In order to continue their positive charge on the boot market, Warrior sent some time modifying and re-engineering their control boot, the Gambler II. Out of their 3 releases to date, this was the boot that received least attention and there was an expected wave of change needed for the range.
As you would expect, Warrior has delivered and this version demonstrates their openness to address problematic areas. The key fundamentals of the boot are the same, but there is definitely a different feel and aura about this latest serving.
Before we head into the review, it is important to note that Warrior uses their own wave of complicated terminology, and I’ve copied a lot of their speak in order to give a balanced opinion on what they are looking to pass on to fans. But obviously, the performance results are all from our perspective!
A definite improvement on the original release. Warrior has produced a much less complicated boot and visually these look pretty alright. As you rub your hand along the upper, you can feel the definition of the tech mesh underneath, so the material covering the upper is very thin.
Breaking In and Comfort
There is a definite stiff feel about the Gambler out of the box, something that is easily attributed to the triple layer upper that Warrior use in the boots construction. As a control boot, this is something you would expect with the overall design serving as a tool for players to handle the ball. When you compare them to something like the CTR360 Maestri or the 11Pro, the upper features a more full bodied feel and is definitely thicker.
The important thing with the Gambler II is to expect a few wears before you get the upper loosened up and ready for game time. I took the opportunity to wear them in a few training sessions, jogging and on the ball, before taking them into a game. There is a benefit to a design like this, and that is the durable factor. These boots are designed to last longer than a season.
On an extreme positive, you have to love the work Warrior does on the inside of the boot (its the details!) A no-stitch Royal Flush inner combines with a super cushioned and embossed 4D Carpet for seamless fit and all-game comfort. The insole feels great to wear and you get some spring without having too much bounce through play. For those that have experienced Under Armour’s 4D comfort insole, you get a very similar type of feel.
Set to be a Control Boot
As you would expect with any new boot released to the market, there is always going to be adjustments needed to improve its overall performance. Warrior took feedback from players to create the control focused Gambler, and this latest edition builds on the same key fundamental ideas. Richard Wright, GM of Warrior Football stated that “We wanted to create a boot which keeps its original distinguishable features but delivered new ones to control and change the game” and that is very obvious by the look and feel of this second generation release. The insole features a control zone and the outer region features a raised dribble zone.
In Game Performance
Not all the tech speak involved with the Gambler is important, so in this area I’m picking up on the key areas and breaking down the attributes that they have on offer.
The key piece of a control boot lies on what it has on offer across the instep of the boot, something we have seen prominently focused on over the past few years. On the Gambler, it comes in the form of several odd shaped, rubber covered, randomly positioned panels. There really is no logical reasoning behind how the pieces are placed and why they are cut in very different shapes. There is definitely a benefit in having several separate panels that allow for free movement through the region. Warrior has also added a light layer of black rubber on each panel to ensure you get some added drip as the ball contacts the surface.
Personally, I like the direction Warrior has taken with the Ace Plate but I definitely feel there is work to be done. You get some rebound on the ball as you pass and it does offer some of that tacky touch as you take long balls out of the air, but it just doesn’t give you that top quality feel you get from some other control boots like the Umbro Geometra or Nike CTR360.
For players who like, take a few quick touches and turn into space, the outsider stack is going to prove very useful It is basically a padded region along the outstep that provides clean touch in tight situations. Thanks to the Lay-Off offset lacing system, you get a larger, cleaner area on the outside of the boot to move the ball with. It proves extremely useful for players who just like to dribble as it sits in that first touch region, which is a welcome bonus. But it is the center midfielder who likes to cut, chop and make their way out of trouble that this padded region is designed for. Think of those moments when you receive a pass with someone on your back and want to create space in one direction. That outside touch region gives you an area to focus on and some extra cushion to keep the ball closer to your foot.
FG War Plate 17
For those not familiar with the War Plate soleplate, it is downright crazy. Like much of what Warrior do, there is no logical explanation to the positioning of each of the 17 blades on the sole. When you have a design like this, the obvious concern lies in general traction on different surfaces and how it catches. I got to test these out on both FG and AG surfaces with positive results. Given that each blade features a low profile, there was less drag than many players expect. This is the third time I have had the opportunity to test out this configuration on a Warrior boot, so there was little surprise in the results. Lateral drag might prove to be a slight issue for some players on AG surfaces, if you want to be safe make sure to look for conical studs.
Final performance note goes to the tongue, and not just for the cutout design it features! That cutout is there so you have something easy to grab and pull the tongue up nice and tight. But the main talking point is the memory foam panels that lie across the tongue and add an additional level of padding and rebound while shouting. It doesn’t add much additional weight yet it serves a valuable purpose for several reasons!
How do they Fit?
In your normal size, they will fit just a tad bit long, but this is something that is needed considering the overall shape of the boot. It is worth noting here that this is not a boot with an accommodating fit, so if you need something wider these should immediately be avoided. Featuring a lacing system that sits toward the inside of the boot, you get a larger outside zone and this actually brings the boots in a little tighter across your forefoot. And that means that those of you in need of a narrow fit, I would add these to the possible list of options.
Compared to the Original Gambler
Without having to go into the key fundamentals of both boots, the simple truth is that this second generation Gambler is a much improved boot over the original. There are obviously some similarities, but Warrior has taken the positives, removed the negatives and produced a very competitive control boot. In other words, if you find yourself in a situation where you get to choose between both pairs, definitely go for the Gambler II.
I still think there are modifications needed on the Gambler to really elevate them to the next level. What Warrior should really do is cheat the system and deliver a boot in a more similar mold to the CTR360 range. Think about it, Nike removed themselves from the category and the response from fans has been a resounding “why?” Create a thinner, single layer upper and really focus in on improving the instep control zone, and the Gambler could be a real winner.
For those of you interested in a pair, some negative news at the moment – these boots haven’t yet hit US shores. BUT, they are sure to at some point soon and your best bet is to keep a watch on Soccer.com for details!
The Skinny Summary
Highlight: A much improved control boot from Warrior that offers players an ideal platform for keeping the ball close to feet while breaking out of tight situations.
Category: Control – thanks to the Ace Plate instep and Outsider Stacks.
Weight: They fall in at 8.9oz, very decent for a control boot.
Would I Buy Them: Considering what is currently available in the control market, they are definitely worth considering, I still feel Warrior has work to do with the range, so they are a work in progress.
Player Position: Ideal for midfielders who are crafty, like to get on the ball and cut through tight spaces.