Member Log In or Register


Columns & Editorials
Podcast (RSS)

Twitter Feed

reviews info and tools

Virtua Striker 3 v2002 Package Art
  Amusement Vision

Virtua Striker 3 v2002

Despite their noted successes in other sports, Sega just can’t seem to produce a decent soccer game. Their efforts range from the Dreamcast’s awful “90 Minutes” to their comic-but-decent Sega Soccer Slam. Virtua Striker might well be the company’s soccer daddy, but we can’t help but feeling mighty disappointed that while the PS2 gets Virtua Striker, we get stuck with the runt of the Virtua franchise.

If there’s one thing the Gamecube’s not lacking, it’s soccer games. We’ve got ISS2, the France, Italy, Brazil and Argentina rolled-into-one, and FIFA is still racking up sales despite its perennial uselessness. With newcomers Red Card and Sega’s own comedy soccer title, the market for an arcade-style soccer game is rapidly becoming sown up. Can Virtua Striker 3 find a way though the defence? Can we continue to pepper this review with lame soccer metaphors? Sadly, you already know the answers to both.


Enjoy them while they last, because these are just about the last good words on Virtua Striker 3 you’ll read in this review. And the first time you see those players stride out onto the pitch, you too will be impressed. The player models are superb, each slightly cartoony player looking more detailed and ‘solid’ than those in ISS2. Unfortunately, things turn sour when those players start to move.

VS3’s animations are a mixed bag, ranging from the superb mid-air volleys and headers – much more fluid and convincing than those in ISS2 – to the abysmal. Players run like cartoon robots, arms pumping mechanically by their sides; some of the goal celebrations are so stop-start you’ll think you’re watching a Harryheusen film; and, annoyingly, players will often just stand still in the middle a celebration or a referee’s warning while their animations are loaded.

Visually, if nowhere else, VS3 is full of neat touches. Stadiums, of which there are tonnes, actually change in appearance depending on the size of the crowd. My first match, Ireland versus Israel, was a tedious affair that you would expect to be attended only by the players’ mothers. The stadium actually looked deserted, with lacklustre groups of fans in between rows of empty seats – a superb touch. Other such touches abound – the ball (the groovy Adidas World Cup one) seems much ‘rounder’ than in other games, and looks really good in the saveable replays. Player pause to have their team photos taken before the match, and the goal celebrations are varied, ranging from the mundane fist-in-the-air, to the frankly worrying arms-entwined walk back to the halfway line.

However, for each nice touch there’s an unforgivable fault. The position of the camera is awful, far too close to the action (no doubt so we can ogle those great player models). This means you never know who’s ahead of you, and as the camera position tends to change in the middle of an attack, you’ll usually just play down the nearest wing to avoid the hassle. Glitches are noticeable, especially in replays when the ball adjusts in mid-air to meet a foot or hand. In one memorable goal celebration, players started to float in the air, which has to be against the rules. VS3 looks great in screenshots, but much less convincing when it actually moves.


In a word: dreadful. For starters, there’s no commentator – which makes for a terribly dull affair after the delight of ISS2’s professional-style commentary. Instead, an irritating American voice spouts inanities like ‘Out of Field!’ and ‘Fantastic!’ whenever the actions stops. For reasons best known to Sega, a horrible jazz tune kicks in during every replay – which is doubly annoying seeing as even the most off-target toe-pokes gets a replay, to which the announcer cries 'So close!' even if the ball ends up in Row Z.

Crowd noises are dire – we heard better on the SNES – and the only audio highpoint is the rousing intro theme. You can get away with this sort of drivel in a noisy arcade, but next time Sega needs to consider the importance of audio to that elusive soccer atmosphere.


The most important thing about a soccer game is, unsurprisingly, the quality of the gameplay, and for all of its flash visuals this is where Virtua Striker just can’t keep up. VS3’s soccer is not as awful as it first appears – its simplistic button tapping inexplicably becomes less tedious as time goes on – but compared to the Rivaldo-like skills of ISS2, it plays, well, more like your Dad.

Its faults are rife. The same button is used to pass, put a foot-in tackle and a sliding tackle, meaning that for most of the game you’ll just be hammering the B button randomly hoping to gain possession. And as you can’t choose whether to put the foot in or to slide, trying to get the ball is dreadfully random. As a result, each game will have an average of three red cards – per side – and even the computer players can’t do it properly.

There’s no option to do any feints, one-twos, or any of the kind of trickery we’ve come to expect from soccer games thanks to the ISS series. There isn’t even a run button, meaning the players amble around like a Sunday morning non-league side, getting tackled and trying to win the ball back over and over and over again.

To be fair, Sega has made a good stab at extending the lifespan of the game for the home market by adding in the "Road to the International Cup" mode. It’s a good idea – you manage your team for four years, arranging matches, overseas visits, training and so on – but it just doesn’t entertain. Part of the reason is that your player’s training, motivation, fan support, and so on don’t actually seem to make a damn bit of difference to their performance on the field, where one player is pretty much indistinguishable from the other. But it’s mainly due to the fact that VS3 just plays such a wretchedly basic game of soccer, there’s little desire to sit through four years worth of matches. Full marks for effort, but as they say in the game, it’s the results that count.


The usual multiplayer options are here, and at least against a human player you can avoid the tedium of the one-sided games against the CPU. But the gameplay is just so simplistic that I found it impossible to avoid the temptation to stick ISS2 back in and indulge in the sexy soccer that Konami only seems able to provide.


For all of Virtua Striker’s bells and whistles, there’s no reason you would want this in your collection if you own ISS2 or even FIFA. In many ways, it’s the polar opposite of Amusement Vision’s other GCN title, Super Monkey Ball. Monkey Ball is all about how the game plays and not how it looks; VS3 is all mouth and no trousers.

Virtua Striker is caught between two worlds, not 'arcade' enough to be a viable alternative to the NBA Jam-style gameplay of Red Card and Sega Soccer Slam, and not serious enough to compete with the big boys of ISS and FIFA, much less Pro Evolution on the PS2. Best avoided, this really is the Saudi Arabia of the serious soccer contenders.

final score 6.0/10

Staff Avatar Gearóid Reidy
Staff Profile | Email
"Compare your lives to mine and then kill yourselves."

Bookmark and Share
This Story in Printer Friendly Format

E-Mail This Story

Search Our Website:

All original content ©1996 - 2010 Nintendojo is an independent website and is not affiliated with Nintendo of America or Nintendo Co. Ltd. All third party images, characters, and names are property of their original creators. About | Contact | Hiring