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Archived Review

Microsoft International Soccer 2000

Welcome back after the half, we rejoin the game between Microsoft Games and the Competitors. Although Microsoft Games is relatively new to the league, they have taken the lead with goals from their star players Asheron’s Call and Age of Empires 2, with an assist from Flight Simulator. Unfortunately, Flight Simulator has been taken out of the game due to a slight injury, and the manager has thrown a rookie, International Soccer 2000, into the game. The game is soon tied at two all, but can this rookie help lead Microsoft Games to a win, or at least maintain the tie? The battle is shaping up to be a monster, but I have in my hand field passes to sit right on the sideline of this exciting match. The whistle blows and the second half begins, so now for the play by play.

International Soccer 2000 (IS2000 henceforth, since I cannot type “international” without at least two typos) hits pretty hard, with a good variety of features. Like many opposing players, it features friendly matches, leagues, cups, and practices. It also goes above and beyond the call of duty with some of the unique competitions that it includes. In the Territories Cup, you must lead one team from each region to qualify for the international competition. Another great feature is the Classic Match option, which lets you take control of one team deep into some of the single greatest matches in the history of soccer, and hopefully lead them to victory. Usually you gain control deep into the second half, or even overtime, with the score tied, or your team down, so that you can maintain or rewrite history as the case may be. These matches are great fun, if only there were more!

Nevertheless, with moves like these, its no wonder IS2000 can often dribble circles around some of its competitors.

When entering into one of these modes of play, control is fairly standard for soccer games. Pass, shoot, and through ball are standard fare. The high and low kick modifiers are a nice touch, but I found them rather difficult to use while using the controller, since I have but one thumb on my right hand and its hard to hit the modifier button while I am passing or shooting or through balling. On defense, there is the ever-present steal ball, slide tackle, and switch player control options. Like similar games, steal ball doesn’t work well enough, and slide tackle causes too many cards and penalties. I guess I must continue to wait for a soccer game that realistically represents stealing the ball.

And with that, the competitors manage to steal the ball from our hapless rookie.

What’s that? You didn’t see it? You don’t like our seats on the sidelines? Neatly enough, in IS2000 the camera angle can be switched to different angles. This is not such a huge deal, but I felt it was important to mention since the default view sucked. I moved it so the field was vertical instead of horizontal, and I would recommend doing the same thing as this way you can see somewhat upfield to know where you can pass to and such. Microsoft Games recovers the ball.

The rest of the play is relatively standard fair for soccer games of the 2Ks. Of course with soccer there isn’t much room for variety. You get your corner kicks, your throw-ins, your pks (penalty kicks, not player killers). Not surprisingly, when playing single player, it is more useful to move a player on the field then use the pass button, than to just kick the ball brainlessly towards a player.

IS2000 receives a pass, and heads upfield.

In a completely unrealistic turn of events, during penalty shots, as the keeper it is downright easy to block the shots. Anyone who knows a thing about soccer should know that during penalty shots, the advantage clearly belongs to the shooter. In fact, the keeper must usually guess which way his opponent is going to shoot, and move as soon as contact is made if he wants to stand a chance of blocking the shot. There is no time to watch the player shoot, see which way it’s going, and react accordingly. In IS2000 however, this is the case. You can literally wait until the ball is moving towards the goal and then dive at it. Most of the time you will block the ball as well.

IS2000 shoots, but there was no chance of troubling the keeper with that one.

So we got the fact that we could watch from a variety of perspectives, but how does the game look from these perspectives? Not too good I’m afraid. The competition seems to have IS2000 beat in the graphics department. In certain games fielded by the competition, many a person in my household has remarked that it looked like I was watching an actual game on TV, instead of playing a computer game. In fact, aside from the post-goal celebrations, I would have agreed wholeheartedly with those observations. When playing IS2000, such a mistake is unwarranted, as the players, even from a distance, do not particularly look real. The post-goal celebrations are not much to look at either. The most visually stunning aspect of IS2000 is actually the sky.

The Competitors recover, and charge downfield.

Sound tends to be a plague to many sports games these days. All of them feel the need to include a play by play, which usually sounds completely spectacular… the first 500 times you hear it. IS2000 is not particularly different in this aspect. The commentators sound great, but even in the first game I played I was hearing several of the comments one too many times. Coupled with the fact that the sound the ball makes when kicked sounds absolutely nothing like the sound a soccer ball makes when kicked, and the sound quickly becomes a bit frustrating. The crowd oftentimes goes completely silent as well. While I have noticed that at some of the games I have played in, where the crowd consists of no more than 50 people, this does occur, I have attended games with thousands of fans in the stands, and I guarantee you there was no silence. This strange awkward silence only serves to amplify the strange sound of the ball’s deflections.

They shoot, they score, Competitors 3, Microsoft games 2. Microsoft Games rushes to the centerline, knowing that time grows short, kicks the ball off and rushes towards the goal.

As far as technical issues go, IS2000 is an all-star. I have yet to experience a single bug, glitch, crash, or any of those other programming swear words. I cannot even recall a graphical glitch at any time. Install ran smoothly and the game performs flawlessly.

IS2000 receives a cross with a header into the upper V. GOALLLLLLLLLLLLLL!!!!! It’s all tied up folks and into overtime we go.

In overtime some coaches prefer to remain ultraconservative, in order to prevent the loss, whereas other coaches get a little wild, in hopes of taking the win. Most people call those coaches “insane” unless they win, in which case they are called “genius”. As it is, IS2000 has apparently saved some tricks up its sleeve just for overtime. Let’s have a gander.

IS2000 boasts extensive customization options. Want to play on the Italian international team? Put yourself on the team. Want to take a team from your hometown? Create your own custom team, and stock it with your own custom players. Dress them in your own custom uniforms.

IS2000 brings the ball out of Microsoft Games’ half.

It looks like the team has changed their tactics! Can they do that? You bet they can. IS2000 boasts a rather comprehensive system of formations and tactics. Choose between 4-4-2, 4-3-3, my favorite 3-5-2, or one of the other included formations. Combine that formation with a tactic such as total attack, counter attack, pressure, or offsides. Of course, various formations suit different tactics better than others. For instance, I wouldn’t recommend combining the 4-5-1 formation with a total attack, or that one forward of yours is going to be a busy, busy guy.

The young rookie has a breakaway!

Unfortunately, the IS2000 doesn’t go quite deep enough into the tactics as I feel that it should. For instance, suppose you aren’t using the Offsides tactic, and yet you want to run an offsides trap on a particular play. You have to pause, go to the team management area, switch over to offsides tactics, and then repeat the process afterwards to switch back. It seems to me like some sort of button combination that runs an offensive trap would be nice. Other button combinations that would have been appreciated such as running a give and go play, switching to your forwards, or flying to your keeper (out of the box, not off of the ground) are nowhere to be seen.

He shoots… *DING* Oh no! Off the crossbar… this one is going into shootouts.

What? Shootouts? That’s it, I’m out of here. I have moral qualms with determining the outcome of a soccer game in this manner. After all, we don’t determine a winner of tied baseball games with home run derbies do we? You can see how IS2000 stacks up anyway. Mediocre graphics and sound, coupled with decent play, and superb technical stats make this game a worthy player, but not quite an all-star.



 



 



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