Sociable Soccer is a throwback to early soccer simulators where lifelike graphics, intelligent AI, and complex physics were not considered much of an issue. Instead, these games aimed to be an enjoyable experience that somewhat resembled a real sport. Sociable Soccer takes inspiration from Sensible Soccer and like that game, it's not very sensible.
Dribbling is awkward as making tight turns results in losing the ball. Curve can be manipulated after a kick which leads to some spectacular-looking shots and passes, but also moments where the ball curls out of play when you try to have another player chase it. Slide tackling players skid several yards across the pitch, and the difference between a foul and a tackle seems arbitrary. Shots from the halfway line are a legitimate tactic and blazing the ball wide or hitting the crossbar when it's easier to score happens all the time. These may sound like complaints but it's actually a very fun part of Sociable Soccer's identity.
The game boasts more than 1,000 teams and 30,000 players, but don't expect to be lining up as Real Madrid with Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema. Lacking any official licensing, Sociable Soccer has you playing as 'Madrid Blancos' and scoring goals with 'Ronelbo' and 'Banzena'. Such unrealistic names may irritate some but football fans will probably appreciate that the names are similar enough to know which real-world footballer each name represents.
There are a few different ways to play: friendly matches, leagues, tournaments, and a boss mode. In boss mode, you earn credits that are used to unlock teams to play as and harder modes to offer more challenge. This is a good way to motivate players and we're interested to see how it will work when the full product hits the market.
Before each match you can make tactical changes such as overloading on attackers or setting up more defensively. At one point, we tinkered with tactics between games only for our tweaks to be forgotten. Fortunately, tactics customisation is intuitive and easy to use, so despite this frustration, it only took moments to correct and our tactics stuck so long as they were made immediately before a game.
Each match is very quick and involves constant end-to-end goal-mouth action. There are four control buttons: 'pass', 'shoot', 'chip', and 'hoof', each with variable power depending on how long the button is held down. We mostly only needed to use pass and shoot but we appreciate that the devs have included variety in the control system. There's also a sprint button and a button which allows a quick change of formation without pausing. The game can be played with controller or keyboard but the keyboard mapping is not very intuitive (left-ctrl, a, z, x are the kicking buttons). We would have liked the option to map the buttons ourselves.