Monday, July 05, 2010

Sensational World Soccer 2010 Review

Sensational World Soccer 2010, developed and published by New Star Games.
The Good: One-button controls are easy to use, 2010 World Cup teams, challenging AI
The Not So Good: One-button controls are too imprecise, automatic switching of the selected defensive player is disorienting, lacks online multiplayer, no strategic player substitutions
What say you? This very simple arcade soccer game suffers from too much simplicity: 4/8

A soccer game? What are the odds?! I mean, it’s not like there’s some major global sports event going on right now as you read this review that the developers of Sensational World Soccer 2010 are hoping to cash in on. Coincidences aside, this is the more simple, 2-D side of New Star Games’ gaming portfolio, which includes a good 3-D soccer career game, a good racing game, another good racing game, and a not-so-good tennis game. What does $7 get you?

Not awesome graphics, to be sure. Sensational World Soccer 2010 goes for the “classic” (and by “classic” I mean “old”) 2-D look, showing everything from a top-down perspective. The game does not incorporate the 3-D engine the New Star Soccer games use, so the players are tiny (unless you zoom in), the resolutions are low, and the fields are green circles. There is the occasional rain shower, but the repetitive animations and simple graphics wear thin and don’t impress. Not that they are supposed to, but still: New Star Games has better assets at their disposal that could have been used. The sound fares better: Sensational World Soccer 2010 uses chants common to international soccer competition that do an effective job, and the music is decent if not memorable. Sensational World Soccer 2010 shows that you get what you pay for, and for $7 you can’t (and shouldn’t) expect much from the presentation.

Sensational World Soccer 2010 is an arcade soccer game that takes inspiration from the 2010 World Cup (so that’s what’s going on!). The game uses the real teams from this year’s tournament in their actual groups, although I didn’t see any actual difference in ability from one country to another. There might be, but there’s no overall rating or player abilities listed in the game to make sure. In addition to running through the World Cup tournament, you can do a quick match. Games can be customized in terms of difficulty, game speed, and match length (three to seven minutes per half). While Sensational World Soccer 2010 lacks online multiplayer, you can have two players compete on the same computer as a consolation prize. As you can see, the features for Sensational World Soccer 2010 are quite basic.

Before your match, you can choose between eleven different formations from which to dominate your opponent. You can also choose three custom formations by placing players anywhere you wish on a five-by-seven grid. Those players, though, cannot be substituted during the game, nor are they given names or even numbers: just like communism! However, the control scheme is where Sensational World Soccer 2010 really starts to fall apart. Other than the four directional keys (and a gamepad is strongly recommended for more precise movement), there is only one button to press, and it does everything: throw-in, pass, shoot, tackle, and slide tackle. You can hold the button down for a more powerful shot, but that’s all the tweaking you are allowed. As you can imagine, this leaves a lot to be desired. A consequence of the simplified controls is switching players on defense is now handled automatically by the AI. This is seemingly done at the most inconvenient times without advanced notification. The end result is spastic movement by your players while the AI effortlessly runs on by. In addition, players turn slowly, making for more realistic but less laser-quick gameplay. At least the game tries to preferentially aim for what it thinks is the player you were attempting to pass to, but it would have been better to decide on my own. The AI is quite a challenge, but this may be partially due to the limitations of the controls scheme that they don’t have to deal with.

Sensational World Soccer 2010 would really benefit from having another button. While the directional controls work well enough (especially if you have an analog gamepad), having one button for all of the in-game actions leads to confusion and your players never really doing what you want them to do. There’s no difference between a shot and a pass, between a tackle and a slide tackle, and the game switches players on defense automatically, resulting in a lot of unintended movement. Part of the reason why the AI is a challenge is because they don’t have to deal with those issues: your players are having seizures on the field while your opponent smoothly runs towards victory. Sensational World Soccer 2010 does feature the 2010 World Cup teams, although none of the players are present, nor should they be since the game features no in-game substitutions. Sensational World Soccer 2010 also lacks Internet multiplayer, though two players on the same computer can battle it out for world domination. While Sensational World Soccer 2010 strives for simple gameplay, it’s this simple gameplay that ultimately does it in.