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Alexi Lalas International Soccer (PSX) Review

Background Info

Take 2 Interactive has become popular with previous games like Gex 3D, Monkey Hero, and One. All are unique in their own way, but they all are a type of adventure game. Alexi Lalas International Soccer (ALIS) is Take 2's first sports game for the Playstation. As usual, the first time you do something you make a few mistakes, and Take 2 is no different than anybody else.

Graphics : 60 There are 6 views, all of which are playable, but the best view to play in is either the side view or target view. I prefer the target view because the camera always puts the player with the ball in the center of the screen. This view lets you see all around you. There is also a small field radar that shows you where every player on your team is located. It also shows you where every player from the opposing team is located, too. The radar is very basic with the white dots representing your players and the other colored dots representing the other team's players. ALIS utilizes the Playstation Hi-Res graphics mode and has over 250 different motion-captured player movements by USA star Eric Wynalda. Why Alexi wasn't the one who was motion-captured is beyond me. Even though the game is in Hi-Res, it still doesn't look as clean as FIFA '98! The animation, on the other hand, is very smooth with no choppy action what so ever. Headers, flipkicks, and cross-overs look very realistic. The players seem to flow into each movement very naturally, although the game usually slows down a little while doing any special action. All the players and stadiums are in polygons, but the crowd is a cheap looking texture mapping that is very outdated. The players don't look very detailed and for some reason ALIS likes to show off their sub-par player details with an up-close look at each team before each game. Thank goodness you can just skip this scene and go straight into the game.

Audio : 83
ALIS supports stereo sound, but no Dolby--another vital option this game is missing. The sound is good, though. The crowd chants are unique for each team and the in game music is pretty good. But ALIS surprised me when I started to play my first match and the players on the field started to talk.

I was bringing the ball down the field with my center when I hear someone yell "right wing!" So I passed it to my right forward. He was all alone so I brought the ball closer to the goal down the right side. Then I heard another player yell, "center!" So I decided to chip the ball to my center. He was all alone in front of the goalie. I attempted a header and GOAL!!

My players where talking to each other and it actually helped me to score a goal. Amazing! This sets a new standard for all sports. Just imagine if you are playing football and your wide receiver yells, "I'm open" or in basketball someone yells, "Give me the rock!" Another cool thing about the player speech is that the players would speak the language for whatever country they were representing. This extremely adds to the fun factor of the game. Only if Take 2 used this type of innovation throughout the whole game.

Interface/Options : 70
ALIS has a very basic menu system. Nothing special here, just a list of choices with a picture of Alexi Lalas in the background. When you are choosing which teams to play as, you can see the team's jersey design in a small window. The menu is easy to operate and organized well, but really lacks the flare that EA puts in its sports titles.

The analog works well with ALIS. The players respond to the controls instantly and it's very easy to maneuver in a crowd. There are several button configurations but you are not allowed to set up your own. The configurations they have are OK, but I would have liked to change a few buttons. ALIS uses all the buttons on the gamepad and a few button combinations as well. I found it very easy to do everything and my first goal of the game was a header off of a chip from my right wingman.

There is no dual shock vibration in ALIS. With today's standards, it is almost a must-have in any game and if use well it makes the game more interactive. Not only will you see your player doing a complete flip from a hard tackle, you would be able to feel your player crash into the ground. The dual shock was made to bring the gamer closer to the game, so it's to every game developer's advantage to use the technology.

Gameplay : 67
There are two modes to play in ALIS: Friendly Match and Tournament. The Friendly Match allows you to play against a friend or computer opponent in an exhibition game. This is a good way to learn all the different moves and strategies in the game. After a few practice exhibition games, you should be ready to enter into the Tournament.

The Tournament is a signal-player game where you must choose a team and try to win it all. First, you must choose which team to represent in the tournament. There are 70 international teams and some secret teams also. You can look at all the players on your team by choosing the squad setup. In the squad setup screen you see the formation your team is in, substitute, and compare different players. You can go to the squad setup screen before a match or any time during a match by pressing start to pause the match.

There are several ways to play a tournament, World Draw, Random Draw, Seeded Draw, and Knock Out Competition. The Draw games are all basically the same; the tournament begins with a preliminary league divided into eight groups. Each group contains four teams. You will play three games, one against every team in your group. The two teams with the highest point total at the end of the preliminary season in each group are entered into the knock out competition. There are no draws in the K.O. competition. So if you finish in a match in a draw, you go into overtime. If neither team scores in O.T. then the game is decided through penalty kicks.

Now let's talk about the actual gameplay. Once on the field the action is non-stop, except for penalties...which happen almost every time you slide tackle. It gets pretty annoying, especially since in the FIFA series slide tackling is a key defensive maneuver. It is very easy to pass to any player and with target shooting, you always know where you are aiming at. A round target is displayed within the goal when you press the kick button. You are allowed a few seconds to aim the target before your player actually kicks the ball. Even though the target is on the right upper corner of the goal, the attributes of the player kicking the ball ultimately decide how accurately the ball will travel.

During penalty kicks, you either control the goalie or the kicker. If you are the goalie, just move in the direction you think the kicker is aiming at, right as he kicks, to block the shot. It is not easy, but once you try it a few times you should be able to block some shots. If you are the kicker just hit the kick button and aim--it's as easy at that. There are some small but vital things missing like referees, an evade button of some sort, and stats. ALIS has very little to no stats. I don't know what Take 2 was thinking, but without decent stats, any sports game is not going to do well. There are no player stats, and very few team stats. I was very disappointed about this and it really brings down the replay value of the whole game.

Difficulty : 59
The AI seems to be smart at times, but every once in a while you will see something that makes you think, "How stupid." Example, the computer made a great steal from me and now it was just he and my goalie. Instead of trying to fake the goalie or taking a shot, the computer just runs straight in to my goalie. Of course my goalie just jumps on the ball and stops the play. How stupid can the AI be?

It is always hard to score at first when you are playing a new soccer game but once you learn the sweet spots you can usually score a few goals. Well, in ALIS, there are very few sweet spots, but once you get there, it is a guaranteed goal. I scored over 10 goals in one half using Jamaica playing against Brazil. This really makes the game boring and pointless in a way. Why would you even want to play the game when you know you are going to win. Thank goodness for Friendly matches so you can play against someone with a brain.

Overall : 67
There are better soccer games out there, but ALIS has brought some new ideas to the game, such as players talking and great animation. The game needs a lot of work on a few areas. More stats are a must because soccer gamers are very picky and rare. The graphics need to be improved a bit to compete with games like FIFA '99. A create-a-player option would have been nice too. I hope Take 2 takes this experience and learn from their mistakes. ALIS 2000 could be serious contender if they improve on the graphics and statistical aspect of the game.

By: James Howard 6/14/99

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