reviews\ Sep 8, 2002 at 8:00 pm

Sega Soccer Slam - XB - Review

It seems like only yesterday I was scratching my head, wondering why there aren't more extreme sports games around.  Now you can't go into a video game store without seeing half a dozen brand-new extreme sports titles to buy.  Even Sega, best known for their stellar arcade games and console sequels, has entered the extreme sports market with Sega Soccer Slam.

First released on Nintendo's GameCube console, Soccer Slam has now been ported to the Xbox, and will soon land on the PlayStation 2.  It was developed by Black Box Games, the company responsible for NHL Hitz, so it's no surprise that the two games have a lot in common with each other.  What is surprising is how few differences there are between Soccer Slam and Hitz.

Six of the eight buttons on the Xbox controller are used, but the game doesn't feel very complex.  The computer AI is challenging, and it takes a good amount of strategy to overcome its superiority, but the game itself is pretty simple.  In NHL Hitz, you could stun your opponents and grab the puck by checking them.  In return, they could spin or protect the puck in attempt to evade the attack.  The same is true here, except that you can't check your opponents -- you must punch them instead!  Players are not as easily fazed by a punch, so it makes it tougher to steal the ball (performing a slide tackle is easier, but not by much).  It's also harder to protect the ball, since your only option is to evade an attack manually or by timing the protect move correctly.  This makes it next to impossible to command the ball at all times, something I was used to doing in other extreme sports games.  That's not a bad thing though.  I wouldn't have liked Soccer Slam as much if I had been able to master it quickly just because I've played NHL Hitz to death.

The two unique things about the game are the power meter, which measures your shooting strength, and the transformation meter, which changes the transformed player into a faster, more powerful attacking/shooting machine.  When transformed, you are able to steal and shoot the ball more easily.  It's also harder for your opponents to attack you, since you can outrun them.  The transformed effects only last for a short period of time, but you can keep transforming as long as your meter is partially full.  This particular meter fills up quickly by performing combos (one-timer shots and passes, etc.).  The transformation also enhances your appearance with water, fire and other graphical effects.  If the ball is set on fire, it'll continue burning even after it is passed to someone else, or intercepted by an opponent.

Another unique thing about Soccer Slam is that it has a story.  All of the players have their own unique bio, explaining who they are, where they're from and what they do.  This wasn't really necessary, but since there are no real-life teams in this game, it helps to convince the player that these are real teams, competing in a real game.

Among the different game modes in Soccer Slam, including Arcade, Quest, Challenge and Tourney, Quest is the one that resembles NHL Hitz the most.  In the Quest mode, your goal is to play against several different teams and upgrade your stats by buying new items with the cash earned from winning.  You are also required to complete some challenges, such as a penalty-type shot, where the goal is score as many times as possible.  Each goal earns you an additional $100, so if you're really good, you could walk away with a hefty load of cash.  This part is a tad different from Hitz, but that game had similar challenges in its practice mode.

As a soccer version of Hitz, Soccer Slam is not a must-buy for everyone.  I highly recommend it as a rental, especially if you have a lot of friends coming over, since it is a great multiplayer game.  The Quest, Arcade and Challenge modes are good, so it's not like you'd be bored playing the game by yourself.  As with all sports game though, it is more fun to play against a real-life opponent than it is to play against the computer.  To be safe, rent this one before making a final decision on whether or not you should purchase it.

Reviewer's Scoring Details

Gameplay: 7.4
Soccer Slam delivers fast-paced action with a decent amount of challenge.

Graphics: 7 
The characters are detailed, and the animation is really good, but that doesn't fully make up for the bland coloring that's found throughout most of the game.

Sound: 6
The commentary is fairly annoying, and the music is nothing special.

Difficulty: Medium
Hitz-masters will have no problem getting into Soccer Slam, but the rest of you may need to practice for a while.

Concept: 6.5 
Soccer Slam is a good game and all, but it doesn't do much of anything that hasn't been done before.  What it does do, it does very well though, so don't pass up the opportunity to give this game a try.

Multiplayer: 7.7
Grab four Xbox controllers, call up your friends and get ready for some awesome multiplayer action!

Overall: 7.6
Soccer Slam is a very entertaining title.  Its only real problem is the fact that it isn't a whole lot different from NHL Hitz.  If you haven't played Hitz before, then Soccer Slam will feel like a new experience.  It may be an extreme sports game, but it does not have much in common with Blitz, NBA Street or any of the other popular extreme games out there.


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