Every football fan has memories of those days as a teenager, a student, or some other period of ridiculously low productivity when minutes turned into hours and hours turned into days sat in front of a Playstation 2 battling your mates in the latest and greatest football game. PES and FIFA were no doubt the big boys, but there were a number of efforts that ran them quite close. This Is Football first appeared on Playstation in 1999, but it wasn't until it's debut on PS2 in 2001 that it really started to shine, and maybe for a few years could have been argued a title contender in the fiercely contested football game charts.
1. The Timing Of Release
The peak of This Is Football's success as a series was no doubt the first two iterations on the Sony Playstation 2, which were TIF 2002 and TIF 2003. At this time the main competition in the football game world came from Konami's Pro Evolution Soccer 2, and then 3, and EA Sports' FIFA 2001, and 2002.
Pro Evolution Soccer exploded on the release of PES 4, which many believe to be the best football game ever, and FIFA had stagnated from the glory days of '98 and '99 to the point that gamers were growing sick of the FIFA experience, so many avid football gamers were looking for something to fill the void, and this is no doubt why a majority of its player base decided to give This Is Football a crack.
Unfortunately for the series, TIF 2004 and 2005 had to compete with PES 4 and PES 5 as well as FIFA 2004/2005, so the production of this fine football game stopped there.
Lets be honest, when most of you saw the words 'This Is Football', the first thought that popped into your head was "Thats the game where you could dive, right?" Well, yes. That was the game you could dive in.
Upon first exploring the games many modes and options, the first taste of gameplay was imminent, and right after kick-off, the thrill of finally being able to cheat the ref was to much to cope with. Fingers at the ready, on all four shoulder buttons, you waited until any opposing player came within five yards of you and then... Splash. A yellow card for diving.
3. Two-Footed Challenges
If diving wasn't the reason you heard about 'This Is Football', then the audacious two-footed lunges that were possible with the press of the R2 button were almost certainly the reason. Fair play clearly wasn't one of the main selling points behind the TIF series, but rather an ability to play dirty if you really wanted to. The two-footed tackle button was a stress reliever.
If you were getting battered by your mate, then you could take out your frustration on his star player's shins, and no other game has offered the satisfaction that comes in taking a smug opponent down a peg with a Roy-Keane-On-Alfie-Haaland level of cynicism. An automatic red card was almost always the outcome, apart from rare occasions that you planted two feet firmly on the ball, but then everyone was just left disappointed.
4. An Insane Amount of Customisation Options
This Is Football was officially licensed by FIFPro, which meant that every club team in the game had the proper names for all its players, but this did not cover kits and badges, the defaults for which were hilariously basic. As a result, Sony offered a ridiculous amount of customisation for team kits, providing all the options for every teams kit, to re-create as you wished.
This was before PES Option Files where you could pay £3 on ebay and have someone else do the work for you, if you wanted the proper kits you had to put the work in, but for those of us with OCD for things like that, it had to be done.
5. Robbie Keane Was On The Cover In 2003
In 2002, Rio Ferdinand was the cover boy for the TIF series first voyage on PS2, but in 2003 the franchise decided to offer different covers for different markets. Alessandro Nesta was on the Italian cover, Michael Ballack on the German one, and for some reason Kieron Dyer was on the UK cover, but those of us who bought the game on Irish soil were treated to a wide-eyed Robbie Keane having just equalised against Germany.
This avid gamer spent weeks pestering the staff at my local Smyths for the poster, which they eventually handed over to shut me up, and it sat above my bed for years.
6. Jumpers For Goalposts
Unfortunately, after literally minutes of searching online, there does not appear to be any footage of TIF's greatest mode, and honestly one of the most enjoyable game modes I ever played in a football game. "Jumpers For Goalposts" was a game mode that offered you the chance to play as your favourite players and teams in a school playground, with actual jumpers for goalposts.
Furthermore, you could create a club team and start in a Sunday League where jumpers were used for goalposts, and work your way up through the non-leagues into the lower divisions and on to the Premier League, although I never met anyone who had the patience to do so. Still, a great little game mode.
7. The Players Looked Hilarious
At the time, This Is Football's graphics were considered pretty good. Looking back, they were pretty comical. Bug-eyed lumps of clay that clumsily trudged around the pitch with arms that came out of their ribs instead of their shoudlers, the weird players definitely had a relaxing effect that prevented you from taking the game too seriously, I mean, just look at these lads:
8. Classic Teams
Something that we cannot believe doesn't feature in more football games are the use of classic teams, with classic players. How good would modern-day FIFA be if you could wage war with United's treble winning team of 99 and Arsenal's invincibles of 02/03?
This Is Football again delivered for its fanbase with the inclusion of a number of classic teams, Man United fans could control the likes of Nobby Styles and Paddy Crerand behind George Best, Bobby Charlton, and Dennis Law. Real Madrid fans could bang goals in with Alfredo Di Stefano, or try to match their power with Baresi's Milan side. FIFA 14 Ultimate Team tried to bring an element of this back with the introduction of legend cards, but we need full teams, like TIF had.
It wasn't the best game out there, and it certainly wasn't the prettiest, but This Is Football was a unique and enjoyable experience that hopefully will get the respect it deserved through the power of nostalgia.