Sega's Soccer Slam is released. Does it deliver a killer kick or fall flat on its face? Find out in Mike S's review.
Sega Soccer Slam grabbed my attention when it was first announced. Actually, I don’t see how it’s possible for an extreme soccer game with a giant Mexican wrestler in it to NOT grab one’s attention. Upon its release I had decided that I would first rent the title. But, the video stores around my house take forever to get games in. So, after reading Billy’s shining impressions, I went out and bought the title. And I’m glad I did. Sega Soccer Slam is an excellent game that many people should enjoy.
Upon booting up the game and watching the splash logos for Sega’s Visual Concepts and Black Box Games, you are treated to a wonderful intro movie that showcases all of the crazy characters this game has to offer. And believe me, it has a lot to offer. Characters range from the Soccer-obsessed Rico to the angry British punk rocker Half-Pint. Some of them are slightly more normal than others but they are all weird in their own special way. Especially El Diablo. Personally, he’s my favorite simply because he screams “RARRRRR!! EL DIALBO SCARE YOU!!!!” It’s a riot. All of the characters have such personality.
Soccer Slam looks very nice. All of the characters in the game are wonderfully modeled and are very smooth. They animate fluidly and there are very few (if any) framerate problems to be seen. The fields are also very well done and look fantastic. As the players run around the fields they kick up dust or other appropriate clouds. In the Reactor Core they kick up little green clouds of radioactive gas. As the players run around the field and tackle the ball away from others, they leave dirt marks on the field. This is a wonderful touch and adds to the environment of the game. Motion blur is also used effectively in this game. If you fire a rocket of a shot at the goal the trail it leaves is pretty big and looks really cool. The Killer Kicks and Spotlight Shots (explained later) trigger a very cool bullet-time effect (that’s the “Matrix” camera) that looks amazing.
Soccer Slam‘s Sound is also very good. Sound effects are very good. They all sound quite real. The character voices are some of the best I’ve heard in any game ever. It’s the voices that give these characters all their personality. If it weren’t for the excellent voices, this game wouldn’t have half the charm it currently possess. My only real disappointment is the in game music. It’s ok, but it sort of seems like it was put there just because it was needed. Of course, most of the time the screaming crowd drowns out the music anyway, so it’s not that much of an issue. Also, there are some times when the sound completely drops out. This seems to happen right after a replay is shown and only occurs very rarely. The sound options are robust and you can alter the volumes of many different sounds.
Sega is pushing Soccer Slam’s easy to learn controls as a major selling point. They’re not kidding either. Soccer Slam is most certainly one of those “easy to learn, difficult to master” games. Within 5 minutes of playing I had the basic controls down. I hate to sound like an infomercial but “YES! It’s that easy!” What takes time is learning how to effectively use the controls in certain situations and how to chain your moves together to build your combo gauge. I do have one issue with the controls though. When on defense, the A button is used to switch characters. But it doesn’t cycle through the characters. Instead it picks characters close to the ball. Sometimes (not often) I don’t want the characters close to the ball and the game won’t even let me select the other characters.
Soccer Slam is, obviously, based on soccer, but there are some changes to the game. In Soccer Slam, there is no out-of-bounds. The ball will bounce off of the borderlines and back into play. Thus, there are no throw-ins or corner-kicks in the game. There are only 2 times the ball stops moving. First, when the goalie holds the ball and second, when somebody scores a goal. Because of this, the action is fast and furious. But actually, at first I found the game playing a bit too slow for my taste. This was quickly remedied with a trip to the options menu where I pumped up the game speed to fast.
Gameplay in Soccer Slam is based on combos. As you run the ball up (or down) the field you will earn combo points by passing the ball, dodging enemy steals, and taking shots. You can also earn combo points by stealing the ball and punching other players. The more moves you string together, the higher the combo multiplier will be. Accumulated combo points fill up your power meter. You can use the L button to use some of your power and power up. Powering up boosts all of a character’s stats temporarily, and it also puts all their shots at full charge. Plus it triggers a very cool-looking effect wherein your character powers up with his or her appropriate elemental power. If you fill the power meter up all the way the R and A buttons can be pressed together to set up a Killer Kick. When a Killer Kick is set up, the ball flies way up into the air and a green circle appears on the ground. If you get a character into that circle and press the shoot button the character will launch into the air and fire a devastating shot at the goal. If set up right, there is almost no way a Killer Kick can be stopped. Similar to Killer Kicks, Spotlight Shots also let you fire (slightly less) devastating shots. When you have the ball on your opponent’s side of the field spotlights will randomly appear. If you fire a shot while in a spotlight it will trigger an effect similar to the Killer Kicks. Learning to master these Killer Kicks and Spotlight Shots proves to be very rewarding, as it will let you pummel the competition into the ground.
Soccer Slam has a wealth of game modes. To start, there is the basic exhibition mode where you can simply play a game of soccer. Plus, if you hold L and R while going into the exhibition the game will pick teams and a field for you automatically. Tournament mode lets you play a series of games to see which team is the best. Quest mode is the meat of the game. In Quest mode you play a series of 13 games and try to win the Continental Cup. The first 5 games are regular season home games. In between each of these games there are skill challenges. Winning games and doing well in skill challenges earns you money you can spend to upgrade characters and buy artwork from the game (some of which contains secret codes). After the regular season there is a mid-season all-star game where one player from each of the 6 teams is picked to play. The all-star game is a fantastic addition to the game because it lets you play with different characters and if you win you get a very good amount of money. After the all-star game come 5 more games. But this time it’s the play-offs and you’re playing away from home. In order to make the play-offs you must ranked at least 4th place. After the play-offs, if you’re still ranked 4th or better, you go into the semi-final game. After winning the semi-final it’s on to the Continental Cup match where you play the other best team. The winner takes up the cup and $1500.
Soccer Slam has a ton of lastability. As you earn money in the Quest mode you can spend it in the Soccer Shop to buy upgrades for your character (there are 3 for each character) and artwork from the game. One of the best things about this is that if you buy an item that will enhance a character’s speed, that item will now be on that character if you play against him with a different team. Because of this, the game gets gradually harder as you play. I think this could possibly be the best feature of the game. With all the things to be had in the Soccer Shop, it will take at least 2 runs through Quest mode with each team to get it all.
Soccer Slam is hands down an excellent title. It combines the sport of soccer with some insane characters and gameplay. This game is beautiful. The character voices are some of the best heard in any game. The controls are simple to learn and will challenge you to master them. Gameplay is some of the best around and will keep you coming back time and again. And with all the stuff to do in Soccer Slam, you’ll have a great reason to keep coming back. Soccer Slam is a top-notch title and deserves at the absolute least a rental.