Eko Software and Nacon revive the Handball series by launching Handball 21 for the PC. The series returns after a four-year hiatus when the last game of the Handball 17 Series was released in 2016. Well, to be honest, I never had the chance to play the previous title and I’m not very familiar with the sport. Apart from the fact that we have had some glimpses of the sport in previous Olympic competitions. The developer and publisher are the same, except that Nacon used to be known as Big Ben Interactive. Except that nothing has changed, but what has changed are the huge visual improvements in the game compared to previous games. I got a copy of Gandball 21 on the PC, which, as I can safely say, is the first introduction to the sport.
Is that football? Hockey? Basketball? These are questions everyone will ask when watching handball. It is a real sport, even part of the Olympic Games, with highly qualified professional players from all over the world in official clubs. In other words, it is a serious sport that is not only interesting to watch, but also much more competitive than you might think. Of course, like most people, I am not very familiar with the sport, the rules and the way it is played, apart from the basic principles of scoring a goal. This should come as no surprise, as the game does not have a mass audience compared to sports such as hockey, football and basketball.
Still, every competitive sport needs to be appreciated and supported, just like what Eko Software and Nacon have done to bring the series back to life with their latest title – Handball 21. Handball is a sport that needs to broaden its audience, and producing official games that are as much fun as a real sport is always a step in the right direction. The game also has a remote steaming feature, allowing your friend to play with you even if he or she doesn’t have a copy of the game. This, together with the ability to split the screen and play the multiplayer online game, will allow the game to expand even further.
However, there are many areas where the game can be improved. Start without driving mode. Handball, as a sport or game, requires an understanding of how the game and its components are actually played. The absence of tutorial mode, which explains the basics and rules of the game, brings me back to one of the moments of ignorance. The main menu of Handball 21 is similar to that of other matches, closer to a FIFA name, but less crowded and easier to navigate. There is not much information in the main menu where it takes a long time to get into the action, because the Quick Sync mode is just in the first tile of the menu. The choice of teams is almost the same as in FIFA matches, where you choose your team and the opponent.
In addition to the fast-paced games, you have a well thought-out single-player mode where you have to manage your team and lead it to the top of the league to finally face the best handball teams in the world. In Solo mode, you can manage your finances by signing players, organizing exhibition matches and improving the staff that is part of your entire team. As with the career rules in other sports, every season you have an event calendar, a budget for matches in the divisions of your favourite countries and the European tournaments in which your team can participate this season. You also have the option to configure your team in My Team mode. Here you can create a team in the colors of your choice and use them in online or sologames.
The game also has challenges, which are weekly tasks or goals that you have to complete in order to get a reward. You get tasks such as a game with different difficulty levels that has scored a certain number of points or completed a certain number of tasks. Online Match Mode is a multiplayer online game that searches directly for an opponent to play against you. Unfortunately, I was never able to play in this mode because I couldn’t find an opponent in the game for a few minutes.
By comparison, Handball 21 represents a huge leap forward in terms of visual effects, animation and game mechanics, unlike the last title in the series, Handball 17. Given that the developer is a small team, the visual and graphical effects, both inside and outside the menu space, are beautiful. The graphics in the course with lighting, shadows and animation are much better than in the previous game. What’s more, most animations look realistic when players fit, shoot at goal, or even walk around to create confusion.
Very plausible and the gameplay itself, with its fast pace, finding a hole in the opponent’s defense and the many ways to hit the goal. No matter how much fun it is, I would like to re-learn a small basic game, with all the mistakes, rules and strategies for an effective game. It could also be done in an educational way that would give me an idea of handball as a sport.
Even if you know handball and are familiar with the rules, the way of playing and the different tactics in both defense and attack, there are a number of things that cloud the experience of this fascinating sport. Let’s start with the animation of the collision my attacker should have suffered after the collision with his suspect. As a result, my player was trapped in a small animation that interrupted my attack and prevented me from going back and enjoying the game quickly. Other problems arise when the tables turn and I become the defender of my team. When the ball is kicked by the attacker’s hand, none of the defenders tries to catch it. Instead, the attacker approached the ball easily, always calmly, and repeated another attacking game, all together.
There is nothing serious about the fact that the patch update can not fix it, especially given the huge potential of this game at the moment. Any criticism that can help a developer understand a problem he has to work on is what I expect from Nacon and Eko Software. They’ve made huge improvements to the series in several departments, but they still need to work more on the gameplay itself. The content of the game is sufficient to satisfy both new players and returning fans of the sport and the series.
Handball 21 is a long-awaited return to the series and a sport that demands more attention based on professionalism, speed and fun. The game has great potential, which is enough to offer more games in the future with a more refined experience and gameplay with player feedback. I can think of two positive things that Gandball 21 has. Firstly, it is much better than the previous titles, and secondly, the series is a report on a sport that deserves recognition. My biggest complaint is the lack of a training mode, which would be great to learn more about the game before you get into action. However, the fast pace of the plot, visual effects and graphics alone are reason enough to try the game for yourself.
Total score: 6.0/10
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