League of Pain



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Professional Underground League of Pain (PULP) is the newest release from Psygnosis, the company that has been responsible for PlayStation greats such as the WipeOut and Destruction Derby series, and for a large part the early success of the system. On that note, PULP is a very solid attempt at a fantasy sports game, but players looking for the same level of excellence as the above titles may be a bit disappointed.

PULP is set in the future, in a time when sports have gotten more violent, and players brawl with no referees to limit the fighting action. Despite the overused and tired outlook on the future, PULP is a very creative and solid attempt at a new sport. Each team is allowed four players in an oval arena at one time. The two teams fight for the control of a plasma-ball. Players in control of the plasma-ball must first charge it up in an opposing team's charger, and then aim to shoot it into a goal that hovers above the teams in the center of the court. Depending on how far the shot is from the goal, one to three points may be scored. Along the way, players can punch or shoulder charge their opponents to get the ball back. Power-ups are occasionally thrown into the arena, but don't contribute greatly to the outcome of each match. The rules of the game work very well, making the sport very believable and convincing.

Compared to other Psygnosis efforts, PULP isn't graphically ground breaking, but holds its own against other PlayStation titles. The most impressive feature is the light sourced sphere that is tossed around the arena, brightening the areas it passes. The crowd surrounding the arena has a realistic look to it, which places PULP above many other sports games that use drab texture maps to simulate a crowd. Other than that, there's not much to shout about. Players all look identical, making it difficult to distinguish the star player apart from the others without taking a hard look at the on screen display. As usual, a variety of camera angles are at the gamer's disposal, but most are found useless. The graphics in PULP are solid, but not far and away from anything else on the market.

Likewise, sounds in PULP fail to distinguish the game from other titles. The crowd gets into the game, and the ball flying around the arena sounds very cool as well. Beyond that, nothing really stands out. Particularly disappointing are the grunts and crunches of the players as they pummel it out with each other. These weak effects fail to add excitement to fighting in a game that is built around and named after violence.

On a more positive note, PULP controls very nicely with an intelligent and practical button layout. The players respond with precision to every movement, giving the player a real feeling of control over what's happening in the arena. Unfortunately, this feel of control is killed by a feature that is obviously constructed in an attempt to hide poor AI. Instead of being able to switch players at will, control of the players is automatically switched depending on which one is closest to the ball. This causes miscues, such as when the player rushes an opponent to shoulder charge and discovers discovers he has been switched to another player against his will. The lack of AI is noticed when the computer teammates fail to go after the opposing player with the ball, but rather circle around him as if waiting to cut off a pass. Similarly, only one computer opponent is sent after the player with the ball at a time, while the other three run around almost mindlessly nearby. This poor AI prevents the sport of PULP from being great, as players quickly realize that their run through the opposing team was only truly contested by one intelligent opponent and three mindless ones. This prevents one player games of PULP from being Particularly exciting, which is why the eight player option is a godsend.


The more human players in PULP the better, and those willing to splurge for two PlayStation multitaps and eight controllers are in for a real treat. Mutiplayer gaming is where PULP truly shines, and is a wonderful purchase for those looking for an experience with their friends. Playing alone quickly becomes boring and uneventful, but human players make the game much more enjoyable. If only the computer played with anywhere near the intelligence and reality of humans, PULP would be a great game and a complete fantasy sports package. As it stands, Professional Underground League of Pain is a title that could have hit the top ranks of PlayStation with a few improvements, but instead lands in the specialty bin of great multi-player titles and struggles in the one player mode.

Written by Andrew Phelan


Overall: ****


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Internet Support: Psygnosis Technical Support
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