Konami's ISS games have always been great but what about this latest instalment? Find out in the PAL review.
Konami’s new soccer game for the GameCube certainly has something to live up to. The ISS games on the N64 were quite simply superb. With their arcadey feel, they were easy to pick up and play, yet they offered enough complexity in the control department to satisfy expert players. So the big question is: can Konami manage to use the powerful hardware of the GCN to create an even better and more exciting soccer experience than what we saw on the N64?
Well, first of all this game definitely feels different. The pace of the game seems to have been lowered considerably, giving it a more simulation-like feel. It is quite odd that Konami decided to go in this direction, since the fast-paced action of the previous titles worked so incredibly well. But what is even more strange is that this desire to make a more realistic soccer-sim is in no way reflected in the overly simplistic controls. In other words, the number of movements you can perform has been drastically lowered. For example, you cannot perform feints or high through-passes, or push an opposing player with your hands, which is a big disappointment to dedicated ISS fans. But, thankfully, not everything has changed. The game is still instantly accessible to newcomers. Furthermore, the heavy emphasis on passing is still there, and the passing game is as fluid as ever, resulting in some cool offensive plays that are very enjoyable to carry out. And - unlike FIFA 2002 - the players react instantly when you press a button. Very nice.
Visually, the game is solid. The stadiums are big and detailed, and the grass textures are also very well made. In particular, the famous players look a lot like their real-life counterparts partly because player animation is fairly varied. There are quite a few heading, shooting, and passing animations that look rather realistic. The only thing that looks a bit wierd is the running animation, but I quickly got used to it. Furthermore, the frame rate is solid and never drops below 30 fps, even when there are over 15 players on the screen.
The crowd noises really manage to create an atmosphere – a sense of being there. People sing, cheer and boo and everything sounds clear and rather intense. Furthermore, the commentators are pleasant enough to listen to for once– they are not as over-the-top and irritating as many commentators in other sports games. Their comments are perhaps not particularly insightful but they definitely get the job done. Music is the standard techno stuff, not really anything outstanding.
But the biggest problem I have with ISS 2 is the computer AI. Defenders constantly leave the player they are supposed to mark, while midfielders tend to dribble out of bounds even when there are no opposing players near them. Oh, and the goalkeepers - well, the goalkeepers make crucial mistakes in almost EVERY SINGLE MATCH, which may be amusing in the beginning but quickly becomes utterly frustrating. Their ability to catch even a slow-rolling ball is astoundingly poor, which means rebound goals happen far too often. And, inexplicably, there is no way to gain manual control over your own goalkeeper. All in all, Konami should have put a lot more work into the AI. What a shame!
However, if you can forgive these flaws you will find that ISS 2 will last for a long time. The modes on offer include the standard Exhibition, International Cup and World League, and although these can be finished in a few hours, you will always be drawn to the multiplayer. Get three friends over and you can have some crazy multiplayer action. The fact that the game is so instantly accessible means that even less experienced gamers can get a lot out of it right from the start.
So all in all, ISS 2 does not quite reach the level of brilliance set by its predecessors. There are simply too many flaws, too many inconsistencies for that to happen. However, if you are after a soccer game for your Cube this one still comes highly recommended. It is certainly the best soccer game on the GCN at the moment and will probably remain just that until the next instalment is released.