Fox Sports Soccer '99

a game by Fox Interactive
Platforms: PC PSX
Editor Rating: 8/10, based on 2 reviews
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Overview

Hot on the heels of the World Cup, the new Fox Sports has released their attempt of recreating the soccer experience. This is Fox Sports second game to be released, the first being Fox Sports Golf 99 which I found less than impressive. This game was developed by the same company that developed Golf 99 so I was a bit skeptical at first but after playing a few games a found this game to be quite entertaining.

Fox Sports Soccer 99 has your standard options for a soccer game. You know, a ton of teams, tournaments, cups replays, celebrations and different skill levels. The game does have a few tricks up its sleeve that make it a bit different from some of the other soccer games out today. While this may not be the best soccer game of all time, I think that you will find this to be a worthy first effort.

Gameplay

I am not a real big fan of soccer. I played it for years when growing up but I find watching it to be about as exciting as watching paint dry. I do find video soccer games to be a bit more thrilling than watching the game but I can't say that I have ever been really excited about a new soccer game coming out like I am when a new football or baseball game is released. I guess what I am trying to get at is I am a casual fan of soccer games so you can use that as a reference point to judge against your own feelings towards the game.

This game does have a few things that I really liked. The most noticeable thing was that you actually have a shot power meter that allows you to adjust the power behind your shots on goal and on penalty kicks. I found this to work really well and it actually enhanced the overall gameplay experience. At first, I thought this might end up complicating things or making the game less playable but I was pleasantly surprised. Once you get the hang of using the meter, you will have a difficult time going back to other soccer games that don't have such a system.

Another thing that I liked about the game was the realism. Some games try to turn soccer into an arcade type game. Face the facts, soccer is traditionally low scoring and the action is not really hot and heavy. Although you will be presented with more offensive opportunities than you would in real soccer, the scores are usually low and the games are usually close. You will find that many games end up either 2-1 or 3-2 or even more commonly tied and into overtime. This gave the game a very authentic feel and instead of trying to over pump the action and turn it into arcade soccer, the developers have really stayed true to the sport.

Another thing that I was pretty impressed with was the AI of opposing players. The defenders stayed back and the offensive players would attack the goal. As simple a concept as this may seem, I have seen some games that just can't get this right. Also, the goalies have some of the best and most realistic reactions around. For example, if there is a offensive player with a breakaway straight at the goal, the goalie will run out and challenge the player just like they are taught. On shots from the corner, the goalies may just punch the ball away. The bottom line is that the goalie is one of the most realist goalies in any soccer game around.

I do have a couple of issues with the game. One thing that I did not really like was that you did not have much control over your goalie during a shoot-out. You basically just either moved left or right and the goalie would automatically either jump or dive in that direction. I just felt like I really did not have any control over his actions so it made the shoot-out seem more like a luck contest rather than using skill.

The other thing that I had a problem with was losing my orientation on the field. This may have just been a problem that I had but there were a bunch of times where I was not sure which way my goal was. I will say that the camera did a good job of keeping me on top of the action but sometimes it would just swing to a direction that would really confuse me to the point of not knowing which direction to go. Once I got near the goal it became obvious if I was heading towards my own goal or the opponent's but it was still a bit frustrating to have to go through the whole exercise.

Graphics

The graphics in this game would be best classified as fair to decent. There is nothing that will really knock your socks off but there is also nothing that will really make you sick either. They are very functional and get the job done. Occasionally you will encounter a little blurring and sometimes shots on the goal will cause a fraction of slow down but it mostly goes unnoticed.

Bottom Line

Is this the best soccer game available? I don't think so. Is it a good soccer game? I do think so. If you love soccer and enjoy playing the games, I suggest you give it a try. Like I said, the graphics will not blow you out of the water but neither will they offend. I was impressed with the computer AI and the realism of the goalies and the shot meter was an excellent addition. All in all, this is not a bad game by any means but casual fans of soccer may want to rent it first.

Download Fox Sports Soccer '99

Game Reviews

Overview

Fox Sports Soccer ‘99 is a standard sports soccer simulation. You choose the matchup, the number of games, and conditions of the field, and see if you can arrange for your side to win. The field, ball, and players are all rendered in full 3D glory. All the events of a real soccer game are possible, from the end-game shoot-out to the dreaded red-card-waving officials.

Gameplay, Controls, Interface

The biggest disappointment of the game is the user interface. The menus are difficult to navigate and take some getting used to. The same applies to gameplay. Don’t even try this game unless you have a game pad of some kind (not a joystick -- you’ll definitely want a game pad). Keyboard control is next to impossible and should be avoided. Microsoft’s SideWinder is recommended, but I did okay with a more generic model. Even with a game pad, you’re going to have a bit of difficulty with aimed shots, though passing is handled okay. Most irritating was the computer’s automatic shift to the player closest to the ball. While my strikers were chasing an opponent, the focus would shift to my fullbacks just in time for me to move them out of the way.

Gameplay needs some improvement. Player control is awkward at best, and prone to wild shifts as the ball exits one player’s zone of control and enters another’s. Also, the highly detailed background information on team and player statistics really gives the false impression that team choice might affect a game’s outcome. With a game pad of some kind, play is pretty standard.

Realism

Work is definitely needed on the gameplay. The announcer voices are as realistic as you can get (well, duh, I mean this is Fox Sports Soccer ‘99) and the player statistics and team setups are all given in excruciating detail. Some of that needs to leak into gameplay. Brazil shouldn’t even break a sweat beating Albania. Unfortunately, this is not so.

Room For Improvement

You’re really not going to get a great feeling for soccer from this game. Appreciation for soccer should be assumed before you begin play. There’s quite an extensive database for teams and players (you can even select your professional referee) with complete stats and every team you could ever imagine, whether national or international. I didn’t notice a big difference between players while controlling them, though. Everyone ran about as fast, shots were about as accurate, and goalies about as capable no matter who you were controlling -- even with the "equalize stats" option turned off.

Graphics

The players in Fox Sports Soccer ‘99 are all full 3D and there are some fun effects available, including playing in snow. The players are a bit blocky close up, but you won’t want to get too close, anyway -- you’ll cherish every inch of the field you can see. A variety of camera angles are available, with zooming and fine control that will put you right on the ball. A camera angle that centered on the in-focus player with a view of the ball would have been very nice, though.

Audio

Nothing spectacular here. The announcers actually respond reasonably intelligently to the action. You’ll recognize the play-by-play from television coverage. Frankly, I turned off all but the most basic sound effects shortly after playing (all except for crowd noise. Love the cheering).

System Requirements

120Mhz Pentium, Win95, 16 MB RAM, 87 MB hard drive space, 4X CD-ROM drive. I’d definitely recommend a 3D accelerator.

Documentation

The documentation is all but incomprehensible. The occasional screenshot for clarification would have been helpful, or maybe a diagram or two (though there’s a nice shot of the Microsoft SideWinder). The interface left me with questions on more than one occasion, and I was unable to find any of the answers I wanted in the provided docs.

Bottom Line

This game is for the serious fan with a little time on his hands. If you’ve got a favorite team and a couple of players you keep track of, you’re going to enjoy calling the shots for a while.

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