I can’t help shake the feeling that Ultimate Soccer was supposed to be some kind of flagship series for Sega. After all, they gave Rage Software permission to plaster Sonic all over the menus. Mind you, it seems they had their own license tied up at one point as the caricatured player featured alongside the Blue Blur has more than an air of Paul Gascoigne about him. Maybe Empire still had the rights to his likeness and weren’t getting rid of them cheap, I dunno.
(Either that or Rage were somewhat reticent on spunking serious wedge on paying for them considering he had just come back from a serious case of self-inflicted knee knack.)
The game was released in 1993 on the Mega Drive, Master System and Game Gear. The latter two are just another pair of Kick Off rip offs and therefore bear absolutely bugger all significance to me. The 16-bit version is far more interesting however as it’s a slightly refined and rejigged version of Striker which had made an obligatory appearance on the MD the year before.
So many menus
The first thing that really hit me about the game was the sheer array of options available once you choose them from the main menu screen. To describe them as bewildering is to do a disservice to bewilderment. There are football games released this year with less customisation available to your experience. Most of them are your usual guff – match length, weather, extra time yadda yadda yadda – but a few are capable of raising an eyebrow. You can disable a player’s inertia for example – a kick in the bollocks for Sir Isaac Newton, there. The only one that really seems anything other than superficial though is being able to switch between your bog-standard 11-a-side on grass and six-a-side indoor matches.
Next comes selecting your team. This is strictly an international only affair and let’s just say that Rage’s ideas of proper team colours and skills and attributes are a tad askew. Denmark wear yellow and red stripes. Japan have maximum ratings in all three (that’s right – THREE) categories – I’m guessing as another conciliatory sop towards getting a sweet deal from Sega.
Everybody play the gaaaaaame…
First things first, the graphics are fucking awful. They’ve tried to do a clever perspective trick with the pitch which ostensibly works but it some becomes apparent that it looks glitchy as hell. Weird dark lines, markings not meeting up properly – that kind of thing. And the players! Mis-shapen, oddly outlined, barely animated affronts to visual decency. That and they run like they’ve been sitting on a bicycle seat made of porcupine quills and cacti for a month.
They don’t scale with the pitch either – they’ve done a perspective trick yet THEY DON’T KNOW HOW PERSPECTIVE WORKS. Where’s Father Ted with a toy cow when you need him, eh?
Controls are little better – on the surface, A is meant to be a strong pass, C a weak one while B is your shoot/tackle. I say that, trouble is that bears little relation in theory to what it does in practice. That’s right, it’s “press random buttons and see what sticks” mode again – see my Onside review if you want more of that kind of shit.
I’m about to cry here
Gameplay – do we have to? I’ve got Christmas presents to buy…
Alright then… on your heads be it. Today’s review has been brought to you by the words ABSOLUTELY, FUCKING and BROKEN. In a one-player game, your AI opponent will take inspiration from the 1986 Uruguayan World Cup squad. It’s frankly astonishing how many leg-breakers and mistimed lunges you will be on the end of. There is no flow to a match whatsoever.
If the ball runs free and two players chase after it, they will reach an impasse until such a time that you decide to play chicken and press a button. This time you will give away a free kick.
The ref can’t decide who gets the decision when the ball goes out of play. Throw ins are awarded to the wrong team, corners and goal kicks are seemingly interchangeable.
I don’t think this is some kind of Champions of Europe-esque glitchfest, it’s mostly just incredibly poor implementation and/or interpretation of the rules of the game. Almost makes it more realistic – at least that’s what I like to think to save me from committing hara-kiri.
I don’t get it. I was never the biggest fan of Striker but at least it was functional and you could garner some enjoyment from it. This is such a backwards step, it’s fallen into a cesspit.
Maybe the Gazza thing was him seeing sense for once. He caught one glimpse of this steaming bowl of arse gravy and said “Na, thank yee!”