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Developer: Silicon Dreams OPTIONS: S.SHOT
No.1   No.2   No.3
Distributor: Eidos Interactive 1-4 Player Multi-tap
Game Type: Sports Sim Memory Card
Review Date: June 1998 Analog Compatible

Setting the Scene

The burning question remains:  
Precisely what do you, the gamer, want from a Soccer title?
There!  Now that was easy enough to ask but obviously it is not so 
simple to answer because soccer games are beginning to slip into 
individual categories.  Sort of mini-leagues.

Now this leads us into further confusion because while each developer 
is claiming that their presentation of soccer is precisely what 
the pundits are clamoring for, all of the final products turn out 
completely different.  They can't all be right and you can take no 
notice of those sales figures because if they rang true then FIFA 97 
would have been the best sports title on PSX last year and we all know 
what a load of codswallop that is, don't we?

So what does contribute towards a splendid soccer game?
You can almost recognize the soccer title from each of the PR's claims: 
"3D, high res, motion captured graphics!"
"Real teams, real players, real competitions!"
"Gameplay!  The control and passing must feel right."
"Realism! None of those ridiculous fantasy score-lines."
"Back to the 'good old days' when top down perspectives 
 offered a lightening fast pace."
"A half decent footy game with a Management Sim thrown in."

I say if we were greedy we would want it all - realistic graphics, 
intuitive control, big name commentators, management sims.... the lot.  

Unfortunately until we have a Playstation games console powerful 
enough to cope with all these demands then we will continue picking 
and choosing which ingredients we prefer.


World League Soccer '98 combines fast-paced arcade action with 
immersive gameplay that concentrates on keeping the game tight. 
There are over 190 teams from 9 different leagues covering all 
major soccer territories world wide.


World League Soccer 98 opens up with a brief FMV intro that 
combines live action footage with in game shots.  It's a long way 
from being the best opener we have seen but it proves satisfactory 
to set the scene.

In-game the visuals are a vast improvement over last years offering, 
Soccer 97. Top England International Les Ferdinand has supplied the 
motion capture information in which a new skeletal system was used.  
Apparently this utilizes large amounts of fluid motion captured 
animation which in turn generates higher resolution players.  It all 
sounds very interesting and technical but what you really want to 
know is what does it look like, yeah?
The players look rather impressive when lining up at the start of 
the game.  They each have a recognizable appearance which is most 
noticeable when they are limbering up with a few stretching exercises.  
Once the game is underway their body movements become a little more 
rigid as if the entire squad has been fitted out with those belts for 
a bad back.  Their torso always seems to be leaning slightly forward 
while protruding limbs are far more relaxed.  This effect sometimes looks 
a little comical, especially when the player suddenly change direction.  
It's as if their arms, legs and head spin around but the torso remains 
in exactly the same position (which constantly reminded me of that scene 
in the Exorcist).  On closer inspection you can just make out the 
lettering on the players backs while every teams kits have been 
accurately represented.   

A few graphical points worth mentioning are: 
   * the animated crowds who bob up and down throughout each match, 
   * most of the advertising boards constantly rotate, 
   * real-time shadow calculation that reacts to the environment, 
   * waving corner flags and ultra realistic goal net movement.  
I was well impressed with the real-time lighting effects which on 
occasions cast a huge shadow across the pitch.  Very realistic.
Weather effects include rain, wind, thunder & lightning. When raining 
puddles will appear on the pitch affecting gameplay and creating water-splash

All of these effects have been captured using a selection of intelligently 
placed cameras that seem to have been positioned at just the right angle.  
Detailed replays are available and I was mightily impressed by the 
linesman's-eye-view of those argumentative off-side decisions.

Sounds and Effects

It's nice to see a little bit of effort going into the crowd sound 
effects these days. The watching masses cheer and sing their way 
through the entire game only occasionally interrupted by a rather 
noisy blast from a spectators horn.  As play nears the goalmouth 
you can hear a distinct rise in volume as the crowd generates a 
remarkable atmosphere that almost sucks the ball into the back 
of the net.

Commentary is provided by Channel 4 Italian Footballs Peter Brackley 
and summarized by former England footballer, Ray Wilkins.  Together 
they make a pretty good team although the fact that the players names 
have been slightly changed takes a little of the seriousness out of 
the proceedings.     

All of the sounds in WLS are presented in Dolby Surround Sound. 


