Sega Worldwide Soccer was once hailed as the finest soccer game around. At least on the Saturn it still remains the best footie sim, and one of the best around. But now Silicon Dreams, the folks behind Olympic Soccer, have produced a footie game which could annihilate the opposition: World League Soccer 98. Well, does it?
Start up a game, between any two teams. The first thing you'll notice is how much detail there is for the stadium. As the camera swoops around the ground you'll notice how beautiful everything looks. Yep, it's all done in hi-res - the stadium, pitch and players. The animation is all very slick, giving WLS a very smooth look, leagues ahead of Worldwide Soccer's rough, slightly pixelated visuals. The frame rate is also smooth, at 25fps, unlike more recent Fifa titles. Not only that but Silicon Dreams have out in a few smart effects, such as lens flare, rippling goal nets, rotating advertisement boards and a cool effect where lightning illuminates the whole ground. As for the players, well they look like their real-life counterparts in terms of skin and hair. Les Ferdinand is black, for example (although he is called Ferdi, but more on that later). The varying weather effects, pitch textures and time makes WLS even more realistic. Put simply, the graphics are amazing!!
Another impressive aspect to WLS is the sound, and in particular, the crowd noises. When their team is doing well they cheer, when the ball just whizzes past the post they let out a cry, "Oohhhh!!!!" And with a few horns and drums added, along with familiar chants, this gives you a sense of actually being there, it is just so realistic. Not only that but the commentary is top-notch, easily rivalling Fifa's (which is also great). Peter Brackley is the commentator and ay Wilkins is the co-commentator in the studio, who introduces the game and gives his point of view at half time. As I said, the commentary is superb, because player names are mentioned, disc accessing is kept to a minimum, meaning no more "And. . . .Ferdi. . . .scores a goal for. . . . Tottenham!!" It's all relevant, too, with little repetition. Also, Peter comments on the weather and has a little joke with Ray Wilkins, making it really seem like you are watching it on TV.
Of course, this hi-res nonsense and animated crowd wouldn't mean a thing if the gameplay was appaling. Thankfully, it isn't. Infact, this game is the most addictive, realistic and therefore playable footie sim I have ever played. All the moves have been captured superbly, from the basic pass to the scissors kick. There doesn't seem to be a single move left out, so those of you amateur flamboyant football players will have a field day. Unlike Worlwide Soccer, the passing in WLS is excellent. You can obviously simply pass to a player's feet, or you can place a through ball, do a one-two with a chipped return, pass to a drone player, chip it etc. What's more, scoring is difficult, for you shoot whatever way you are facing (unless you direct the shot just beforehand). This is, by nomeans, a bad point. It just forces the controller to be more creative, rather than simply ahoot from 50 yards out, in the hope that it will go in. Picture this, if you will: The defender passes it out to the right winger, who in turn chips it to a striker. He chests it down and turns past the closing defender, but is faced with two more defenders. So, he places a through ball to the oncoming striker, who slots it passed the keeper into the back of the net. Easy, right? Well, with practice, And there is no guaranteed ways of scoring, thanks to the excellent AI, the goalkeeper in particular is very intelligent, but is not designed so that he can miraculously dive from one post to the other in order to save a powerful volley. Instead, he is created just like any normal goalkeeper, tipping the ball over the bar, pushing it around the post, and pulling off those brilliant reflex saves. Thus, scoring past the 'keeper is very satisfying indeed. So, all this coupled with fast and fluid action makes for the playabilty to be nigh-on perfect, sort of.
Again this is no slouch. For a start there are about 200 teams, from English to Japanese, and of course international teams. There are loads of Fifa-style options, too, such as player edit, pitch select and such and such. As for play modes, there are so many that you'll soon be spoilt for choice: Exhibition, Club League, World League, Custom League, Arcade Cup, Tournament, International Cup, Season and Practice (ideal for practising those fancy moves). There doesn't seem to be an option to change the difficulty, although there is a handicap bar on the coin-toss screen which you may want to change to suit your skill. Also, it's worth noting that playing and International team is a lot harder than playing a club team, so mind you don't get caught out. Plus, the incredible addictiveness to this game means that you'll forever be coming back to it, unlike Fifa.
A few months ago, I had hailed N64's International Superstar Soccer 64 to be the best football game, with Sega Worldwide Soccer 98 being a very close second. But now, World League Soccer has all the moves that ISS64 has, and then some. One of the few complaints I have, and this is being really pedantic, is that the player names are not exactly the same as they are in real life. But so what? Ferdinand is Ferdi, Shearer is Shears, Ronaldo is Roneldo, so there should be no problem working out who they really are. Really, there should be nothing there that should prevent you from buying the spectacular game. If you're fed up with SWWS'98 and are thinking of buying Fifa 98 as an extra footie game, my advice is divert your attention to this game, instead.
Review By: Glenn Lester