Seeing red?

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It’s unusual for me to start with an unequivocal and unconditional recommendation. Mind you, it’s unusual for me to recommend anything at any moment what with some of the absolute dogshit I’ve covered so far. Red Card however is one of those rare games that is both fun to play and fun to talk about… hopefully for me.

Before getting to the game itself, let’s study that cover. An obvious homage to THAT photo of Vinnie Jones committing testicular assault on Paul Gascoigne, transporting that image to a Sunday League setting with the perpretator looking like a dead spit for Martin Skrtel.

Note that this is only the boxart for the European release – the Americans got an action shot of Brian McBride in a Photoshopped landscape that makes it seem like he’s farting fire, which I will freely admit has its own strange charm and makes me think he ended up getting the same anal probe as Eric Cartman.

Even by my own “standards”, that was a strange tangent to go off on.

The point I suppose I was trying to make is that the cover is a perfect fit for the game – it shows that there is a strange beauty in indiscriminate violence.

Released for the PS2, GameCube and Xbox in 2002, Red Card was part of the Midway Sports series that also included the likes of NFL Blitz and NHL Hitz. What all of these had in common was a hyper-stylised approach to their respective sports – fast-flowing arcade action with simplified rules and an aggressive edge.

The intro is exactly what you’d expect – dramatic zooms into stadia, hyper-exaggerated skills and the kind of bone-crunching challenges that make the Battle of Santiago look like a pacifists’ convention. The key words I believe are “get”, “you” and “FUCKIN’ PUMPED!!!!!!!!!!!” Yes, this was developed in America (San Diego, to be precise) – however did you guess?

Into the main menu and you’ll notice the usual friendly, customise team, options yadda yadda yadda… the advanced mode may throw you a tad, though. It’s just a rather odd way of referring to its competitions: finals (initially locked out) and tournament are pretty straightforward, being analogues to World Cup and knockout respectively. World Conquest is the crux of the game, acting as a qualifier for the finals and allowing you to start unlocking extra stuff. I won’t spoil the unlockables for you – Google can do that and it also gives me a bit of wiggle room for a list article I’ve got in mind. You lucky people…

Actually getting to the meat of the game – I have to say that one of my few criticisms of this title are the graphics. I mean, the stadia look nice enough and the animation is OK (even if it does make the players look like they’re running on a cushion of air sometimes) – it’s the player models. Even for the officially licensed squads, likenesses are piss-poor and all the body proportions are off. I know they’ve gone for a certain look but it just seems like they’ve taken a Remington to a silverback and then put him in the body scanner.

Commentary comes from the unlikely combination of Simon Brotherton (who actually seems better known these days for being the BBC’s voice of cycling even though he still does Match of the Day and the like) and Chris Kamara. As you’d expect, Brotherton remains authoratitive and level-headed throughout the increasingly psychotic proceedings, whereas Kammy gets giddier more quickly than a 3-year-old on a merry-go-round.

Erm… gameplay?

The basics are your standard stuff and work reasonably well, although it’s appropriate to note that for a game of this nature that when you’re defending, three out of four of the face buttons perform some kind of challenge. By challenge of course, I mean GBH.

What really sets this apart are the variables opened up to you by judicious use of the shoulder buttons/triggers/bumpers/what have you. The right is for your turbo – each player has his own individual supply of this and unlike most run buttons in other football games, subtlety be damned! You can actually see yourself leaving a trench in your wake as you make Billy Whizz look like a tortoise on diazepam.

Left is the REALLY good shit – this is your boost, shared amongst the team and its effects are multiplied. The manual itself says “over the top” and who am I to disagree? Shots become full-on Matrix bullet-time acrobatics full of turns, flicks and kicks of the bicycle, scissor and rainbow varieties.

Tackles, which could already be aptly described as “robust”, “agricultural” or “murderous” turn into the kind of unhinged lunges, barges and stamps that defined the likes of Harald Schumacher or Benjamin Massing. It’s almost a shame that this came around too early to incorporate some kind of tribute to Zidane’s denouement that summer night in Berlin. Almost.

In summary, then: “TOTAL CARNAGE… I LOVE IT!”

Ronaldo’s game… boy!

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1999: despite his disappointing performance in mysterious cicumstances in the previous year’s World Cup final, Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima is still amongst the hottest properties in global sport. It seemed obvious than his famous buck-toothed grin would one day be plastered over the boxart of a video game and so it proved thanks to those chancers at Infogrames, who seemed intent on releasing about 37 separately-licensed football titles every month in the period spanning between 1998 and 2002. If it wasn’t one of the big two, basically you name it and it’ll most likely have had that armadillo slapped on it somewhere.

