First released for the GameCube a few months ago, Sega Soccer Slam was a surprisingly great action-packed arcadelike sports game. The new Xbox version features a number of additions to its GameCube counterpart, including several new characters who add to an already creative lineup of professional wrestlers, surfers, and angry Scotsmen. Indeed, the characters in the game are a good indication of the nature of Sega Soccer Slam--it's a fast-paced game of three-on-three soccer with a variety of over-the-top moves and special abilities that make for an incredibly fun experience, especially when playing against human opponents.
The Xbox version of Sega Soccer Slam has some great new features.
Even if you're not a fan of soccer or you don't know the sport well enough to be familiar with some of the basics, Sega Soccer Slam should be plenty enjoyable for you. It has a practice mode that will give you a step-by-step rundown of the simple maneuvers such as passing, shooting, volleys, dekes, and steals, as well as some of the more complicated combinations of moves like the give-and-go and the quick shot. Soccer veterans would also do well to take a look at this mode to learn how to perform some of the more-unique maneuvers like the killer kick and the spotlight shot. But really, no matter what your level of soccer knowledge is, it's easy to jump right into one of the other gameplay modes in Sega Soccer Slam and start playing right away.
The Xbox version of Sega Soccer Slam includes an arcade mode, which consists of the exhibition and quick start options and two minigames. The exhibition option functions like any other sports game exhibition mode, allowing you to select a team, an opponent, and a stadium for a quick match. Quick start automatically selects two teams, so you can start a game even faster. The two minigames are hot potato and brawl, both of which place you in an arena against three opponents. The objective in hot potato is to get rid of the ball before it explodes by kicking it into an opponent and scoring points, whereas brawl is just a straight-up fight in which each player has a life meter that can be depleted by socking it to him. The challenge mode is also exclusive to the Xbox version of the game. In this mode, you can put together a team of any three players in the game. If you successfully win four games in a row, you'll unlock one of several hidden characters in the game, but you can only unlock two new characters using the same team members, so you'll have to change your lineup pretty often while playing through the challenge mode.
The quest mode will undoubtedly keep you busy for hours.
While these modes can be fun, the crux of the Sega Soccer Slam experience is the quest mode, in which you select from one of five teams and then compete in a series of 10 games. As you start to win games, you'll start to earn money that you can use to unlock character artwork or items that function as power-ups for your players. For example, you can buy a necklace that gives a specific player additional speed, or purchase a jetpack to enhance his speed even further. In a nice touch, the character art and items shown in the soccer store are specific to the team you've selected. In addition, if you successfully complete all 10 matches, as well as the playoff matches that follow, you'll unlock one of several new stadiums, depending on the team you're using. Needless to say, the quest mode adds a significant amount of replay value to the game, as you'll likely want to see all the items and extras that you can unlock.
In actuality, even if the excellent quest mode weren't in the game, Soccer Slam could have just as easily gotten away with only an exhibition mode and a basic tournament mode, simply because the gameplay is executed so well. Despite its over-the-top arcadelike appearance, Soccer Slam demands a surprising amount of strategy when competing against computer- or human-controlled opponents. As previously mentioned, the game features most of the maneuvers that you would normally find in a regular soccer simulation. The give-and-go, volleys, one-timer shots--you'll have to use all these techniques to succeed, particularly in the later stages of the quest mode, when opponents become much more difficult. When you execute these basic moves, you'll charge a meter located at the bottom of the screen, and the energy in this meter can be used to give individual players a brief boost in speed and shot power or to launch a kill shot--a move that causes the ball handler to launch into the air in slow motion and perform an incredibly powerful kick.
Sega Soccer Slam doesn't exactly push a lot of polygons...