Over the years, we gamers have longed to play the perfect football simulation. We want a game which will let us play a classy, weighted through ball from midfield directly into the path of our star forward, who will crash it into the top left of the net under our near-divine joypad-powered guidance.
We want a game with realistic headers, a free kick system that works and a passing system that plays well without being overly complex. A game where your star striker gets kicked in the shin and he goes down clutching his face – and where your burly centre back ends up in court, due to a nightclub-fracas-fight-drug-stripper incident. Well, maybe not quite that realistic.
ISS (International Superstar Soccer) is not new to the console market, but it is to the recently-born X-Box and indeed its only current rival is EA’s Fifa World Cup title. In terms of realism both games tow pretty much the same line – they fall on the arcade side of the fence rather than gritty simulation, but only just. If we were to draw a little Venn diagram – argh… flashback to third year maths – both games would be in the arcade camp but quite close to the overlap.
ISS 2′s gameplay does feel rather more artificial, however, simply because the ball physics possess too much of what we call the “pinball” element. It feels like it’s pinging off flippers and bumpers rather than football players at times – only the multi-ball feature is missing (now there’s an idea for some footy mayhem)!
What’s more, ISS 2 feels rather flat because there are no skill or “jink” moves – or any real feel for “flair” play. It doesn’t help that the player animations are ropey and the graphics just plain dull, with bland pitch textures and a general lack of detail. This is certainly no showcase for all the graphical horsepower that the X-Box has stowed away under its bonnet. Sonically, matters are similarly lacklustre, with an uninspiring commentary and fairly dull crowd noises.
On the positive side ISS 2 does manage to present a bundle of options, including world leagues, international cups and even custom leagues (the teams included are international, not club sides). There’s also a handy training mode included so you can get the hang of the controls, although they’re pretty intuitive anyway. Of course, you can play up to four human players, co-operatively or against each other.