Reviewed: December 26, 2004
Released: October 28, 2004
Ahh a soccer game, why I remember it like it was yesterday running around the grassy fields of my youth smacking the heck out of the black and white balls, cheered on by my adoring friends and family. With Manchester United Soccer 2005, I can re-live some of those great moments where I was called “Golden Toe”, sans my loving support system, which, in this game, is replaced by the rowdy soccer crowds of Europe.
Personally, I am not much of a soccer fan; the lack of scoring and general lack of stats and strategy turns me off I suppose. It seems to be this constant struggle, much like Hockey, to keep the ball moving, with the occasional run or shot on goal causing the tension to rise dramatically. Football is more my style game, with cunning strategy, bursts of amazing plays and other great moments, plus the great hyped athletes our media outlets provide us.
With that being said, I have a hard time truly appreciating the rabid nature of worldwide soccer (football) appeal that puts every other major sport to shame, especially American Football. But, as a good yank does, I will try to immerse myself as a crazed football hooligan would.
This title faces intense competition from Winning 11 series and also the infamous FIFA from the equally renowned EA Sports franchise, both games I have played in the past. The game focuses on playing the season with the Manchester squad, although you can choose to play with other teams via exhibition mode as well as a practice mode to hone your skills.
If you are a fan of Manchester United, you will love the facts, photos and other media stuffed into the game, but like many Americans, I could care less. You can create a player that grows in skills and abilities as you play, but be prepared to compensate early on for his lack of prowess.
You can play in two modes during game: “team” mode, the standard hop from one player to another as you pass and shoot the ball or “player” mode, where you control one player through the entire match, something that fits into the career mode role-play nicely. However, the latter finds you detached from a lot of the action, and you have to rely more on your sluggish AI teammates, who remind me more of youth soccer player at times than world class athletes with weak defense and absent minded goalies. The opposing AI is in the same sinking boat, just not very intelligent or responsive at all. Perhaps tweaking the 5 levels of difficulty will find a happy balance-good luck.
I played this title with my Sidewinder game pad, and it did a decent job at controlling the action, but some of the players felt a bit loose and the player switch button was a little finicky, sometimes it would switch, sometimes not. Passing is handled well though; it even has a queue system to prepare the next pass, just like a player would look ahead setting up a big play.
Scoring though is anything but simple, sometimes you will boot it over the goal after aiming for a low corner shot, or fire it limply into the goalie’s waiting hands, it’s pretty frustrating to set up a nice sequence of passes only to fail at the pinnacle of the play.
Player models are finely detailed along with the uniforms and other such Manchester related material but the player animations are a bit jerky, especially on kicks and headers. The crowd is a disappointing flat mass of colors and motion, unlike the recent trend in the ESPN games of 3d modeled crowds.
However, the player celebrations and animations, for such things as penalty calls and celebrations, are surprisingly well done. Other soccer titles show much more fluid and sophisticated graphics than this shoddy work.
Aside from a few announcer glitches, he sounds pretty solid and the musical score is sparse, but good, especially in the opening title sequence and menus. The effects of playing soccer are nothing special really, sounds of a ball being pummeled across the field with the garbled roar of the crowd acting as a kind of white noise.
No online play for starters- only via same system. Say what!?!?! How many games can you recall having 2 players on the same system….not LAN but the SAME PC screen….bizarre-visions of Oregon Trail…. Considering FIFA 2005 will allow for online play, this is a serious disappointment.
You should get some good play time out of the title as all sports games are known for their replay value, and perhaps if you dig Manchester you will like building your player up as you compete with your real world idols.
A $19.99 price tag is decent, but still $20 too much for any Non-Manchester fans, and even the latter fans would need to be sloggered on a few pre-game beverages to appreciate this title. Instead, check out Winning 11 or the FIFA series for your soccer cravings.