Virtua Striker 3 ver.2002
Coming out on the GameCube after established football titles such as ISS 2 and World Cup version of the FIFA series was always going to be a challenging situation for Virtua Striker 3. This is the first time the game has come to a non-SEGA console and therefore it comes to a new audience. How does it fare against it's illustrious rivals? Let's take a look.
There is one point that we should make very clear. Virtua Striker 3, like the others in the series is an arcade interpretation of football. If you're looking for the GameCube's answer to Pro Evolution Soccer then move along. VS3 is no ultra realistic simulation of the beautiful game and if you're expecting this then disappointment is a certainty. If you've played any of the VS games whether it be on an arcade machine or on a Dreamcast and you liked the game then chances are you're going to like VS3.
The game is definitely not wanting for gameplay modes. You can choose to take 1 of 64 international teams to the World Cup, or as it is known in VS3 the International Cup. You have a full program spanning 4 game years at your disposal. You can take your time to friendlies, arrange overseas trips, take part in training, compete in qualifiers and eventually end in the final tournament. Saving your Road to International Cup progress comes at the expense of 15 memory blocks. Secondly you have Variation mode. Here you can play in a league, cup, knockout tournament or take part in three match ranking mode. The ranking mode pits you against three teams and ranks your performance. At the end of the third match you are given a grade and advice on how to improve your play. Finally there is the VS match and a penalty kick shoot-out. You can also edit the players and their names which is very useful particularly as all the players' names are annoyingly fictitious.
So VS3 has gameplay options in spades but what's it like on the pitch where it counts? Like we said earlier unless you're a fan of the previous versions you're not going to get on with VS3. The controls have been over simplified and the gameplay lacks substance. There is no run button and the players who are not in possession are naturally faster than the one with the ball. This suggests that the game relies on a pass and move strategy in order to make your way upfield. This kind of play is hindered by the fixed camera angle. You can't adjust the camera angle and it is just too close to the action to plan an effective passing strategy. The players seem like they are walking all over the place. If your TV supports the 60Hz mode that this game offers then this problem is remedied, as once you are in the 60Hz mode the game runs a hell of a lot faster. Goalkeepers are far too erratic and run out of the goal for no reason at all and they have a preference to slap the ball away with both hands rather than catching the ball. The referees like to dish out red cards like there's no tomorrow.
Oddly enough the game does do some things better than other football games. The AI in VS3 has learnt the offside trap and puts it to work with devastating effect. The player animations are also superb and exceed any other game on the market. The animated crowd also looks magnificent and each member of the crowd appears to independent from the rest instead of the usual messy blob of pixels that usually makes up the crowd on a football game. The stadium and player graphics are easily as good as any other football game and whilst the stadiums are unofficial, in name anyway, they look superb. The game even has a real time feature so if you play your game at night the floodlights will be on whilst a game in the morning will see the sun gleaming on the pitch.
There isn't really any commentary in VS3. A voice will call out 'kick-off' or 'goal-kick' and other gameplay elements but there isn't any text to indicate these comments. To be honest these remarks do absolutely nothing for the game and is simply a nod to the games arcade roots.
Virtua Striker 3 will be appreciated by fans of the series but serious football fans ought to wait for Pro Evolution Soccer to arrive on the GameCube. It's not a bad game by any means and if you take it on the basis of simply of being a game, it is quite enjoyable. However if you are after a true football game this title will probably not appeal to you and that is a shame because there are quite a few promising elements in the game.
Overall Game Rating: 6.7/10 Virtua Striker 3 ver.2002 is strictly for fans of the series. If you liked the Dreamcast version and were happy giving away £1 coins to the arcade version then this title will be a godsend to you. However everybody else will probably be disappointed.
Deaf Gamers comment: No problem for deaf gamers with VS3.