Sega Soccer Slam - PS2 - Review
Sega Soccer Slam for the PS2 is an off-the-wall arcade take on the timeless game of soccer. While the basic foundation of the sport is fully intact Sega has taken many liberties to make the game more enjoyable by instilling a high sense of personality and energy into the formula, the end result is something that should appeal to a wide variety of gamers, even those who don’t normally partake in sports games. Purists looking for a by-the-book simulation-style soccer game need not apply however, Soccer Slam is to soccer what NBA Jam was to Basketball; simple straight-forward action that is easy to pick up and hard to put down. Unfortunately, the PS2 port of this title suffers from a blurry visual presentation and occasional slowdown that is not present in the Xbox or Gamecube version.
The developer of the game, Visual Concepts, is no stranger to sports game, they have had a lot of experience crafting the majority of Sega’s flagship sports titles and that experience is quite evident in Sega Soccer Slam. Its like the team got together and had a field day combining simplified yet intuitive gameplay dynamics with quirky offbeat character personalities and outrageous maneuvers like jumping 20 feet in the air to perform a bicycle kick into the opponent’s net. And while the PS2 version may not be the most graphically impressive port of the game it does retain all the style and play-control simplicity that made this game such a hit on the Gamecube earlier this year.
While there is no doubt that this game is best played via multiplayer, Visual Concepts does include a fairly entertaining single player experience in the form of Quest mode. In this mode you’ll be able to choose from six unique teams, each with their own specific elemental property. (It sounds a little out-of-the-ordinary, I know, but stay with me here.) For instance, the special moves for team El Fuego are based on fire where Subzero’s moves revolve around ice. This is almost purely an aesthetic preference as the only thing it changes is the look of the character or the ball when special maneuvers are activated. But what distinguishes each team from the other the most is the fact that they all have their own over-the-top personalities and skill attributes. These attributes include skills like shooting, passing, hitting, stealing, and speed. Like the elemental properties their appearance and personalities are purely skin deep but the characters differ so much from each other, the way they constantly rant on between goals, that it actually enhances the overall appeal of the game quite a bit.
Anyway, in Quest mode, after you’ve chosen your team, you will be able to compete in matches and various challenges, racking up enough cash to unlock performance enhancing gear, concept art, and other cool niceties. The goal of this mode is to kick your way to the top until you are eventually awarded the Continental Cup, Soccer Slam’s highest honor. If you manage to get to the end of Quest mode in the top spot, you’ll unlock a secret Sega Soccer Slam venue for the team that you beat quest mode with.
There are other single player modes like Arcade where you’ll be able to start quick games against a human opponent or the computer, also there are two mini-games that, while an interesting diversion, feels rushed and repetitive. The mini-games are Hot Potato, where the point is to hold on to the ball for as long as you can in a small arena, the longer you hold it without getting it swiped from you the more points you will accumulate, if it is stolen then the person who scarfed it will get one and a half times the points you accumulated, watch out though cause after a short time the ball will explode. The other mini-game is brawl wherein you and three other players duke it out with simple punches, the last player standing is the winner. These mini-games were not present in the original Gamecube version and the inclusion of extras is appreciated but these mini-games just aren’t any fun.
There is also Challenge mode, which allows you to create your own custom team out of the various characters in the game, compete in a series of matches, and unlock new characters. Tourney mode isn’t as exciting as the others, here you will enter a round-robin tournament, you play as each team for 15 matches. The last mode, Practice, is simply a quick-and-easy tutorial which steps you through 12 different facets of the game in under five minutes, this is where newcomers should go first to learn how to get their slam on.
The comical characters with their exaggerated physical dimensions and off-the-wall dialogue is where the basis of Soccer Slams appeal is derived. However, while the various reactions and quips that the players perform following each goal is pretty entertaining for a while, they quickly become repetitive, luckily you can easily bypass them by hitting the X button.
The action is fast and furious, turnarounds happen all the time with a simple punch to the face or sliding attack, goals can occur when you least expect them, and the person defending you might spontaneously burst into flames. Make no mistake, Sega Soccer Slam is unlike any soccer game you’ve ever seen. Once you become accustomed with the gamplay dynamics you’ll be able to annihilate every opponent you face on all but the hardest difficulty setting, multiplayer really is the best way to go if you are looking for a challenge.
Perhaps the coolest aspect of the game is the different methods of shooting. Most shots will be performed simply by hitting the square button and aiming with the L-stick but occasionally a roving spotlight will appear that, if the player shoots while inside the spotlight, will slow down the action and zoom in on the player as he or she performs a powerful special move. A Killer Kick is the most powerful type of kick in the game and can be executed by holding the turbo button and pass button at the same time to lob the ball to a teammate, if the kick button is pushed at the right time while the player is in the right location he or she will perform a devastating kick that will almost assuredly score. The visual effect of these special moves is very cool, kind of a bullet-time-esque gimmick that works really well.
Graphically, Soccer Slam sports cartoonish off-the-wall character models and special effects that fit the theme of the game nicely. While this port is not as detailed as the Xbox or Gamecube versions it does manage to include all of the same bells and whistles like various accessories and costumes that can be seen on every character. The stadiums are a little bland but they get the job done. Executing special maneuvers is where the majority of eye-candy can be found in this game though, the slow-down Matrix-esque sequences look particularly cool. There is no doubt that the limited texture capability of the PS2 severely hurt the overall look of the game though, and the framerate isn’t quite up to par either.
Sound-wise you can expect to hear all the same great original orchestrations, player chants, and sound effects that the other ports boast. The various roars and chants from the fully 3D spectators are a nice touch and does add to the enjoyability of the game. However the commentator, Tim Crofton, tends to repeat himself far too often. The voice-talent used for all the characters in the game is pretty good though, the various quips really fit the look of the character and they are varied enough to keep things fresh.
If the PS2 is your only choice for playing this game than I would suggest a rental before you buy, the tarnished visuals and choppy animations may be an aesthetic detriment but that may be enough to turn people off to the game. But as far as over-the-top arcade soccer action is concerned you really can’t do much better than this, so give it a look-see and find out if this game is for you, chances are you’ll be glad you did.
While the basic gameplay of Sega Soccer Slam is quite simple and intuitive there are a few special techniques that require a fair amount of practice to finesse. It is highly recommended that you check out the in-game tutorial before diving into the meatier modes of the game.
Attractive and exaggerated visuals is what this game is all about, unfortunately the loss in visual quality that was suffered from the port over to the PS2 is substantial and may turn prospective buyers off.
The music is entertaining but hardly impressive, the same can be said about the commentator although he quickly diminishes in appeal. The sound effects are all very good but it’s the crowd reactions and chanting that really get the adrenaline flowing. The voice-work for the various personalities is entertaining and at times quite amusing.
After a few rounds you’ll be laying the smack down on every team that opposes you with ease, making the game feel somewhat tedious and repetitive, dribble, fake-out, kick, score, repeat. I recommend you crank this game up to the hardest difficulty if you are looking for a challenge.
The idea behind Soccer Slam is a great one; take the established sport of soccer and do to it what NBA Jam did for basketball. Sounds like an unlikely goal, so to speak, but they pulled it off with flying colors.
This is the way the game was meant to be played, you never know what a human opponent will do so you are constantly kept guessing at what type of strategy you should employ, the same cannot be said for the computer-controlled teams.
Great concept, excellent execution, bad port. That’s what the PS2 version of this game is in a nutshell. Luckily, the addictive gameplay mechanics and entertaining aural niceties made the cut, but the unattractive visuals and inconsistent framerate can be quite noticeable at times. Rent first.