Rocket League has proven that vehicles and football work well together, and now Earthbound Games has landed with its own take on this recipe called Axiom Soccer, combining elements of pool in the mix as well. By that we mean you don't hit the ball with your own bonnet or bumper, but instead use a gun to shoot pellets at it and send it flying.
This is the basic principle of Axiom Soccer, and we recently tested out a preview build in which we played matches against the AI. Sure there's a ball, it's football/soccer, and there are walls around the pitch, but that's pretty much where the similarities end between this and Rocket League because this one is all about timing your strikes to send the ball in certain directions.
Just as in pool or snooker, where you strike the ball determines where it goes, and you can slice it wide or put spin on it if you're not careful. That's not all, as there are several different weapons like a machine gun, shotgun, and grenade to help you with your game, but the ammo is finite, and you'll find yourself tracking back to your goalmouth for ammo if you can't grab a goal quickly.
What's more is that you're not limited by gravity either, as you can ascend and descend like the robots you are to get better angles on the ball, all in a more controlled manner than the violent boosts of Rocket League. With players all around the pitch and bullets everywhere - all of which leave smoke trails behind them - it can easily turn into spectacular colourful carnage.
You also have a goalkeeper to contend with, and much like table football it can only be moved from side to side, either automatically or with your own divine guidance. As if that wasn't enough to remember, the pitch can also be changed by doing things like raising bollards from the ground, so it's a lot more arcadey than just you're basic soccer match. Whoops, we mean football.
In practice this is all incredibly fun, but it takes some getting used to, especially since the bullets don't instantly reach the ball and so timing their drop with where the ball will be is especially tricky. Once you get into the groove though it sinks its hooks in you because of the simplicity of the core concept - getting the ball in the goal - but the added layers just make things more fun and unpredictable.
With Ranked Online play and spectator features that will place you in the actual stadium, Earthbound Games seems to have big ambitions for Axiom Soccer. They've even hosted a closed beta tournament already, and with CEO Chris Stamp telling us that esports has always been the goal, we look forward to seeing what the future holds for this title. It's got all the right inspirations and is fun at its core, but what happens next will really shape its fate.