West Ham United, the team that gave English football a World Cup final hat trick, and the team that has always shown the others how the game should be played.
The Hammers are a byword for quality, with an academy that has created some of the true England greats right up to the present day. Whilst we might not have the Premier League titles to prove our influence in English football, those who know and understand the game get it. From Geoff Hurst to Frank Lampard Jr, or Mark Noble to Alvin Martin, West Ham makes them differently.
The same can now be said for the club’s influence on video games. The football video game scene is changing rapidly, and West Ham are right at the forefront of that change. To understand the news’s true impact, you must understand the football video game scene.
Football has always influenced video games, from the earliest bat and ball style games described as soccer to the modern day. Titles such as Sensible Soccer, Kick-Off 2 and Actua Soccer might be well known to football fans, but thousands of other lesser-known titles exist. Football games are everywhere; even Gala Spins have an online slot titled 11 Champions, trading on football’s imagery. Other games, such as Sorare and Top Stars Football Match, also take football and twist it into a different genre of game. If you wish to play on your mobile, everything from Football Cup 21 to Dream League Soccer keeps you happy.
Despite such a vast array of titles, only two have contested the top spot for years. Like the Scottish Premier League, the race for supremacy has been a predictable two-horse race between FIFA and Pro Evolution Soccer, better known as PES. PES is no more; it’s been replaced by eFootball, Konami’s latest venture into the football video game space, which has had limited success. EA Sports FIFA, a franchise as old as the Premier League, is also dying out this year. Electronic Arts have decided not to spend more on the FIFA license, and their game will be changed because of it. Imagine if suddenly Celtic and Rangers entered a period of uncertainty — who could creep up and break the domination?
In Scotland, it wouldn’t happen, but in video gaming, it is, and West Ham are right at the forefront of the push by a new challenger, a new name hoping to break the dominance. That game is Ultimate Football League (UFL), from developer Strikerz Inc. West Ham are one of a handful of clubs to sign a deal to feature in the game, meaning the London Stadium is being lovingly recreated and is described as bouncing by Real Sport 101.
The game is groundbreaking because it will be free to play but powered by Unreal Engine, an advanced and dynamic real-time 3D creation tool. That means top-class graphics and visuals combined with a gaming model that sees minimal cost to the end user. Strikerz Inc has also teamed up with InStat, a leader in sports performance analysis, and they will provide detailed data and statistics for each player.
It’s an exciting development for gamers, and if UFL is a success, it could become as well-known as FIFA worldwide. The idea is certainly sound; a football game that is all-action and not a rip-off for supporters, which many feel FIFA has become. If the game engine is good and players get on board with the new game, then we could see it become the standard for football video games, and West Ham United would be the first big team on board right at the start.
How exciting is that for Hammers’ fans?