International Superstar Soccer 3
There was a time when the International Superstar Soccer games were the best football games that money could buy. Of course that was a few years ago when Konami's two football game developing teams (KCEO & KCET) were creating games that both carried the name. With the advent of the PlayStation 2, Konami decided to call the KCET (Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo) games Pro Evolution Soccer and the KCEO (Konami Computer Entertainment Osaka) games were to retain the International Superstar Soccer (ISS) label.
If you know anything about football games on the PlayStation 2 you'll know that Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) and it's sequel are quite simply superb and are the closest thing you're going to get to the real thing. The ISS series, which has previously had two games on the PlayStation 2, has experienced something of a fall from grace. The gameplay has failed to improve from the Nintendo 64 versions and when placed against PES the difference in quality is astounding. Let's see if ISS 3 goes someway to closing the gap.
Konami have often remarked that the ISS series is aimed towards fans of arcade football rather than trying to be ultra-realistic like PES. Konami are well aware that the unrealistic FIFA games often sell more than PES despite being a vastly inferior game. This is because PES requires a footballing brain in order to do well, where FIFA can be played by anyone who knows how to press buttons. ISS 3 is a blend between the two extremes and whilst it isn't completely realistic it does bare a closer resemblance to the real game than most games out there.
So what does ISS 3 offer then? Well there is the standard offerings of Friendly mode, International Cup, Custom League, World League and Training for starters. This time around KCEO have added a points system. Win a game and you'll be awarded points that allow you to purchase extra moves, extra kit patterns and extra stadium parts that can be used to create stadiums of your own. To aid you in your collection of points, a Mission mode has been included. The Mission mode is basically a series of challenges whereby you have to reach a certain score in a second half of a match. You can choose to play the missions on either easy, normal or hard difficulty modes with the more difficulty levels yielding a higher number of points. In fact the Mission mode is reminiscent of the old scenario modes that used to be included on the Nintendo 64 versions.
Of course novelty features are one thing but what really matters is how the game plays. It's fair to say that if you're currently enjoying PES or PES 2, then ISS 3 will feel awkward and limiting at first. The AI of your opponents is questionable with defenders often taking up weird positions at times and at other times doing brilliant things like running back to head the ball out after your shot beats the keeper. The movement of the players also seems a little wooden and restricted at times. It's also a shame to see animation problems. Sometimes players appear to head the ball without making contact with it and it's fairly common to see the ball behind a player suddenly appear in front of him. Almost every foul seems to result in a yellow card too, which can be a little testing at times. These are only slight niggles though and it's fair to say that the game is quite enjoyable.
KCEO have added a new feature whereby you get to press the L1 button to zoom in on the action in order to beat a player in a 1v1 situation. This is a nice idea but the effectiveness of it is questionable. For a start you can only do this when your player is on either of the wings and you can usually get by the defender without resorting to it. If this feature had allowed you to zoom in on the action when your striker was inside the opponents penalty box, then it would have been so much more useful.
Graphically ISS 3 looks great. A fair amount of the players resemble their real life counterparts and the included stadiums look pretty impressive too. It's good to see glimpses of the team managers getting off the bench and being frustrated with poor performances of the players. The crowd still look like cardboard cutouts though, but I suppose this is due to technical limitations more than anything else.
ISS 3, like most sports games, causes no problems for deaf gamers. The commentary isn't subtitled but this doesn't really damage the game in anyway. All information given in the Mission modes etc. is given completely in text so you'll fully understand what is being asked of you. The text is static, large and very easy to read so even on a small TV it's going to cause you no problems.
Is ISS 3 worth it if you have PES or PES 2? Well if you get on with the PES series and have adjusted to the difficulty, then ISS 3 has nothing to offer you in all honesty. If you can't get on with the Pro Evolution series then ISS 3 is a worthy alternative but it just doesn't offer the same satisfying gameplay. PES 2 even offers an easier difficulty setting for it's famed Master League mode, which most will find a better alternative to simplified games such as ISS 3. Of course we are communicating to PlayStation 2 owners here but if you own a GameCube then it's a different story. With no PES to take advantage of, ISS 3 should prove to be a good alternative to fill the void when it is released for the Gamecube in April.
Game Rating: 7.0/10