Acclaim's lacrosse game misses goal


When the news broke that Acclaim planned to release the world's first lacrosse video game for the Sony Playstation, one word came to mind - "finally."

It was about time someone created a digital replica of this great sport. Not only would it help to market lacrosse to regions of the country unfamiliar with the game, it would give true fans a way to compete on another level.

Young players could watch properly drawn-out plays develop in front of them. The intricacies of give-and-go's, slides and screens would come to life as they guided their favorite athletes to the cage.

Unfortunately, Blast Lacrosse falls short of these expectations.

This $30 title simulates an indoor or box version of the sport as played by the National Lacrosse League. It's not the outdoor variety.

Simulating play on a hockey rink covered with artificial turf, Blast Lacrosse is instead a five-on-five war.

More primitive than its outdoor cousin, indoor lacrosse requires more brute strength and less skill.

It's like comparing arena football to the NFL.

Both indoor interpretations have fewer rules, and are much less popular than their outdoor cousins.

Blast never quite makes contact with reality, either - it's more like the old NBA Jam-type games than a true simulation.

There are no fouls.

The referee shows up only for face-offs and quickly departs once a team gets possession of the ball.

Like its extreme-sport counterparts, Blast also has a "turbo" feature, activated with the press of a button, that gives a player the instant ability to run faster, jump higher and shoot harder than everyone else.

However, this boost is short-lived and takes time to re-energize.

Blast's atrocious graphics are another shortcoming.

Rather than create original prototypes for players, it appears that Acclaim's designers imported football players from earlier titles.

They're stripped of all equipment except shoulder pads and helmets and given objects that resemble lacrosse sticks.

There are no personally distinguishing characteristics, as there are on better Playstation sports games by Electronic Arts and 989 Sports.

Just as the players look alike, all nine National Lacrosse League teams are equal in strength and talent in this game.

Each team is theoretically ranked in speed, power, passing, accuracy, strength and weight, but these ratings prove to be meaningless on the turf.

Even though some rosters are stacked with perennial stars and others are littered with scrubs, no team is dominant.

Also missing is the finesse involved in the real game of lacrosse. In order to be successful in any variant of the real game, outdoor or indoor, a team must know how to pass, and pass well.

As true fans and players know, an assist is just as valuable as the resulting goal.

Blast virtually ignores the passing game. Attempting to set up a play or make a clearing pass is asking for a spine-crunching check and a turnover.

To be successful in Blast, it's much more efficient to start fast breaks every possession, rather than trying in vain to toss an outlet pass.

That said, the game has some redeeming qualities, not the least of which is that it's on the market. Acclaim's is based in Long Island, which rivals Baltimore as a lacrosse hotbed, and Blast's arrival is a plus for the sport as a whole.

Also on the plus side, game play and controls are simple, making Blast easy to learn quickly.

The hits and checks are intense and fun - as long as you're not on the receiving end.

Color commentary by sports talk radio host Scott Farrell is also humorous at first listen.

However, his raspy voice sounds as if it he was just awakened from a coma, and constant repetition of the same phrases eventually makes the commentary annoying.

All things considered, Blast Lacrosse does not live up to the standards of a new title in this era of first-rate sports simulations such as Madden 2002 football.

However, this is the first attempt at a lacrosse game by a major publisher, and it's experiencing inevitable growing pains.

If nothing else, it might just teach some people about the game.

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