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Sega Saturn
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Specs Release Dates Codes Now Available Reviews Snapshots



WorldWide Soccer '97 - Sega

by Wes Pringle (wes.pringle@sympatico.ca)

Lowdown:

    This is the best sports game I have played on any system period. It is also one of the best Saturn games to appear in 1997. As such, it is worth a serious look by any Saturn owner. If you know that you like sports video games, then I would not waste any time at all - go out and get this title. You will not be sorry.
There seems to be something about block busting Soccer titles that gets attention. Back a couple of years ago, Fifa Soccer practically redefined the way that people saw the 3DO system - and I know that it sold more than a few of these systems.

Untill now, there hasn't really been a 32 bit soccer game which is decidedly better than what was available on the 3DO. Certainly FIFA on both the Saturn and the Playstation were improvements, but the improvements were very much a matter of degree. All that changed on Friday with the release of WorldWide Soccer '97 for the Sega Saturn.

Now, if you are like me, you are probably already thinking about the original WorldWide Soccer which came out about a year ago for the Saturn. That game wasn't bad, but it certainly wasn't anything to write home about. I assure you, WWS'97 is a whole different animal.

For beginners, everything is done in real 3D. The players, ball and goals are all polygon based, not sprites. Also, a number of options which I will get into shortly are now available which increase the quality of the gaming experience significantly. I think I can say with confidence that this is the best sports based videogame that I have ever played. It is a must have for all Saturn owners in the same way that VF2, and Sega Rally are.

This game looks astounding. As previously mentioned, every character in the game is a polygon. This means that the choppy animation of FIFA is long gone. Everyone moves smoothly, and incredibly realistically. The characters are very obviously motion captured images of real soccer players. When you turn around, you see your character very delicately manipulate the ball between their feet. Each and every move is represented with incredible detail and realism. In terms of animation, the game runs very very smoothly (30 fps?) and there is never a hint of slowdown.

But beyond this, it is in the details that the game really shines. Each character has the number on the back of their Jersey, and the characters look like their real life counterparts in terms of hair and skin colour.

I do not believe there is any "genuine" light source shading in the game, but there are some very impressive "mock" lighting effects just the same. For example, when playing a night game, WWS'97 mimics that "4 Shadow" effect that we are all used to seeing with incredible detail and realism.

You are able to select from a variety of viewpoints which greatly enhance the game's polished look. You can select from close up, normal or far away view points, and you can select a view from the endzone, on an angle, or on the sidelines.

Finally, all significant game events (most notably goals and offsides) result in automatic 3 angle replays - which are done very well. If you bore of the replays, you can of course skip past them by pressing the start button.

The one area of the game which is less than spectacular is the sound effects. You can select from a variety of different "music" options. They are None - Background Music (with a variety of different tunes to choose from), and an Announcer. Well, I don't know about each of you, but when I play a sports game, I like to mimic real life as much as possible, therefore I will definately go for the announcer mode.

When you first boot up the announcer, you will be incredibly impressed with the detailed commentary which he provides. He talks about the condition of the field, the quality of the gameplay, how the teams are doing, and so on. Your first game will certainly lead you to the impression that this is the most sophisticated announcer ever to appear in a sports game.

The only problem is that his total collection of phrases is a bit too small, and as a result you end up hearing many of the same phrases over, and over and over again. For example, if I hear one more time during a goal replay: "Oh, I didn't see THAT (laughs) in real time action" - you get the idea.

That is my only complaint about the sound effects. It may be a small one, but it is one which will get your attention. Everything else (crowd noise, kicks, grunts) are all solid if somewhat unexceptional.

This isn't just the best looking soccer game on the market. It is definately the best PLAYING soccer game on the market. The fact that the players are all very smooth, motion captured polygons doesn't just make the game look pretty, it improves the game immensely. For example, because your player uses very detailed foot-handling when maneuvering around, you can make this a part of your strategy as you move your way down the field. It's hard to explain what I mean without the benefit of being able to show you the game, but suffice to say, it makes a very real difference. When you approach the goalie, you don't just feel that you need to get in close and fire off a chance - you feel like you can really maneuver and hopefully outtrick him.

