Reviewed: May 8, 2002
Released: April 16, 2002
Midway is quickly becoming famous for reinventing just about every major sport we all know and love. No one can take a traditional game, eliminate the rules, toss in some killer special effects, and create an amazing arcade experience quite like these guys. After “intensifying” sports like hockey, basketball, and football they have now turned their devious attention to soccer.
RedCard 20-03 takes the rigorous sport of soccer and spins it in a way that only Midway could do. Named after the penalty cards the referees use during the game, RedCard maintains a unique and often imbalanced mixture of simulation and arcade sports action.
If you are a soccer purist then you will want to skip RedCard and go directly to EA’s FIFA or Konami’s ISS. RedCard is about having fun and playing the game of soccer without all those boring rules. This instantly makes the game more accessible to gamers with minimal knowledge of the sport and those who love the game but are just looking for a fun diversion.
RedCard 20-03 delivers fast, hard-core adrenaline-style soccer with all different types of exaggerated kicks, mind-bending jukes and daring tackles. Midway has motion-captured real athletes to capture perfect animations such as bike, flip, and scissor-kicks as well as extreme footwork, dekes and quick passing from the feet and head. Here are some other features:
With a name like RedCard you might wonder why Midway even put a referee option in this game. If you turn him on you will wonder even more. Admittedly, I played this game for about ten hours (about 30 games) before I ever turned the referee ON, but once I did the game became virtually unplayable. I was getting red and yellow cards with almost every defensive play I attempted. Perhaps I had become sloppy or overly aggressive in my previous games with no rules, but even so, this game just got really hard – even harder than FIFA - when the referees started watching.
I don’t mind a tough or realistic sports title, but when you are playing a Midway sports game you just don’t expect to get your hand smacked every five seconds. I quickly sent the refs packing and played the game as I think the developers wanted me to play; aggressive, reckless, and with total disregard for the rules of fair play.
Playing RedCard is like playing any other extreme Midway sports game. You have unprecedented control over your players and there are plenty of over-the-top moves you can perform with boosts and turbos all represented with Midway’s signature graphical flare. Controls are intuitive and you will pick up the basic commands within the first half of your first game.
Each player has an adrenaline meter with four segments, and you can use this energy to execute power plays complete with Matrix-style camera effects, fire, smoke, and shockwaves. The meter refills very slowly, forcing you to move the ball around and make use of your entire team. Players all have their own unique attributes that can be modified throughout the season by using attribute points awarded to you for winning matches. This lets you customize and improve your team as the season progresses.
The AI works great for both your team and your opponents. Even when hitting the player-select button, the computer does a great job of picking the best player to defend against the drive, and the “keepers” (goalies) do an amazing job of defending the net.
While there are a lot of cool moves and special effects the game never manages to reach the level of intensity as Midway’s NFL or NHL games. At times, RedCard seems to be more of a soccer game sans rules than your typical Midway experience, but the bottom line is this game is still fun and challenging.
RedCard has an interesting blend of graphics that range from incredibly detailed stadiums to moderately detailed players, to the non-detailed and non-animated crowds. The soccer fields have some of the best looking grass in any outdoor sports game to date, and the fantasy stadiums are imaginative and fun.
The players have a moderate amount of detail, but you can only appreciate these details in the close-up replays. While you have several camera angles to choose from during gameplay, only a few of them are playable. If you zoom in close enough to enjoy the player graphics you will usually be passing off-screen and it will be difficult to orchestrate plays or successfully move the ball without losing it to an unseen opponent.
Special effects are plentiful and include the aforementioned Matrix special effects whenever you execute a turbo variation of any standard move. Players will burst into flames when they turbo and the ball will leave a fiery rocket trail as it slams into the keeper’s chest after a turbo bicycle kick. There is also plenty of post-goal fanfare with confetti, streamers; players running around high-fiving, goalies shaking their heads in disgust, etc.
What little music that exists in RedCard plays during the killer opening movie and the setup menus. It fits the mood of the game and is excellent quality.
Sound effects are minimal but also of equally excellent quality from the hollow thump of the soccer ball bouncing from player to player to the enthusiastic cheers of the crowd. Of course with any sports game you would expect some color commentary, and with a Midway sports game you would expect some offbeat chatter from the guys in the booth.
Oddly enough, the two guys delivering the play-by-play are pretty much all business. They have authentic accents to emphasize this still isn’t a traditional American sport. Perhaps this was the reason their commentary never seemed to fit the rule-breaking action down on the field. My favorite comment was just after a blatant foul. They would say “Everyone saw that except the ref” and I’m thinking “Yeah – cause I turned him off”.
RedCard will keep you busy for a long time. With all the various modes of play and bonus teams and stadiums waiting to be unlocked, there are plenty of challenges to keep you playing until 20-04. Of course, with any sports title the power of longevity lies in its multiplayer capabilities.
Two-player head to head is great fun and if you have the multi-tap you can bump the fun up to four players. Combine your talents with a friend and take on the computer. The color coding of the rings that highlight each player make it incredibly easy to figure out who is who. With all the great game variations and exciting gameplay, this is sure to become a favorite at parties or when a few of the guys just drop by.
RedCard 20-03 falls into that nice notch of a "not-so-serious sports simulation", making it a great alternative to those who like the sport but not the rules. But with just the flip of an option slider you can turn this game into a full-blown simulation that becomes so difficult it becomes almost unplayable.
Midway fans might find that RedCard doesn’t compare with the intense insanity of previous Midway arcade sports titles, but there is plenty of great soccer action that will appeal to soccer players of all ages and all skill levels.