|Playstation > Whats New > PlayStation Reviews > Staff Review|
|A.P.I Review:||WORLD LEAGUE SOCCER '98|
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.
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.