range of checks feel toothless as you attempt to knock the opposition down.
Sadly, this ties back to Lacrosse 16’s lack of training options. Even after several hours of playing matches, I still felt as though I was missing crucial pieces of information, flailing around as the other team broke my defence time after time.
The actual controls have a nice meaty feel to them compared to most sports games. The only comparison that comes to mind is Skate and how it moved away from genre norms of having tricks mapped to the face buttons. Lacrosse 16 does pretty much the same, making use of the triggers and sticks to pass, lock on, and check.
Despite having this heft, most players will be left pining for something a little more refined and simplistic. Having to maneuver the right stick for a special shot, for instance, can be a real pain when eyeing your opponent’s goalie and their defensive line.
What’s worse is how the right stick is also used for checking, your primary method of wrestling the ball away from attacking players. Given that this can be fairly hit and miss, you’ll often find yourself twiddling away at the right stick without giving it much thought. However, if you suddenly gain possession while still flicking away, your player will immediately take a shot, no matter where they are positioned. It’s silly oversights like these that make Lacrosse 16 a challenge to play at times.
It’s a shame because everything else about the game works really well. Although far from ground-breaking, Big Ant Studios manages to tick all the boxes in terms of league options, online play, and creation tools. The latter part of the game will prove particularly popular among those who follow the sport, with plenty of opportunity to tweak teams and share them with other fans.
With much of the game centred around matches and how they play out, Lacrosse 16 leaves much to be desired. Clearly, a lot of dedication has gone into making this the most polished adaptation of the sport you’ll ever get your hands on. However, that’s not enough to gloss over its two largest oversights: frustrating controls and an almost nonexistent learning aide.
Version Tested: PS4