Once upon a time there was only one football game. Well, only one to speak of. It was called Kick Off, and for a long time it, and its numerous updates, were regarded as the ultimate suite of footy games. Until Sensible Software shamelessly set about taking all the best bits from every previous soccer sim and coming up with an unbeatable blend of playable, yet involving football antics. Recently, a Mega Drive version of Sensible Soccer was announced, making it look like Sensible had it all stitched up.
But it was only a matter of months before the World Cup began and everyone was keen to cash in on the deal. Ultimately though, as everyone expected, all eyes were on just two football products. One was Sensible Soccer, and the other, EA’s FIFA International Soccer. EA, previously undisputed king of the sport sim world, was considered the only one capable of giving the Sensible boys a run for their money. So now that the games have well and truly arrived, what’s the outcome of this titanic battle…
Well, tedious as it may sound, it’s a score draw. Rather than go for the super slick perfection of Sensible Soccer, EA has gone for slower-paced, graphically superior game that relies on atmosphere rather than ultra fast dynamics. Whereas Sensible Soccer brings on an adrenaline rush through pure speed and head-to-head competitiveness, FIFA International Soccer gives you a real feeling of being there by setting the scene, giving you all the sights and sounds and all the detail of the real game, while also cramming in a load of features not normally seen in footy games.
For a start, when you play this game, you simply must link up to an amp to benefit from the superb sounds. The crowd constantly chants as the game plays, and more impressive still, adjusts to what’s going on onscreen. Shoot for a goal and a mighty roar goes up. Hit the crossbar and the roar immediately and seamlessly turns into a moan. Superb!
Next, the visuals. Isometric 3D has been used, and while this leads to a slower game, it also enables a lot more player detail and more animations, such as the usual mix of header, overhead kicks and a few new ones such as the back heel. The controls are all very friendly and even placing a ball from a goal kick or throw in is done effortlessly using a controllable crosshair (well, it’s more of a window than a crosshair).
Add to this the seemingly endless list of play options and features not normally seen in footy games, like the adjustable areas of defence, midfield and attack, and you’ve got an incredibly realistic soccer experience on your hands. In one-player mode it’s not, it must be said, quite as much fun as Sensible Soccer, and that’s principally down to the difference in speed. But just plug in EA’s new Four Way Play adaptor and you and three friends will still have a lot of fun.
Probably the best way to describe International Soccer is not so much a console football game as a Saturday afternoon big match simulator.
This review first appeared in E3, December 1993.