I honestly don't know what business I have rating this game since I don't know anything about soccer other than playing Mega Man Soccer and GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL MEJICO!!!! , but I thought I would approach it from the perspective of a non-soccer-fan and see how well it holds up as a gaming introduction to the sport. I mean, games like Tecmo Super Bowl, NBA Jam and the NHL series have won over scads of people who have no real interest in the sports they represent, just because they're well-designed, fun to play and it's easy to get hang of the basics.

Not the case with this game.

I'm guessing serious soccer fans will really like this one, since it has a slew of world teams (something like 40 or 50 countries plus an "All-EA Team"), a lot of options for formations and coverage and turf conditions and all sorts of minutiae, as well as league, playoff and tournament play. Four players can apparently also get in on the action simultaneously. It's possibly the best initial offering of any of EA's sports franchises on a technical level.

It's brutal on newcomers, though. NHL can be hard to get the hang of, but at least you can have a good goalie covering your ass to give you some sort of a buffer to keep you in games while you learn the controls and the natural flow of the game. With that wide-ass soccer net, the computer seems to knock in at least 50% of the shots it attempts, so if you bork up on defense even once you could be looking at an immediate deficit. Plus the computer opponents are constantly all over your ass like white on rice, slide-tackling the shit out of you and not giving you a chance to learn what button does what very effectively. I'm not asking to be hand-held, but it's extremely disheartening to be down 6-0 before you even figure out what the hell is going on and how to do basic things in the gameplay. And I can't even imagine trying to control the goalie manually, though the option is there.

Don't get me wrong, this is a pretty good game. The players are well-animated, it generally looks nice, and the differing crowd chants for the different stadiums are a neat touch. The gameplay seems smooth, it just gets the Meh because it's totally unwelcoming to newcomers, it basically shoots you the big middle finger if you aren't an established soccer fan already. Soccer fans, rate it up to a Yellow Smiley mentally, and if you can score it at a cheap price it looks like a pretty good choice for four-player action.

Videos :

* Gameplay Video