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|Setting the Scene:
Am I alone, or is anybody else out there totally bored with their FIFA 2000 game?
Amazing! Barely two months old, but it has already been relegated to the top shelf where it will gather dust alongside it's many forefathers.
I found this quite strange because soccer games usually stand the test of time... well... for at least a full season. Yet in this very short period EA's latest sporting mega-earner somehow managed to grind my tether into total submission. It may still look like the proverbial golden egg that the Mother FIFA-Goose did lay... but prolonged playing of FIFA 2000 began to feel that I was taking part in a pre-orchestrated event, rather than challenging my skills of control and timing. Whether playing in single or multi-player modes the CPU often took control of events and frustratingly forced the issue.
So what was I to do? A regular multi-player soccer session is essential to my sanity. Thankfully those boys from Konami seem to have timed the arrival of International Superstar Soccer Pro Evolution perfectly. Read on, but only if you want to know about the soccer title that looks good AND hits the spot with it's intuitive gameplay!
The early 1980's 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 the soccer genre. By the 90's soccer sims were in abundance with the Amiga supporting over sixty titles.
Without the processor power to provide realistic graphics, developers had to concentrate purely on gameplay and control. Because of this Sensible Soccer sat proudly at the top of the gamers 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 proved a little more daunting than developers first imagined. Early efforts would only highlight the task in hand as sprites were replaced with 3D 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 until July 1997 when International Superstar Soccer Pro was released. Even more surprising was that the developer were Konami and not those wizards from EA Sports with their 'ever so popular' FIFA brand. The following year ISS Pro 98 was further enhanced receiving critical acclaim.
Now, at the dawn of a new millennium, ISS Pro Evolution has arrived. The latest member of this popular soccer game family is no exception and continues the tradition of its predecessors. Starting with a truly amazing rendered movie (from the makers of the famous Silent Hill full motion video sequences), you soon realize that ISS Pro Evolution is more than just a minor update. However, beside all these changes, the most important feature of all ISS games is still there: Perfect gameplay! Completely refurbished Artificial Intelligence of the computer controlled players. Dozens of new motion capturered animations. More than 70 teams, each featuring unique characteristics during gameplay. Save option for the coolest goal scenes. Player editor. Create your own players! This time you can really change all of a player´s attributes ...
Sound and Vision:
I'm a firm believer that if something isn't broken, then don't try to fix it. Thankfully Konami have adhered to this policy because Evolution looks almost identical to its younger sister, ISS Pro '98. If anything the resolution seems to have been toned down a little, proving more soothing to the eyes.
Once 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 soccer match. The motion capture looks brilliant as the player twists and turns, lifting a foot over the ball as he produces a perfect feint to confuse the opposing player. Some of the player's reactions to certain situations will have you pointing at the screen beckoning to your mates "watch what happens here!" and "did you see that?"
The game is full of slick animations; of players showing dissent at referees 'bad' decisions and disappointment at failing to get a toe onto a perfect through-ball, while the after goal celebrations are something else. Watch out for spectacular Klinsman dives, low key style Shearer waves and weird conga line-ups among many other outrageous formation routines. Goals may be slow motion replayed from any desired angle by combining shoulder, directional and face buttons. This allows you to sweep the camera around a full 360°, while concentrating on the movements of specific strikers. Success in any competition provides a professional tribute to each and every squad member which is worth hanging around to watch.
There are now ten stadiums to select from with weather conditions ranging from daytime clear to nighttime rain. The main difference I noticed was that the size of the pitch was much bigger than past soccer games allowing more scope to play a passing game. Once again we see the return of the slightly out of proportion flags that are constantly waved around in the crowd. Show me a person who could wave one of those monsters and I'll point out Mr. Universe.
Camera angles have also been improved. If you enjoy an 'up close and personal' perspective then the nearest camera angle zooms right in and will be perfect. There are nine other alternatives offering something for everyone. I found that the Far-Wide angle covered almost a third of the playing area and was perfect for spotting team members to pass through to.
Martin Williams supplies commentary alongside former England defender Terry Butcher who describes the action as it happens. Even though Evolution doesn't use real player's names Bekham, Sheera, Batustita, Romaldo and Del Perio are very close indeed allowing each specific player on the ball to be mentioned for the first time in an ISS Pro game. The crowd reactions to the flow of play are very good. As the ball moves nearer to the goal... so the volume of their cheering rises. I always switch off the music in sports games because it has no real purpose and is usually naff therefore... do it!.
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