Players get kicks from World Cup

By Jae-Ha Kim and Misha Davenport
Chicago Sun-Times
June 27, 2002

Who says Americans are done playing soccer? Whether you’ve just discovered the sport or are a lifelong fan, there are plenty of video games to help you get your fix–even after the final World Cup match on Sunday. Here’s a look at some of the more colorful titles:

VIRTUA STRIKER 2002 • RECOMMENDED • FROM: Sega • RATED: E for everyone • FOR: GameCube

“Virtua Striker 2002” is very easy on the eyes. The action is realistic, and the athletes have determined looks on their little animated faces as they scamper about. How well they scamper is up to you, the intrepid player. But the game is relatively straightforward and not too difficult to master, especially if you take advantage of the training option where you practice dribbling and passing. Thankfully, there’s little manipulation needed to pass, shoot and score. Gamers have the option of battling it out among four, eight, 16 or 32 participating countries. You control the team roster, selecting who’s in and which loser gets pulled from the game. Before you know it, it’s all about the “Gooooooooooaaaaaaallllllllll!” — Jae-Ha Kim

2002 FIFA WORLD CUP • HIGHLY RECOMMENDED • FROM: EA Sports • RATED: E for everyone • FOR: Xbox

It must have cost EA Sports a pretty penny to secure the only official video-game license of the 2002 FIFA World Cup. But the designers couldn’t have blown all of their budget, because they deliver a solid game, as well. Of all the soccer games I played, this had the most realistic player movement. Graphically, the game mimics the sights and sounds of the World Cup–and you don’t have to get up at 4 a.m. to experience it. If there is anything critical to say about the game, it would be the function of controlling off-screen players.It’s hard to manipulate players when you can’t see them. Otherwise, the game was a riot, especially in the four-person, multiplayer mode. –Misha Davenport


Speaking of a riot, the most notorious game of the year in Europe now has invaded U.S. shores, with all of its trademark madness, murder and mayhem intact. This isn’t a game about the sport; it’s about the rabid fans who will do anything (and I mean anything) to make sure their club makes it to the match. This real-time strategy game is divided into 11 missions. On one of the first levels, I had to keep French hooligans from trashing my team’s bus as it made its way to the hotel. Once at the hotel, I had to patrol the grounds to keep rivals from making too much noise and thus disturbing my team’s rest before the big game. Along the way, I fought, looted and recruited (you’d be amazed how many people will join your gang simply because you bought them a round at the pub). Yes, the game is filled with lawless abandon, but I loved every insane minute of it. –Misha Davenport

SEGA SOCCER SLAM • RECOMMENDED • FROM: Sega • RATED: E for everyone • FOR: GameCube

These players don’t care about any stinking World Cup trophy. The brutes are out to win the Continental Cup–to drink from. Hailing from six continents, these “footballers” play rough three-on-three soccer that’s like a Bugs Bunny cartoon gone wild. Anything goes in these slapstick matches, especially when the goalie is sleeping it off. Practice playing by yourself and then teach your friends. It’s a great buddy game, allowing players to spaz out as they manipulate the competitors into hamming it up for the cheering crowd. –Jae-Ha Kim


David Beckham is the captain of England’s national team and probably the most famous soccer player after Pele. You’d expect great things from a game carrying his name. But you know you’re in trouble when the only thing positive you’ve written in your notes is “great soundtrack.” The end result here is a bit like France’s performance at the World Cup–overhyped and a bit of a bore. The game features decent graphics, more than 200 top international and club teams, reams of player data and a training mode. Too bad more attention wasn’t paid to game play. Controlling the players during a match was about as easy as bass fishing with spaghetti. And would it kill David to record a few lines of dialogue for the game? Oy! The boys in Manchester wouldn’t want it this way, mate.  –Misha Davenport

ESPN MLS EXTRATIME 2002 • NOT RECOMMENDED • FROM: Konami • RATED: E for everyone • FOR: Xbox

Playing a Konami sports title is akin to the U.S. competing in the World Cup. You can tell they’re trying really hard, but they’re out of their league. So, what’s good about this game? Well, I guess they deserve points for programming the Chicago Fire. Then again, there are only 10 teams in the MLS, so it’s not like they had a choice. Generic game commentary, the inability to control the direction of your pass and graphics that would hardly tax the engine of a PlayStation, let alone the more powerful Xbox–it all adds up to a red card. –Misha Davenport


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