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In Memory
Sean Pettibone

 

 

 

        

 

 




In the tradition of NBA Jam and NFL Blitz, Sega and Visual Concepts have teamed up to bring frenetic football action to the Gamecube with Sega Soccer Slam. Featuring extreme characters, fast gameplay, numerous power-ups not to mention streamlined rules and controls, the game wonít please the sports fanatics who demand realism. However, the game is a lot of fun and extremely addictive. The Laser hits the pitch and finds out if this release has enough under the hood to keep you happy for an extended time.

While many players have enjoyed extreme sports titles in the past, the genre has always been plagued by having little depth or longevity and have basically been short-lived diversions from the Ďrealí sports games. Coming from Sega, the people who brought down the house with Virtua Tennis and Visual Concepts, who brought the legendary 2K series to life, thereís hope with this collaboration, the trend can be reversed. While this extreme sports title offers plenty of breakneck action but it also offers a surprisingly good dose of arcade-style soccer. This isnít a typical soccer game because the rules and controls are stripped down to the essentials. There are only 3 players and a goalie on each side. The players are balanced out with the smaller players faster on the pitch while slower players are more powerful. In Soccer Slam, the teams are well balanced between themselves and with the other teams. In all, there are 5 different teams to select with extreme names like the Toxins and the Fire and have appropriately wacky characters. While these characters border on the stereotypes, they are slapstick humorous and give Soccer Slam a unique atmosphere.

Playing the game feels sort of like real soccer, but there are numerous changes and tweaks implemented to make the game faster and more accessible. The basics mechanics of soccer are included meaning that you can perform all the standard moves such as passing, shooting and tackling opponents. The twist here is that players can also hit your opponents as well to knock the ball away from them, which adds more contact and excitement to the action. The gameís coolest feature is the power-meter which you fill through doing various actions such as kicking and tackling. You also can do combo moves which multiply the score you get for the meter and allow for even more power. This is important because once the Power Meter is filled, you can unleash "Killer Kicks" which allow you to make devastating goal shots. These are quite powerful and can be extremely difficult for the opposing goalie to block. The cool thing here is that each of the characters has their own special moves and power-ups which makes for a truly exciting and fun game with a surprising amount of depth. There are also Spotlight Shots during the match. Standing in the spotlight with your team logo and shooting slows the action down like bullet time and allows you to perform a powerful shot. This means that the action in each match is non-stop and quite fun.

Unlike the slow pace of normal soccer matches where the match is usually decided by a single goal, the action unfolds indoors an in enclosed field which means you canít kick the ball out of bounds and leads to a lot of goals. This means that the action doesnít stop for penalties or goal kicks, which makes things much more exciting and gives Soccer Slamís matches a manic pace.You can even attack goalies and try and drive them back into the net for a bonus goal. There are other changes such as no off-sides, or red cards, which amp up the intensity and make for some excitingly manic play. The opponent AI can be set at varying levels but the rival teams are always going for the throat, meaning youíll have be good on both offense and defense, though unlike traditional soccer, the balance here is more evenly divided. Given the frenetic nature of the matches, the rules changes and numerous power-ups, it should be no surprise that the matches in Soccer Slam are high scoring and exciting.

While the basic controls and interface in the game are easy to understand, there would be much to rave about if that was all there was to the game. To help mitigate this, Sega Soccer Slam includes 5 different modes of play: Quick Start, Quest, Exhibition, Tournament and, Practice modes. These modes should be self-explanatory but this allows you to either play a quick match or go deeper into the action for a more challenging experience. As youíd expect, the solo games are a lot of fun but Soccer Slam also includes multiplayer variations on most of these modes for up to 4 players. These multiplayer matches can be quite chaotic and super-competitive and this is where the gameplay really shines. While some of the modes are rather shallow, the Quest mode offers a really deep game. When you play quest mode, you can use any money you make to buy upgrades and unlock secret items after each match. There are also mini-games where you can beat challenges to earn bonuses. The mini-games add some much-needed variety to the game while not ruining the flow of the action between matches. Overall, the game offers a surprisingly varied number of options and modes, which adds significantly to the titleís replay value.

All of these modes are impressive, but Soccer Slam allows for some other customizable configurations. You can also set the configuration of the game to your liking by selecting the camera angles, zoom, in-game commentary and other options. You can also set the speed, length and difficulty of each match beforehand and go for a really fast exciting game. This allows you plenty of leeway in how you want to play the game. You can also set the controller to your liking, but this isnít really needed because the default controls are cool enough. Soccer Slamís arcade controls are simple yet intuitive, with most actions only needing a single button press to perform. This allows the player to concentrate on the action which is important because youíll need quick reflexes on both sides of the field. The Gamecube controller is particularly well-suited to this style of game and the controls are simple and accessible enough that this should be enjoyable for players of many different abilities.

Soccer Slamís presentation is excellent as well with smooth visuals, excellent player animation and an super smooth frame rate throughout. The exaggerated character designs are fun to look at and give the game a unique feel and atmosphere. Itís arenas are quite good looking and take place in some pretty unusual locations which adds to the fun of the game. The characters themselves are quite funny and their slapstick antics should bring a smile to your face. Soccer Slamís voice acting is silly and the in-game commentary is likewise light-hearted and just the right sense of humor to this zany game. Technically, Soccer Slam is well-designed and performs well in most areas, to take full advantage of the Gamecube. Players will find the game both deep and surprisingly accessible thanks to its smooth controls and fun arcade style gameplay. The end result of all this is that Soccer Slam delivers an exciting and fun twist on the sport while offering challenging yet fun gameplay underneath the gimmicks. Sega Soccer Slam works well on many levels. Hardcore fanatics will find a decent soccer title underneath the flash, while casual arcade sports fans familiar with the likes of NBA Jam will enjoy the simple controls and manic pace. What makes Sega Soccer Slam so appealing is that itís a highly entertaining and fun title but isnít a joke thanks to some surprisingly deep gameplay modes making this one of the better extreme sports titles to come along in the past few months and highly recommended.




> Related Reviews:

World Tour Soccer (PS2)
FIFA 2002 (Gamecube)

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