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A.P.I Review: Michael Owens
World League Soccer 99
Developer: Silicon Dreams OPTIONS: S.SHOT
No.1   No.2   No.3
Distributor: Eidos 1-4 Player Multi-tap
Game Type: Sports Sim Memory Card
Review Date: November 1998 Dual Shock/Analog Compatible

Setting the Scene

Liverpool and England striker Michael Owen recently signed a multi-year exclusive contract with Eidos for World League Soccer. He was born in Chester, England on 14th December 1979 and signed professional from being a trainee at Liverpool FC a few days after his seventeenth birthday. Michael hit the headlines across the globe after appearing for his national team during the 1998 World Cup in France. His goal against Argentina will go down in history as one of the best ever seen, especially from one so young.

World League Soccer '99 is the fourth in the series from the Eidos/Silicon Dreams partnership which began back in '96 with Olympic Soccer, followed by Soccer '97 and WLS '98. What made them all stand out from the crowd was the fact it was so difficult to score (on occasions almost impossible). 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.


World League Soccer '99 combines fast-paced arcade action with immersive gameplay that concentrates on keeping the game tight.

There are over 200 teams to choose from. International teams and National leagues including English, Scottish, Italian, German, French, Spanish, Dutch and many more.


World League Soccer 99 opens up with a brief FMV intro that combines live footage of Michael Owen in action with in-game shots.

Having closely followed the progress of Silicon Graphics PSX soccer games I had noticed a slight improvement with each release. Their latest offering takes the gigantic leap towards Hi-Res 640x256 and the improvement is colossal.

Top England International Michael Owen was filmed in a motion capture studio to produce the smooth and fluid movements necessary for the game animations to look as realistic as possible. Apparently hours of different movements had to be recorded including various running and kicking animations and a few exclusive moves that only Michael can perform.

Another few interesting points are that the players now follow the path of the ball with their heads and torso offering further realism to their motions. Shadows appear and then gradually disappear dependent on direction of sunlight and the use of floodlights during night mode, while each player wears their squad numbers emblazoned on both home and away kits.

A couple of years ago most soccer games offered dozens of different camera angles in which to play the game... of which the majority were completely useless. Thankfully times have changed and WLS 99 offers a single camera that may be slightly adjusted in distance, height and angle. While playing the game a press of the radar button quickly withdraws the camera to a far distance allowing you to judge the best passing option. Once released the view zooms back in to the standard range. This definitely enhances the gameplay allowing you to select a pass to a specific player rather than blindly striking it towards a group of players slightly off the screen.

By placing a filter over the camera the effect of weather can now change the appearance of the pitch from lush green turf to a lightly frosted surface. Other visual effects will show the wear and tear to the pitch while in muddy conditions the player could actually slip around over severe areas. Advertising hoardings rotate during the game offering further promotion to both developer and distributer.

The only disappointment with the graphics are the appearance and movement of the crowd. They are messy and blocky and lack serious attention from the developers. Huh... just like real life at those clubs where the fat-cat directors wash their hands of anything and anyone outside the borders of the touch-line.

Sounds and Effects

It's nice to see a little bit of effort going into the crowd sound effects as samples for WLS '99 have been taken from existing TV footage and actual soccer matches. The watching masses cheer and sing their way through the entire game only occasionally interrupted by the occasional banging drum and 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.

With the availability of the latest technology '3D' sound has been implemented in the form of 'Dolby Surround Pro Logic', which is still very new in computer games.

Real time commentary is once again provided by Peter Brackley of Channel 4's Football Italia with a secondary commentary by ex-England player and commentator Ray Wilkins. Together they will perform pre and post-match comments while after the match both discuss the statistics. Together they make a pretty good team.


Michael Owens World League Soccer '99 is specifically aimed at grown up's and advanced gamers. Kids love goals, loads of them, but WLS '99 could very quickly frustrate them because unless they are all scored by the opposition then you ain't gonna see the ball hitting the back of the net too often. Now some say that the defences in Olympic Soccer and Soccer '97 were too tough to prize open. Fair comment! To counteract this you can now simply adjust the skill rating of your favorite team to match the opposition. It still won't be easy, but then who wants a soccer game without any challenge.

The game is analog compatible and the left joystick moves the players around the pitch like a dream. There are two separate control methods which drastically change the way the game may be played. The standard setting is more of an arcade configuration. It caters for shooting, passing, heading and tackling moves which are instant and accurate when the face buttons are pressed. Shoulder buttons can be set to change player in control, sprint and operate the camera for a quick radar view. An alternative control method allows long passing, crossing, controlled shot and a skill button. When the skill button is combined with the direction pad the player will shimmy and drag the ball.

Can't be bothered to set up the game? Quick start takes you directly to the action with two random teams, stadium and environment. You can also use this option to repeatedly play matches using your favorite team and opponent by using the Select Favorite Teams option. Rules, replays, environment and controller may all be adjusted inside the main menu.

There are over 200 teams to choose from. National leagues include English, Scottish, Italian, German, French, Spanish, Japanese and many more. International teams are divided into two groups, those that qualified for the world cup... and those that failed.

Once your team is chosen there are one-off friendly Exhibition games, National Leagues, International Leagues, Custom Leagues, Practice mode, Arcade and International Cup. Should your team win the National League then they automatically qualify for the World League which features 16 of the worlds top teams.

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.

To win a game of WLS '99 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.

Value for Money

Michael Owen's WLS '99 offers arcade quality graphics, with fast competitive, challenging gameplay. A must for the players who prefers a stern test of their gaming skills.

GRAPHICS: 19/20 World League Soccer 99 triumphs where Adidas Power Soccer 98 failed. It has successfully made the transition across to Hi-Res graphics without ruining the speed and flow of the great game.

It offers a tougher challenge than FIFA, Adidas or Actua titles and can be recommended to the football connoisseur who prefers a more realistic game of soccer.
SOUND: 7/10
VALUE: 17/20


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