|Playstation > Whats New > PlayStation Reviews > Staff Review|
|A.P.I Review:||ISS PRO '98|
No.1 No.2 No.3
|Game Type:||Soccer Sim||Memory Card|
|Review Date:||October 1998||Analog Compatible|
Setting the Scene
Remember those dark and gloomy days of pre-'97? A time when development teams across the globe were striving to produce a half decent soccer simulation for the home console. Oh yes, there were plenty of great pretenders to the throne. None more so than those dreadful early FIFA games. Let's slip back in time a little. The early eighties brought us the simplistic "Football Manager" and "Match Day", before the giant leap onto the cartridge system with "International Soccer". Towards the end of the decade a tidal wave was rising with Atari, Amiga, NES and Master System all providing input into this genre. By the nineties soccer sims were in abundance with the Amiga supporting over 60 titles. Without the processor power to provide realistic graphics, developers had to concentrate on gameplay and control and because of this Sensible Soccer sat proudly at the top of the league for many years. 16-bit consoles were to change visuals dramatically with International Superstar Soccer Deluxe on the SNES, finally linking gameplay and graphics in one tidy package. Providing a next generation soccer game for the 32-bit console has proved a little more daunting than developers first imagined. Early efforts would only highlight the task in hand as sprites were replaced with 3 dimensional polygon players constructed using the latest motion- captured technology. Unfortunately the quality visuals were to drastically effect the pace and flow of this beautiful game. The nut was finally cracked in July 1997. International Superstar Soccer Pro was the title. Even more surprising was that the developers were Konami and not those wizards from EA Sports. Their breakthrough was to arrive shortly after in the form of FIFA Road to World Cup.
The original hit soccer game, which sold over a million units worldwide, was created exclusively for the Nintendo 64 and recently won an Academy Award for Best Console Sports Game of 1997. The game was enhanced for 1998 and is being released in three different versions: International Superstar Soccer Pro '98 for the Sony PlayStation, International Superstar Soccer '98 for the N64 and International Superstar Soccer for the Game Boy.
ISS Pro '98 graphically is almost identical to last years offering from Konami. It's quite simple really... you don't fix what isn't broken. Once again when the game is in motion the graphics are so smooth you forget that this is just a video game and you actually feel like your participating in a real match. The motion capture is superb as the player twists and turns, lifting a foot over the ball as he produces a perfect feint to confuse the opposing player. What looks ultra realistic is when a defender is backing off from an attacking player, while the after goal celebrations will have you watching the action replay over and over again. One new feature included is the option to view each replay from any desired angle. Combining shoulder, directional and face buttons allows you to sweep the camera around a full 360° while concentrating on the movements of attacker or goalkeeper. Slightly out of proportion are the flags that are constantly waved around in the crowd. I'll swear that even Popeye couldn't lift those giant national emblems that flow back and forth behind the goals. ISS Pro 98 now includes a slide bar which is used to increase the speed of play. This is an excellent idea allowing each of the five difficulty levels to be finely tuned to suit your individual requirements. Once again there are five stadium to select from, while weather conditions range from daytime clear to nighttime rain. It's also worth mentioning that the loading times have been drastically reduced to under five seconds.
Sounds and Effects
The only real failing with last years ISS Pro offering was the duff commentary and poor sound effects. Thankfully these have been corrected... well almost. No more must we suffer the distinct noise of two coconuts being clattered together whenever a player ran with the ball. Neither must we put up with screaming comments such as 'Great shot Italy', 'Good goal England' and 'It's Argentina on the ball'. Instead we have the distinct tones of BBC commentator Tony Gubba who describes the action as it happens. Unfortunately because ISS Pro doesn't use the players real names each touch cannot be attributed to a specific person, therefore it all becomes a series of brief statements strung together. Still... better than that twit Konami used last year! The crowd reactions to the flow of play is very good. As the ball moves nearer to the goal... so the volume of their cheering rises, with the banging of drums saluting a goal scored.
As mentioned, the players do not have 'real' household names but the facility is available to edit each team and save onto a memory card. Perhaps a similar cheat code to that used in World League Soccer will become available which automatically rearranges the letters. I hope so because working your way through 40 squads of 18 players would be a nightmare scenario. Button configuration remains almost identical to last years offering with the brilliant through pass being the defence splitting motion. There's long pass, short pass, shoot, centre, sliding tackle and dash. Practice mode includes the option to brush up on a selection of set piece moves in the comfort of the training ground. This is perfect for trying to bend a free kick around the wall or perform a diving header from a corner kick. There is also a Penalty Kick mode to practice for those sudden death occasions. Exhibition mode allows up to two players to compete against each other or join forces against a selected CPU opponent. In League mode up to two players can play out an entire season against a selection of National teams from across the world. There are seven knockout Cup competitions involving up to 32 National teams. Finally, how about a one off game where the European All Stars take on a selected World Eleven. Before you proceed a few minor decisions need to be taken involving game difficulty, conditions, stadium and venue. The match length must also be determined from five to fifteen minutes. Formation, strategy and team selection is the final option before the game begins and once again follows the ISS tradition. This is where small colored faces represent the current status of each player. Should they be red and smiling, then put them in the team. Grey and miserable players should be dropped from the squad immediately. Players can enjoy the realistic game settings based on actual soccer strategies, including all-member offense, counter attack, zone press, center offense and more. Basic movements, such as pass and kick, are made by simple button settings. Once players feel comfortable at the basic levels, they can change to more complicated button settings to enjoy advanced game techniques. Both teams line up to be introduced to the crowd. Each player looks completely different from the next in both appearance and stature. There's tall players, short players, balding players, thin players and most importantly recognizable players. The whistle blows and the game is underway. The passing feels accurate and the players respond instantly to your instructions from the the D-pad. A short pass will usually find a team mate, as will an accurate long pass, but it is the inclusion of a through ball that sets ISS Pro above the rest. Neat passing movements will only advance you so far up the field before a 'defence splitting' pass must be played perfectly through the last line of defenders for your striker to run onto. Once you get the hang of this tactic your forwards will stand a chance of breaking through the tightest offside traps and the toughest teams defence. Shooting requires reactionary skills as you still have a power bar that fills up extremely quick when launching a shot at goal. Too much power when you are too close to the target and your shot will fly high over the bar, this takes judgement but before long you will be bending 35 yard free kicks into the top corner just like the Brazilians.
Value for Money
Value for money depends on whether you already own last years version of ISS Pro. Because it was so good there have been little changes in both graphics and gameplay. It's definitely more of the same... ...but then the same was very, very good indeed.
Pro 98 is little more than an update on last years hit title. It still
plays remarkably well and is a must for any soccer enthusiasts
collection... but only if they don't already own the '97 version.
I suppose there are great similarities between FIFA Road to World Cup and FIFA World Cup '98. Both excellent titles but would you want to own both of them?