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In Memory
Sean Pettibone

 


 

           

 


 

 


World Cup fever is running high as the quadrennial tournament heats up. To coincide with this sports event, Sega has released the latest installment of itís arcade-style soccer series, Virtua Striker for the Gamecube. While a new RPG-style mode is included, the series hasnít strayed too far from itís action oriented roots. The fast moving gameplay is tight and addictive as always, but will it appeal to die-hard soccer fans? Check out our review and find out.

Sega seems to be on a soccer kick lately as far as the GCN goes, as this title follows the release of Sega Soccer Slam on the system by only a few months. This takes a more traditional approach and while it may not offer the depth or realism that FIFA does, Virtua Striker 2002 is still quite enjoyable for those looking for a streamlined approach to sports gaming. This edition enhances the controls and visual look of the series substantially from the Dreamcast edition. Whatís interesting this time around is that it also adds some interesting modes and the approach allows for a much deeper game. As always, the classic Sega feel is very much in evidence and that leads to some impressive and addictive play that fans of the series will very much enjoy. The controls are incredibly simple, with passing, tackling and shooting all accomplished with the press of a button with the default configuration well-suited to the Gamecube controller. This makes Virtua Striker quite accessible and most players should have little trouble with the mechanics.. This allows the player to focus on the action, but the game also allows you to implement different strategies during the match as well. However, the matches arenít realistic as the emphasis is clearly on action which makes stealing the ball easier and shots are more accurate. Adding to the gameís simplicity is the fact that you can also change tactics or substitute players on the fly. This is accomplished with a single button press and keeps each match flowing at a fast clip.

Visually, the game is excellent and really shows off the impressive graphical prowess of the GCN. Player animations are stunning realistic and they move with an incredible amount of realism that gives the game an exceptional Television style appearance. Finding your position on the pitch is never difficult thanks to the crisp clear graphics and the on-screen radar that is simple yet unobtrusive. Additionally, while other games focus on just the player models, Sega had decided to make the experience complete by implementing impressive field and arena models, complete with legions of screaming wild-eyed fans. Two problems emerge from the streamlined approach, and they can be considered major. First, players cannot change the camera viewpoint, which is quite annoying and less importantly, the game lacks the play by play announcing that has become standard. This means that the game doesnít have the polish that other titles do, but on the other hand, the lack of extras means players can concentrate on the action on the field.

Virtua Striker 2002 plays much smoother than previous installments because the controls are much more responsive than in earlier games. This helps the game flow much better while still retaining the simple arcade style play. Virtua Striker 2002 features 64 national teams and nine different modes of play, which should give it a decent shelf-life in your game collection. There are the expected standard modes, including exhibition and training where you can practice your moves. You can play a match based strictly on penalty kicks in its PK mode. Virtua Striker 2002 also allows players to start with a few training matches to familiarize yourself with the controls. There are also friendly and normal matches plus international and cup tournaments where you can progress through the rankings by playing a number of CPU controlled teams. Finally, there are also Variation modes with allow you to mix and match different rules such as the number of red cards. There are also League, Tournament and Ranking modes. The most interesting of these is the Ranking mode. You play 3 matches then computer analyzes and ranks your performance after each match and gives you suggestions in how to improve your play.

Whatís different this time however is the extensive and deep simulation mode, called Road to the International Cup which allows the player to train and build a dream team to compete in the the biggest soccer tournament. You are the manager and start off with 2000 credits which you can use to build up your team through training, initially. You can determine the length of each training round and can also train in specific areas where you may need more skill. Once your team has the basics down, you can also travel to compete in exhibition or tournament games to build up your skills even more. This mode takes you through a full four years which allows you plenty of time to build the dream team and win the international cup. You can also edit the players on your team and guide them through individualized training. Each player can also be given special skills and you can also train them to develop more motivation. While some of the menus in this mode can be a little confusing, most players should be able to figure it out quickly. Whatís cool about this mode is that the team you build can also be used in other modes of the game. This mode makes all the difference and adds a substantial amount of fun to the game. While itís not incredibly difficult to eventually win the Cup if you know what youíre doing, this is still quite a lot of fun to play through and gives Virtua Striker 2002 a surprising amount of depth.

Whether or not the title will appeal to you depends on your taste in soccer games. Thereís little doubt that this is one of the best looking soccer titles to come out to date but, itís not all about graphics. While Virtua Striker 2002ís controls are extremely easy to learn and the game is surprisingly accessible, the easy controls and streamlined approach can also be seen as a detriment. The deep sim mode included goes a long way towards making the experience more satisfying but it may not be enough. Die-hard sim fans will probably feel limited by the controls but the trade-off for more accessible & faster-moving play seems to have worked out well in the end. With the younger demographic the GCN attracts, releasing the title for the Nintendo console seems to be a perfect move. However, its exceptional visuals and deep coaching mode means this title should appeal to more than just kids. Older and yes, Ďcasualí players looking for a good game of arcade soccer should definitely check it out since itís accessible controls and fast moving play makes Virtua Striker 2002 another exceptional release.

> Related Reviews:
 
FIFA 2002 (Gamecube)
Sega Soccer Slam  (Gamecube)
World Tour Soccer (Playstation2)



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