playstation homepage   Playstation > Whats New > PlayStation Reviews > Staff Review
PlayStation Game and Hardware Reviews



Get your PSX games HERE!

Developer Gremlin Options
Distributer Gremlin 1-4 Player
Game Type Sports Sim Memory Card 5 Blocks
Review Date December 1997 Analog
Screenshot No.1
Screenshot No.2
Screenshot No.3 
Setting the Scene
'One Alan Shearer, there's only one Alan Shearer'
'One Alan Sheeee-rah, there's only one Alan Sheeee-rah'
Repeat Chorus
Repeat Chorus

Ah, those magical ditties that ring all around the football stadium, simplistically served up to spur on the lads and warm your cockles on a cold winters afternoon. It's not the words that count, it's the atmosphere they help to create.

There is something about 'being there' which fails to be captured when sitting comfortably at home watching sport on the box. Whether it is the opportunity to voice your opinion at the players on the field, in the hope that they may actually hear your words of wisdom and up their game a notch, or the dickhead sitting three rows behind giving it non-stop verbal for the full 90 minutes but occasionally coming up with a classic comment that sends rows G - M into hysterics.

Playing the game at the highest level is an entirely different proposition. To begin with you must be blessed with the ability, skill and vision to control a football, and then plenty of practice, dedication and a damn good agent should see you through.

Televised soccer appears to have taken these points on board and rather than compete with the atmosphere and playing skills of the 'real' game, it has opted to concentrate on the visual aspects of the sport capturing each tactical movement from every conceivable camera angle and then scrutinizing play with the aid of the technological advances that are available today.

Developers of video soccer games have also found it impossible to recreate the true experience of playing the game and have therefore gone for the compromise that allows you to take part in a televised extravaganza where your ability, skill and vision will affect the outcome of the featured match.

So where's this leading me to and what's my point?
Well I will tell you - television sport has finally taken over from the real thing. You are no longer playing grass roots soccer from the days where sweat stained shirts, foul language, shoulder charging and dirty tackles were all part of the game. You are now controlling eleven motion captured players that are taking part in TV's 'interpretation' of the game. Flashy camera angles, multiple replays, designer boots and electronic advertising hoardings. I firmly believe that in ten years time the crowds will have been replaced by similar backdrops that appear in games such as Actua Soccer 2.... Actua Soccer 2? That reminds me I have a game to review.

Actua Soccer 2 is this years offering from Gremlin who have provided us with a (television) soccer game that is as good to watch as it is to take part in. Stunning graphics, accurate commentary and a gameplay that includes all of the tactics, competitions and real name players from the International soccer scene. Also included is a custom mode where you can create and name your own team before taking them out on the field to play some of the finest footballing sides that the world has on offer.

When the original Actua Soccer was released in 1995, it set the standard for all next-generation football games. It was the first to make use and master motion capture technology, the graphics engine was the first to use polygon characters instead of sprites without any slowdown and the commentary was detailed, context sensitive and remained ahead of the field until recently when the stakes were raised a little higher in the graphical department with Konami's ISS Pro.

Gremlin have raised the benchmark once again with the release of Actua Soccer 2 which combines new player models with a state of the art true 3D engine. Newcastle United and England captain Alan Shearer was bought on board to be motion captured but due to a horrendous foot injury had to be replaced by the Liverpool FC whizz kid, young Michael Owen. Not one to shirk commitments Alan remained as football consultant for Gremlin overlooking the tactical side of the game. Sheffield Uniteds Simon Tracy was motion captured for the keepers actions allowing for a huge range of new captures to be incorporated, adding realism to the animation and improving the playability some ten-fold.

All of the extra effort in the motion capture studio has paid off as the players recreate each movement to great effect. It's the little touches that make Actua Soccer 2 something special. When the keeper bounces the ball in his box his shadow mirrors each movement of limb and when the opposition scores a goal your defenders drop their heads and rest their hands on their knees looking totally dejected. Even the man in black raises his hand to his mouth when blowing up for free kicks and penalties.

Unlike the original, there's a full range of weather conditions. Games can be played in blazing sunshine, overcast conditions, stormy weather, a snow blizzard, shrouded in mist and fog and even under the floodlight for an evening kick-off. Each stadium has it's own floodlight configurations which are noticeable by the casting shadows.

There is a choice of ten viewing perspectives and for a pleasant change most of them are usable. There are two touchline cameras which, in my opinion, is the only way to view the game. When it comes to action replays Actua Soccer 2 is the tops. After each goal the strike is replayed from every conceivable angle complete with a red 'ball trail' highlighting every bounce and the amount of bend on the shot. Should you wish to query a decision then at any time the game may be paused and a slow-motion replay can be shown over and over again from each available camera angle. Like I said - television soccer.

Sounds and Effects
All too often soccer games are backed by a monotonous drone that is supposed to represent the atmosphere of a soccer game therefore it was nice to see that Gremlin have put a little extra effort into the crowd noises. As a player nears the goal the expectancy of the crowd raises with ooh's and aah's for near misses and the most deafening roar when the ball hits the back of the net.

Commentary is once again supplied by Barry Davies from the BBC sports team and is this time accompanied by former West Ham favorite Trevor Brooking. The accuracy is remarkable as every touch is praised or criticized, be it skillful or lousy, players on the ball are named, decisions are debated and constant references to the scoreline and timekeeping keep you updated.

