Originally created 05/06/02

Soccer, surf and motocross games



Those looking for a soccer version of NHL Hitz or NFL Blitz might be disappointed in Red Card Soccer 2003, the latest sports game from Midway.

Red Card features elements of Midway's signature "no-rules" style of arcade sports action, but it is significantly toned down in comparison to its distant cousins. While Red Card features turbo speed and some very aggressive tackling, what you don't have is soccer players bursting into flame or body slamming and hog piling opponents.

But that's not a bad thing. Red Card has other strengths that compare it favorably against more "realistic" soccer games like EA Sports' FIFA series. It's easy to learn, but challenging to play, and includes enough of the crazy Midway touch that has made its brand of sport game so much fun.

Red Card features an ample variety of play modes. The most notable is conquest mode, which requires you to beat every team one by one to unlock fantasy teams and arenas. Players can also set up tournaments and play friendly exhibition matches with one of a great number of professional teams in five continents.

The game itself is both easy to learn and challenging. As in the real game, scores don't come easy, thanks to the aggressive nature of defensive play. Defensive attacks range from slide tackles to simply hammering an opponent with a forearm. These infractions are near constant, and the referee, for the most part, looks the other way. When the referee does pull out the whistle, though, it seems purely arbitrary rather than the result of a particularly bad foul. But this doesn't happen enough to get frustrating.

Other things, however, get very frustrating. Scoring often seems more dependant on luck than skill - some harmless looking shots end up in the net while shots in close or off breakaways are often deflected by a suddenly supernaturally swift goaltender. And on defense, players without the ball rarely move intelligently. More than once, I had defenders who gave up pursuit of attacking opponents to stay in their zone, resulting in more than a few breakaway scores for the bad guys.

Overall, though, Midway's direction away from some of the over-the-top tendencies of its previous titles is a good one. Red Card puts on a good show, and soccer fans looking for something less rigorous than FIFA should give it a try.

- Red Card Soccer 2003 by Midway. For PlayStation 2. Available now. Price $50.

TRANSWORLD SURF:

With such mediocre attempts as Surfing H3O and Sunny Garcia Surfing, no one has scored anything better than a wipeout on the PlayStation 2 when it comes to surfing games. In the thin wake of those predecessors comes Transworld Surf, the first surfing game on the PS 2 that you might call fun. Still, it's far from perfect.

As in other surfing games, Transworld's competition modes work on a point-based system, but also include a number of Tony Hawk-style objectives you must complete to unlock new beaches and boards. Another thing Transworld has the others don't is additional surfers, swimmers, debris and marine life to contend with. Staying on good terms with your surroundings boosts your karma meter, which, if your karma is good, is the best way to avoid wipeout and, worse, getting eaten by sharks.

Other modes include multiplayer and a free surf mode that doubles as a tutorial. As for the combos, there are many to master, and learning new tricks combined with the secondary objectives keeps the game from getting dull too quickly. But there's nothing to mask the fact that you are performing those tricks on the same waves over and over again. Visuals are Transworld's sore spot, the only differences in the beaches being that, as you move up, the waves get a little bigger and faster.

If you can handle that, then there's a lot to enjoy with Transworld Surf.

- Transworld Surf 2003 by Infogrames. For PlayStation 2. Available May 1. Price $50.

MOTOCROSS MANIACS ADVANCE:

Plentiful options and simple, addictive game play fuel Motocross Maniacs Advance, one of a number of fun titles recently released on the Game Boy Advance.

With 22 races to complete in the game's championship mode, there's a lot of racing to do, although most gamers should dominate the computer competition after the first few events. For that reason, Motocross Maniacs is a game best played with others in the multi-player mode.

With a dozen tracks and a number of unlockable characters, Motocross doesn't lack for variety, which makes this game a must-look for any racing game enthusiast, particularly fans of previous GBA racing games like Mario Kart Advance.

- Motocross Maniacs Advance by Konami. For Game Boy Advance. Available now. Price $30.