Two of my favorite next gen soccer titles remain Olympic Soccer 
and Soccer '97, of which both were created by the Eidos/Silicon Dreams 
partnership.  What made them stand out from the crowd was the fact 
it was so difficult to score (on occasions almost impossible).  
World League Soccer 98 comes from the very same team and once again 
the defenders are tighter than a ducks arse.  They wouldn't give 
fresh air away and even an Iraqi interrogator would have trouble 
breaking them down.  The brilliance of this concept is that when 
you eventually strike a superb right foot bender into the top corner, 
or sneak a fluky goal, you leapt to your feet and thrash your arms in 
the air before celebrating with a full lap of honor around the room.  
Of course on the downside, should you let the CPU opposition take the 
lead it takes several seconds before coming to terms with the immense 
feeling of disappointment as you gradually realize the uphill struggle 
faced to get back into the game.

To win a game of WLS requires your defenders to mark tightly and tackle 
precisely with correct timing. Your midfield should cover your backs 
and provide through balls for your forwards, while your attackers must 
pressurize the opposition with accurate crossing, instant ball control 
and split second shooting. The goalkeepers AI has been increased so they 
will dive down and smother the ball if an attacker gets too close to the 
target and a defensive back pass will see him race off his line to clear 
the ball way up field. In fact the only way you are going to win at this 
game is through skillful passing and sharp reactions in front of goal, 
which is how the game should be portrayed.

WLS may lack goals but you cannot say the same about the amount of options.
Game types include:

    * a one-off friendly Exhibition match.
    * one of nine National Soccer Leagues including individual 
      European, Japanese, US leagues.
    * a Champions Cup for the winners of each National League 
      at the end of a season.
    * a World League involving all 32 teams involved in this 
      years World Cup plus an additional nine countries.
    * a Custom League created using any selection of teams.
    * a knockout Arcade Cup involving national or club sides.
    * an International Cup which takes the format of the World Cup.
    * a Tournament taking the above format only with club teams.
    * a full season from one of the nine National Soccer Leagues.
    * a practice mode to hone in on those skills and set pieces.

Before the match begins a toss of the coin decides who kicks off and 
which end your team will be kicking towards.  It's at this point where 
a slide bar may be adjusted to determine the skill factor of your team.  
This in effect can be used as a handicap system when playing against 
the CPU team or a second player.

Playing the game follows the usual pattern with buttons for long and 
short pass, header, chip, shoot and volley, tackle and the now customary 
through-ball.  Shoulder buttons are used to sprint and provide long 
crosses while the analog thumb pads may be used to direct your players 
around the pitch.  A new idea is the Drone player where computer AI will 
take control of a player while you move into a good position, you can 
then decide when he passes.  Another nice addition is when lining your 
players up to defend a free kick the three or four man wall can be 
moved as a unit to cover a particular part of the goal. 

Although the players 'real' names are not used they are very similar 
and with a little bit of time in the player edit menu you can easily 
bring your squad up right up to date including positional changes and 
new signings.  

Value for Money

If you have read all of the above then you will probably have 
already made your mind up regarding World League Soccer 98.  
In summary: the graphics are acceptable and can be compared with the 
Power Soccer series, commentary and sounds are fine, options are 
in abundance and the gameplay is rock hard - just how I like it.
GRAPHICS: 14/20 I found World League Soccer 98 a little frustrating at first as the quick passing movements and clinical finishing of the top teams left me with a mountain to climb before reaching half time (and that was only 1-0). However, the two player mode allows you the time to build up your skills before facing the mighty forces of the Premiership elite.
WLS turns the difficulty setting up an extra notch which makes goal scoring no longer a formality but a tactical reward for prizing open the oppositions defence. This makes the game playable for a greater length of time although you will obviously miss out on the enjoyment of putting ten past your local rivals.
Putting the game to test I began playing as Newcastle United in a league and it took me three (five minute) games to score. It took ten year old Adam (who is a whizz at soccer games) the same length of time. Finally Dave, a great fan of past titles such as Sensible Soccer, could not hit the back of the net for five games. I then switched to last years Premiership Champions Arsenal and scored twice in the first half but drew a blank for the next few games.
WLS 98 is the most challenging footy game I have played and even the most skillful players will not win the league on their first outing.
SOUND: 7/10
VALUE: 19/20


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