Goal! Not! Microsoft takes a stab at the world's #1 sport, and unfortunately misses high over the crossbar. You have your choice of 91 international teams running the gamut from United Arab Emirates and San Marino to the Stars and Stripes and Brazil. You can match up in a single-game grudge match or delve into the unknown of a tournament, which unfortunately caps the number of entrants at a measly 16. Venture into enemy territory to seemingly hostile futbol-nuts who sing non-stop and jeer at you when you successfully slide-tackle the ball away from their beloved heroes. Although you cannot tell whether you are in Qatar or Germany as they all sing the same songs and the stadiums all seem to have exactly the same architect, construction firms and landscapers. If you are interested in guiding Alexi Lalas and Cobi Jones against the world's finest, you will be disappointed. None of the actual world soccer elite are to be found in this game, just a bunch of faceless, nameless generic dorks. You do carry the option of editing all the teams to fit your needs or creating your own dream teams, complete with a palette full of Picasso-esque colors to dress your warriors for the turf wars.
As in real-life soccer, it is not easy to score in this game. You have to display a combination of timing and teamwork to sneak the ball past the Shep Messing-like goalkeepers. As you move up the different levels of difficulty you find that scoring is accomplished through a few different approaches. The most consistent ways to score in the lower levels is to race up the wings to draw the keeper out, then execute a hard-angle shot or drop a cross to your salivating striker. You can choose from several different lineups, the default being four defenders, four midfielders, three forwards, and a goalie. You may use a 4-2-4, 4-4-2, 5-3-2, or sweeper set up.
Regardless of the lineup it is not easy to encourage your midfielders and defenders to overlap into an offensive position unless they penetrate with a long run by dribbling. So you are usually left attacking with your front line only. It can become quite predictable. You can remove the ball from your opponent by two methods, one more fun and one more effective. The effective way is to shove the other guy, while the truly satisfying way is to slide-tackle the poor sucker and watch him lay on the ground in feigned agony. Now that is realistic soccer. Passing is relatively easy, as you just aim at your guy and if the path is clear of defenders it will go right to your teammate. The players move in silent fluidity, but sometimes will appear to be shot out of a cannon. I found that the game is much more rewarding played on a wide view as you can set up a series of passes, which I must remind you is the best way to play this game. NO extra credit for ball-hogging. So again, distribute the ball freely and take out your aggressions on those opponents, though you may get carded.
Though gameplay in Microsoft Soccer can be predictable, the game does support multiple players. This increases the possibilities and enhances the elements of strategy and surprise. The game is probably best experienced in multiplayer.
The graphics are good, the colors look sharp on the uniforms, and the players look realistic whether in close-up mode or in wide view. You can see a noticeable difference in the field when it is raining or muddy as opposed to hot. The stadium is littered with advertisements for other Microsoft games, and the crowd is average.
When moving through the option screens, the music is actually pretty catchy. The sound within the game adds a sense of realism as you can hear the dribbling, the slide along the grass when tackling or the thud of a killer header. The crowd can get a bit annoying and repetitive ... but so can some real soccer fans.
Windows: Windows 95; Pentium 75 IBM-compatible PC; 12 MB RAM; 800x600 display w/ 256 colors, 2 MB VRAM; sound card; joystick or gamepad
This selection only came in at a 73. Pele would certainly be disappointed. It leaves you with a sense of incompleteness from the lack of real players to the inability to record a season. The game does not keep track of any individual or team statistics, so you are left to your own devices. The tournament is limited in number ... maybe they couldn't get enough fields? Gameplay is good and will definitely challenge you, but without the ability to do more than play single games or a tournament that ends with no championship celebration, what is there really to play for? You can lose your interest, I'm sorry to say.