Of course the main release was on the PS1 but I’ve covered that system enough recently, so let’s have a butchers at the Game Boy Color version instead (coded by the Spanish developers Bit Managers – Spaniards and football should bode well, right? Right?) … and not just because it allowed me to make a bloody awful pun for the title of this post.

Brazilian brilliance?

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First of all, the general presentation is about as good as it gets on the GBC – there’s a neat little intro showing Il Fenomeno himself charging down the pitch and smashing one past a bewildered keeper. Then we enter the game’s menus and everything is crisp, clear and easy to navigate. All the usual stuff is there – friendlies, cups, leagues, practice and delve a little deeper into the options, you’ll see that you can even edit the club team names to something a little more accurate. Player names are also the real McCoy with the exception of the German sides – both domestic and international.

There is one icon that stands out somwhat though and that relates to the Ronaldo Cup – a blatant and rampant moment of egotism more akin to that of his preening, posing, Portuguese namesake. This is split into two modes – a three team round robin or a four team knockout. Your life has been enriched an unimaginable amount by that salient smidge of information. You can thank me later.

In-game graphics are fairly snazzy too – players are animated pretty well and have differing skin and hair colours and as you can probably tell from the screengrab there, kits are mostly spot-on too… although it does appear that everyone’s wearing gloves in the same hue as their shirts.

Audio is where it all starts to fall apart slightly – try as it might, the GBC’s humble audio chip cannot accurately replicate the somewhat cliched but nonetheless evocative samba rhythms required to give this game a true flavour of Brazil. Likewise, Bit Managers have attempted something a little unusual with the crowd noise. Most other football games on the handheld would just use bursts of white noise to recreate the roar of a packed stadium – not so here. A more tuneful sound is attempted and while it is unquestionably better than the cacophonous shite served up on an alarmingly regular basis by the England Band, to my ears it just ends up like it could be from R-Type.

He shoots, he scores?

Speaking of falling apart… actually start a match and you’ll soon notice that the game has all the pace of a tranquilised sloth. Players don’t so much sprint as gambol with all the carefree nature of aspring lamb. Mind you, this is one of those black cartridges which signifies that it’ll also work on the monochrome models. Play it on one of those and F… U… C… K… M… E… it makes World Class Fussball Soccer Voetbal Calcio Futebol Pel-Droed look like it’s running on some turbo-nutter gaming PC with 17 graphics cards. It chugs more than a rugby team on a post-match pub crawl.

Passing is beyond laughable. Tap A and it feels like you’ve tried to propel the ball via telekinesis. Double tap and it trickles forward aimlessly. Hold and release in the direction of a team-mate and suddenly it’ll shoot off like shit off a shovel, right past your colleague and almost certainly into touch. B will just boot it indiscriminately and arbitrarily. A possession game is impossible. I really mean that… even skewing the odds in my favour as much as possible – Brazil v San Marino on easy – I reckon I had no more than 20% of the play. These lot could teach Hal Robson-Kanu a thing or two about chasing lost causes… only in this case, they are actually lost. Winning the ball back relies almost entirely on perfectly-timed slide tackles… good luck with that!

Shooting… hold B and you’ll just lob it harmlessly straight to the keeper. Double tap and you’ll get the power to beat him but all the accuracy of one of the bad guys on The A-Team. I did actually manage to score a few every game, enough to even win the odd match. Fuck knows how though.

In summary then – gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah, gerraway wi’ yer. Doesn’t deserve anything more than that really.

Welcome

First of all, let’s get the basics out of the way.

I’m Liam, 34, 5′ 9″, Welsh, Leo, GSOH. Yourself?

I have set this blog up as a refuge from the constant barrage of most football video game stuff you’ll find online, the corporate behemoths of FIFA and PES that between them have destroyed the competition. Although I have to confess I’ve been on the Konami side since the days of ISS Deluxe on the Mega Drive.

The intention here is to bring attention to those lesser-known or fondly remembered but long since abandoned titles.

Whether it be once promising but now long since derelict franchises like Actua Soccer or  This is Football, arcade favourites like Virtua Striker or Football Champ, the just plain bonkers such as UEFA Dream Soccer or Red Card and of course the just plain crap. European Super League, anyone? Anyone?

I’ll try and avoid clickbait but if I do have a good idea for a top 10 list, ULTIMATE BEST or SHOCKINGLY WORST, I won’t be afraid to go with it. Maybe I won’t actually use those words for titles, though.

Thank you, spread the word and hopefully I won’t get too stuck with blogger’s block!