It is slightly less realistic than FIFA in the sense that you will find it is easier to score against the opposing team, and it seems that the opposing team can score against you a little easier as well. This means that at times the games can end with somewhat unrealistic scores. I suppose this makes the game a little "arcadey" but after all, who wants to actually play for a solid hour just to get one lousy goal? From my end there are no complaints here, it just helps make the game as fun as it is.

Also, you will find the game appropriately challenging no matter how competent a gamer you are. You can select from "Easy" all the way to "Very Hard" difficulty levels. Rest assured, at "Easy" the game is exactly that - in fact it's kind of a joke. Frankly, I like it when a sports game does this because it allows you to get the hang of the game before facing stiffer competition. I am now able to consistently win at the "normal" level of difficulty, and am now just starting to be at least a BIT competitive at the "Hard" level. Very hard, is truly difficult indeed, I certainly am not ready for it. Finally, on difficulty levels, you can "fine tune" the game's difficulty level by selecting what team you wish to represent. For example, playing as Italy or Brazil makes the game a little easier (because your team is so damn awesome), if you want more of a challenge, you can play as Canada (I love my country, but we sure can't play Soccer).

Try this as a little "cheat". On easy difficulty, if you don't move, your competition will not move in on you, they will just sit back and let you make your next move. Therefore, you can literally score one goal, and just wait out the rest of the game. Don't try that on Normal or harder though.

Another notable difference between WWS'97 and FIFA is that in WWS, you actually have a fair amount of control over your goalie. This takes a little getting used to at first. Once you get the hang of it though, you will find that it adds a great deal to the fun of the game. If your competition is on the move, suddenly you find yourself getting ready to play goal. It is a lot of fun.

Tight tight tight. You really feel that you are in complete control of your players. I find that my passes always go where I want them to, and when I try to maneuver, my player does what I expect. Frankly, I didn't always feel this way about FIFA.

The control pad is used to good advantage in the game. The left shift button is the sprint button. The Right Shift is the "switch to player closest to the ball" button. I like these designations because the buttons are both easy to hit when the going gets hot, and also, they don't interfere with the gameplay. "A" shoots on net, "B" passes to another teammate and "C" is the lob. I have the feeling that there are special combination routines but I haven't found them yet.

By the way, the only reason I didn't give the control an A+ is because the game is not designed to work with the Nights controller in analoug mode. Could you imagine how incredible that would be? Anyway, perhaps in WWS'98.

All the different "tournament" style modes are present here. Specifically, you can play an Exhibition game, World League (select 16 teams from around the world and play each twice to determine a final winner). WorldWide Cup (play an entire season starting from your local corner of the world, and playing in larger and larger divisions until the actual "World Cup" tournament. And Cup Tournament (The Playoffs, but you get to select who makes it). All very solid modes, but somewhat standard nowadays.

The extras which get my attention are as follows: First, you can practice your Penalty Shoot Out skills with a special mode that focusses only on this aspect of the game. Second (and even better), there is a "Player Edit" mode. This allows you to change the name of each player on each and every team. I just love this feature. It is definately fun to see an international star breaking towards a goal, but it is even more fun to watch myself and a couple of my old high school buddies taking on Brazil for the World Cup.

All of the formations and gameplay strategies which were present in FIFA are present here. You can play a defensive game, an all-out offense game, or something in the middle. Finally, all the stats you would expect to see on the game, and on each player is represented and recorded very very well.

In terms of gameplay options, there are many. You can select the time of the game, the view (as I already mentioned), set offsides, injuries, loss time, and shootouts on or off, and set the weather to random, rainy or sunny. You can also of course, customize the controller settings.

Graphics: 10

Sound/Music: 7

Gameplay/Control: 9

Lasting Power: 8

Overall: 10

- Wes




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