If it's game options you want then you came to the right place as Actua Soccer 2 has them in abundance. There are 64 International sides to choose from that range from the mighty Brazilians to the lowly Faroe Islands with correct kit designs and real name squads to select from.

There are also a further 24 custom teams of which you can build into a formidable force to challenge the best teams in the world. On entering the custom menu you first need to select your teams colors. Strips, shorts, socks and keepers jersey can be whatever you choose - hoops, plain, checks, halves or stripes. The player editor screen allows you to individually adjust the skill settings of each squad member. You must spread the talent around the whole team to create a balanced squad but those of you who are more daring may invest heavily in their strikers and play an all out attack formation to try to out-score the opposition. Height and weight is also an important factor while skin color and choice of which foot the player uses best will also have a bearing on their play. The custom mode offers a sort of management game within Actua Soccer 2 that can be tinkered with for hours on end before a ball is even kicked.

You could always choose to play with the awesome Shearer's All Star team that is crammed with skillful player from the past and present such as Pele, Keegan, Platini, Sammer, Best, Daglish, Gullit and Shearer himself. Every player is rated on their individual abilities so you can analyze the opposition before the game begins and adjust your tactics accordingly.

The gameplay options include a practice mode where you can take your team onto the local training ground to test out some of your passing moves or take a few shots at an International keeper of your choice. This mode is ideal for beginners as it allows you to become accustomed to the control system. The control pad uses the four face buttons to perform long and short passes, shots at goal and a short burst of speed. On the defensive side you can slide tackle, trap the ball and speed burst. With practice you will soon be doing flying headers, overhead kicks and unstoppable bending volleys. Also in practice mode is a penalty kick competition between two sides of your choice.

If you prefer a one on one exhibition match then the Friendly option should be highlighted. A Cup match may involve between 2 and 64 teams with each round producing it's own surprises in a random selection draw. There are two different styles of season games to be played. Season 97/98 features four divisions, each consisting of 16 teams. At the end of a season the championship winner will be named, as will each of the divisional winners. Promotion and relegation will be awarded to the top and bottom three of each division respectively. A Custom Season allows you to create your own division that consists of between 4 and 24 teams. After each match the results from every game will decide on the placing of your team in the new weekly league table.

Before each game you will be presented with a team setup screen. Here you can select your first team from a squad of twenty players. Each player is marked out of one hundred on the following attributes. Control, passing, tackling, shooting, speed and heading ability. It is amazing how selecting the right players for each game will affect the result. You may also mess around with formation, marking and general style of play.

Match day arrives and the two teams take to the field. At the centre circle the referee is going through a short stretching routine while the players limber up by bouncing up and down on the spot. The crowd can be heard chanting 'what a load of rubbish' and 'United, United'. This was strange as I had yet to kick off and there was no United, only Morocco vs Northern Ireland. The player in control of the ball has an orange circle around his feet but once he touches the ball it will change into a triangle indicating the player in possession.

This is probably the first game where I have felt immediately comfortably on the ball, you really feel in control of the player. Pressing the speed burst button sees your player tap the ball ahead of him and then play catch up with it which is much more realistic than those other footy games where the ball sticks to the players feet like glue. I was also impressed with the way that the keepers will race from their line and smother the ball just as your striker is about to unleash a shot. This rules out walking the ball into the net. You must actually play football to score. No long balls - timely passes, a little run on the ball to the byline, a curving cross and your centre forward streaking in at the far post to glance a header into the top corner. Goals are rewarded with a superb replay from every angle and for once I did not want to quickly cancel this feature and get on with the game. Surprisingly I even watched a couple of the oppositions replays, now there's a first.

You want more goals?
Then before each game select amateur skill level and each shot should then be on target and a little aftertouch will beat the keeper.
You want a tougher contest?
Boost the skill up to pro and even the minnows will take some beating.

Value for Money
Actua Soccer 2 is a superb football game. Colossal in gameplay because not only do you get the usual football options but there is also a custom/management style of game that will take an age to master. You could even take the time to build up all twenty premiership teams and name all the players with their real names. In fact I doubt if you will have finished with this game when we eventually see Actua Soccer 3. The graphics are shear(er) quality, the commentary absorbing and the playability nears perfection.

GRAPHICS: 17/20 A few months ago I was totally knocked out when I cast my eyes over ISS Pro. At last we had a footy game that was worthy of the Playstations capabilities. It may not have been perfect but it sure set a standard for other to reach.
So is Actua 2 better than ISS Pro?

The commentary can be compared to the prince and the pauper. Actua is the prince.
ACTUA 1 - 0 ISSPro

The graphics are equally as good, but ISS Pro just pips it on the fact that so many player looked like their namesake.
ACTUA 1 - 1 ISSPro

The gameplay and lastability are so far ahead of ISS Pro therefore I will have to give Shearer a hat trick.
ACTUA 4 - 1 ISSPro
SOUND: 8/10
VALUE: 18/20
GRAPHICS: Good After playing all of the previous football games produced on the PlayStation, I feel that this game stands head and shoulders above the rest.

The control that they game give you is brilliant, the commentary is by far the best yet and the graphics move at a pace that shames many of it's rivals.

As a two player game this game is in a league of its own!
VALUE: Brilliant

Get your PSX games HERE!