4th And Inches

HIGH It’s great watching a team come together. Exciting games on the field

LOW Questionable AI. Poorly-synced commentary

WTF Why are all the draft picks TERRIBLE?

4th and inches is one of the most difficult situations a football coach can face.  It’s almost always a judgement call —  do I trust my team to execute and risk everything, or do I give up and try something else?  Axis Football 2021 has reached this critical situation, and it’s time to start weighing the pros and cons of supporting this franchise.

The Good:  Axis still has a phenomenally deep franchise mode. 

I’ve spent many hours setting up practices, poring over draft data and improving my team’s facilities with hopes of bettering their chances on the field.  I’ve frugally handled offseason salary negotiations only to have to spend wildly during the season to replace a decimated offensive line and bolster a sagging defense.  Frustratingly, I discovered early on that it’s possible (and quite easy!) to spend so much on facilities and free agents that I literally did not have enough cash on hand to re-sign enough players to fill a roster. 

Teams can be created from the ground up this season, but I still have a soft spot for my woeful pre-generated Philadelphia Express  — those lovable lunkheads with a roster of aging stars, unproven young talent, and plenty of gritty role-players.  While I always enjoyed Axis Football’s European-style tier system in the past, I’m loving the fact that I can now simulate NFL-style conferences and divisions as well.  It makes for a much more intriguing challenge when playing outside my weak division, facing teams that simply outclass my guys at every position. Overcoming the odds to beat those teams is very satisfying.

On the field, games are exciting and competitive.  New animations (such as quarterbacks throwing off the back foot when scrambling) add to the sense of immersion, and the new stadiums (with animated crowds!) look good. 

AI coaches make far more realistic use of timeouts, and will have their QBs take a knee when leading to run out the clock.  Receivers run better routes and are able to create separation more often, leading me to more success passing the ball than in years past.  Blocking has been shored up, meaning there are more true running lanes for RBs to exploit, making the run game more realistic.  On the other side, my stud Defensive Lineman can still power his way into the backfield, but opposing QBs are better at dodging or throwing the ball away rather than taking the simply absurd number of sacks they did in previous iterations. 

The Bad: There are still a number of glitches and bugs, both new and old. 

Players still ragdoll their way across the field, sometimes in horrendous parody of human motion.  If I skip the animation of players returning to the huddle, there’s a good chance that a defender is trying to stand back up after the previous play (even though he may not have fallen down in the first place) and can’t return to the line in time for the snap.  Linebackers have been observed simply standing in place, watching receivers or rushers race by without reacting.  There still seems to be no rhyme or reason as to why a receiver can or cannot catch a ball, especially when facing down coverage.  Without more animations, I can’t determine if my receiver simply isn’t talented enough, or if field conditions affect his ability to snag a pass out of the air. 

It’s still basically impossible to return an interception for any significant yardage, let alone a pick-six, and fumbles are recovered basically upon impact.  On more than one occasion the opposing team froze mid-huddle, seeming to refuse to return to the line of scrimmage, either allowing me to get a cheap delay of game penalty or forcing me to use a time-out (if I was feeling more generous) to break them out of their torpor. 

The Ugly: Play-by-play hasn’t seen a significant update in years. 

I’ve grown weary of hearing the same play calls and anecdotes over and over again, and the dialogue fails to mesh with the action more severely than in prior iterations.  The announcers will mention it’s a two-possession game when I was leading by 21 points, or the sideline reporter will talk about how well my team was playing and how enthusiastic the coach is with the result when I’m losing by multiple scores at the half and have accomplished nothing on offense.  

Is Axis Football 2021 worth the price of admission under these conditions? 

My head says to play it safe and recommend people wait until next year.  However I value playing Axis Football 2021.  I enjoy the on-field action, and I genuinely care about my rag-tag team of misfits, so my heart says to go for it this year.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed and published by Axis Games.  It is currently available on XBO, XBX,and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PC. Approximately 22 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and multiple seasons were completed. There are no multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated E.  This is a simulation of American Football, featuring NFL-style action including depictions of tackling.  Injuries are described in text, but not shown.  There is a reference to drunken fans during some pre-game commentary. 

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: This game does not offer subtitles. The game is playable without sound, but there are no subtitles for spoken commentary.  This does not affect gameplay, but it does limit immersion.  Some gameplay elements (interceptions, fumbles, and initial snaps for each play) have visual as well as audio cues including changes in camera angle, but without the additional benefit of audio, a human player may be taken off-guard by an event or have a slight disadvantage when these occur.  This game is NOT fully accessible.

Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable.

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