David Beckham Soccer Review

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Publisher: Majesco
Developer: Rage

Platform: Game Boy Advance
Reviewed on Game Boy Advance

David Beckham lends his name and his license to this soccer game for the Game Boy Advance. You may play in any of a wide number of European soccer leagues (including Beckham's own English Premier League) as well as in international tournaments of your own design featuring national teams from around the world. And in case you're wondering just who the heck this Beckham fellow is, you'll also find a brief, in-game biography of the stylish midfielder. Spice Girl and oddly-named children sold separately.

Rob de los Reyes

Perhaps you've read about or know people who join competitive leagues for those electric, vibrating table-top (American) football games. They compete as if there's some sort of art or skill to arranging the players prior to setting off the vibrations that shuffle the player pieces around the game field. Some of them spend hours painting their players with different sorts of paints under the perception that slight (make that "negligible") differences in weighting on the pieces will produce predictable, desirable results in action. Of course, they're wrong about that. Yet it's not so hard to understand the hobby. Even knowing that the movement of the pieces has substantially nothing to do with the best laid schemes of mice and men, those electric games are just plain charming. At least for a while. There's a much greater relationship between input and results in a game of David Beckham Soccer, but the simplified, suspension-of-disbelief play-style invites comparison. Like the electric games, David Beckham Soccer has a certain goofy charm. Unfortunately, that just isn't enough to offset the shallow and repetitive feel of David Beckham's bare-bones gameplay and extremely easy difficulty.

The trouble is that after half a dozen games, you'll find the 2 spots around the penalty box from which you can virtually always score a goal. Once you do, it's just a matter of getting your man to the spot, tapping the B button and watching your score roll up. The games are clocked as 90-minute matches but are played out in roughly 3-5 minutes of real time. Even in that brief span you'll be able to trounce the likes of Valencia 8-0, Bilbao 10-0, Malaga 13-0 and hapless Sevilla a whopping 17-0. In fairly short order, all your matches will look and play the same: snake your way down the side, get to your mark, shoot and repeat. Arguably, that's a fair, if oversimplified, description of a real soccer match. But what makes real soccer exciting is that "getting to your mark" and shooting is always an adventure and never quite seems to happen the same way twice.

What's missing in David Beckham Soccer is that adventure down the field. The ball sticks to players like magic. There are no headers, no chesters, no bad bounces or wacky kicks. As a result, there are very few penalties and almost no corner kicks. There appear to be no yellow or red cards to be had in any of the game modes. Passing is quite limited as well. It is virtually impossible to lead a teammate with a diagonal kick because he won't run to the ball. The only workable passes are vertical and horizontal. Fortunately and unfortunately, you can usually rely on a forward to be directly ahead of whoever has the ball, so even a blind pass to a point off the screen almost always works. Again, the result is to make one game seem extraordinarily like the next. Other than the distinction made between passes and shots, the only real world soccer move on display is the slide tackle. The tackles are easy to execute and fun to watch as a crowded area can suddenly devolve into a blur of shifting colors. You also have to take care: slide from behind someone, and you will draw a penalty (it's one of the only ways to do so). But ultimately, these pleasant little animations just aren't enough to provide a variegated game experience.

Nor are some of the otherwise clever touches. As nifty as it is to have such a wide array of real-world club and international teams to play, in practice, the necessarily simplified graphics mean that teams and players are largely indistinguishable. Some teams do seem a bit faster and better able to mark a man and defend, but you'll beat them all anyway. Also on offer are a number of game modes including friendly (a one-off match), competition (in which you can build your own tournament), and season (with a large number of European leagues to choose from ). The season mode is marred by the irritating facts that games are only saved after every two matches and no stats are kept other than wins, losses and draws. The bigger problem with each mode is that with players, teams and game play all substantially identical, you'll need a colossal dose of role-playing imagination to make tournaments and seasons seem meaningful. Unless you can muster up the fantasy life of those electric football league people, you'll have trouble pulling the virtue out of these potentially exciting offerings.

It may be that we're just spoiled by sports games on full console systems, where they have become something like flight simulators always used to be for the PC – the definition of the leading edge of graphical beauty and gameplay realism for their platforms. Whether we gamers are spoiled or this game just isn't up to snuff, the result is the same. You won't find a satisfying video soccer game here.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on November 24, 2002 7:49 PM.

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