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By Chris De Herrera 
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Soccer Addict Review 
By Allen Gall, Copyright 2002

Revised 3/9/2002

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            Following the success of their most recent release, Tennis Addict, Hexacto has built up a considerable amount of momentum for their newest offering in the Addict series, Soccer Addict.  With this release, Hexacto hopes to capture the loyal following of hardcore soccer fans who enjoyed games like the Fifa series on their desktops.

            Bringing a sports game to any electronic medium is always tricky, and there is always a tradeoff between realism and game play.  On the Xbox, for example, football fans often get into heated debates over which is better, Madden NFL 2002 (which is though to have better arcade-based game play) or NHL Fever 2002 (which is thought to have more realism).  Which approach is better, of course, depends on the player.

While there will always be those who scoff at the idea of replicating a sport on a computer, sports games continue to be large sellers, and the audience for such games is definitely there. Since my appreciation for sports is fairly limited, I am not a part of this game’s target demographic; therefore, I will approach this preview from the perspective of a casual sports gamer who is more interested in immersive, arcade-based game play rather than by-the-book realism.  The version I tested was a late beta at the “feature lock” stage, meaning that no changes would be made to game play and final revisions would focus on stamping out bugs.   

Putting a Soccer Field in Your Pocket

Fans of Tennis Addict will feel right at home the first time they load up Soccer Addict.  As with Hexacto’s other games, there’s enough visual polish and attention to design to catch the eye of most gamers.  The game runs in full-screen landscape mode, and you’re given an overhead view of the field.  Since the playing field is larger than the Pocket PC’s screen, the virtual soccer field will scroll to follow the movement of the ball.  Although the players are tiny, Hexacto put enough detail into the game’s animation to make their movement on the field appear realistic, no small feat considering the relatively small size of the Pocket PC’s screen.  When you’re selecting the player team and your opponent (statistics are given for each team), the game will automatically adjust the color scheme of each team’s uniform, ensuring a high degree of contrast so you won’t get confused as to who’s on which team.  Small animation windows appear during significant game events (fouls, goal kicks, penalties, etc.)  When you score a goal, you’re treated to a full screen animation.  Penalty kicks are handled via a special full-screen mode, making them more challenging but also providing much more flexibility.  Despite all the action, the frame rate remains steady.

Soccer Addict manages to recreate a soccer field on your Pocket PC’s screen without looking cramped.  Note the animated window. 

Stylus Magic

            If you ask anyone who’s played any of the tennis games available for the various Pocket PC emulators (using the buttons and directional pad) versus the stylus input method used in Tennis Addict, they’ll probably tell you that while using a stylus is a little daunting at first, it ultimately provides far more control.  Soccer Addict was designed with the same thought in mind and relies solely on tapping and dragging for input (the only function of the buttons is to pause the game and bring up the menu). 

            Controls are easy.  When you have control of a player, a circular green selection indicator will appear around him.  To move a player, simply tap on the destination, and a green “x” will appear on the screen.  You can drag the “x” around the screen, and the player will follow.  The length between the player and his destination will determine how quickly he will run.  I found this method of control very helpful in navigating around opposing players.  Passing and kicking the ball are also easy; just trace a line from the player to the destination, and the length of the line will determine both the speed and the height of the ball. 

You can also select any of your teammates simply by tapping on them with the stylus.  Your players will do whatever you tell them to do, but they’re only human, and if the selection indicator starts to turn red, you may be pushing your player a little too hard.  The game also offers three formations (one standard, one offensive, and one defensive).  These are accessible by simply tapping on your desired choice on the window at the top left side of the screen which also displays your game time and score.  Although three formations isn’t much to choose from, it’s nice of Hexacto to at least try to include the strategic aspects of soccer in this game. 

Getting Into the Game

            Soccer is a fairly simple game, and once you’ve had a chance to figure out the controls, you can dive right into Soccer Addict.  Three methods of game play are offered: exhibition, tournament, and shoot out.  Exhibition allows you to pit any two teams against each other (good for getting a feel for the game), while tournament is a series of games.  In shoot out, you’ll simply execute and defend penalty kicks. 

            As someone who generally doesn’t like games involving team sports (I ended up selling the copy of NHL Fever 2002 that came with my Xbox on eBay), I found the game to be very playable and fun.  For my first game, I pitted the strong Argentina team against the relatively weak Japanese team.  I’m no Pele on the virtual soccer field or any other, but I had no trouble in taking the ball from my opponents, passing it to my teammates, and launching it toward that all-important goalie box.

            One problem with playing a single-player electronic game based on a team sport is how to maintain that balance between the computer-controlled actions of the teammates and the input provided by the player.  Soccer Addict does a remarkably good job of maintaining that balance—I never got the impression that I was doing all the work, and there were never any times I felt like I was just sitting on the sidelines.  And the action doesn’t stop—events that disrupt the game (fouls, special kicks, etc.) are handled quickly.  Although there’s no replay feature, the animated window (which can be disabled) does a good job of highlighting the action when a player makes a particularly adept move.

Other features will keep you glued to your screen.  The shadows on the screen help create the illusion of a “3D” effect, and during high kicks, the ball gets larger and appears to be rising in the air.  The auditory output is excellent.  You’ll hear some ambient noise along with the usual crowd noises.  The cheers of the audience are used to particularly good effect—hearing their shouts rise in unison when the ball gets close to one of the goals makes the action more intense.  The fields themselves are well drawn, with enough dirt and rough spots to make them look real.  All in all, I found the game to be very engrossing.  I ended up playing my first game in one sitting, and although the Japanese scored a few goals, my team won the match.

A Well-Rounded Package

            Soccer Addict contains plenty of “extras” to keep players entertained.  For example, your game is automatically saved on exiting the program—just hit “resume” from the main menu, and you’ll pick up where you left off.  Sound levels are highly adjustable.  If you find the action to be too slow, you can speed it up.  You can select from a wide variety of teams (the game includes 18 2002 teams), all of which provide a nice range of ability (each team’s strengths are divided into four categories, offense, defense, speed, and stamina).  After you’ve played a few games, you can even view statistics to see where your strengths and weaknesses are.  And if you’re especially good, you can post your score on the Soccer Addict Web Lobby, a persistent, Web-based scoreboard.
Penalty kicks, whether you’re on the defensive or offensive side, take place on a dedicated screen.  Check out the shadows on the players and the wear marks on the field.

My test copy seemed solid, apart from some minor issues that are being fixed.  I was genuinely impressed with Soccer Addict.  Hexacto has managed to make a solid, feature-rich, and entertaining soccer game for the Pocket PC platform.  Hardcore gamers will likely find enough in the game to hold their interest, and casual sports gamer such as myself will enjoy it for the ease of game play and the fact that you can dive into it without becoming an expert strategist.  This title bodes well for the Addict series.  I wouldn’t mind seeing a hockey game or perhaps a baseball game.  I also wouldn’t mind seeing an auto racing title for the platform, especially since there aren’t many good ones for the Pocket PC.  In any case, Soccer Addict is a fun game, and it’ll be interesting to see what lies ahead.  Hexacto plans to release Soccer Addict the week of March 11, 2002.  The price at the time of this writing has not been announced. 

Allen Gall is a freelance game reviewer and the games editor for Pocket PC FAQ. If you have a game you'd like Allen to review, you can e-mail him at allen@Pocket PC FAQ

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