September 15, 2002
This is Soccer 2003 - Preview
Release Date Publisher Developer Rating Players Price
11/10/2002SonyTeam Soho1-4$99.95

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Matches will be played at night.
One of the biggest surprises in last years pre-Christmas game crush was the release of Team Soho's impressive This is Soccer 2002. Previous games in the series on PSOne were solid, but never brilliant and few expected the series first outing on PS2 to be any different. Team Soho proved us wrong as they created a game that not only equalled, but in some regards surpassed, EA's FIFA series and Konami's ISS series of games. This new game, This is Soccer 2003, which is identical to This Is Football 2003 but renamed for the Australian market, includes many improvements designed to enhance the experience, and remedy the few shortfalls of last years game.

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Going for the spectacular goal.
One of the strongest aspects of last year's title was the number of teams available to play with. The 2003 game is no exception with 80 international teams and over 550 club teams (compared to 300 total last year) covering 15 leagues and 24 divisions. In all this adds up to a whopping 13,500 players (compared to 8,000 last year). As well as the European Leagues the game now includes Japanese, American, Korean, Mexican, Argentinean and Brazilian leagues. Sadly, there still hasn't been any word on the inclusion of the Australian League, if you can call it that after recent happenings. Hopefully the inclusion of so many teams and players won't be at the expense of gameplay development.

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Can he stop the shot?
The number of game modes should also impress. As well as the standard Exhibition, Cup and Season modes Team Soho are including a Challenge mode that pits you, as the South American All-Stars, against the CPU-controlled European All-Stars. Once the match is over, you're given a password and a score which relates to your overall performance (goals scored, successful passes, tackles made, etc.) which can then be entered into an online high score table. Top scorers will be rewarded for their efforts. Exactly what this includes remains to be seen.

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Australia is also in the game.
Naturally, the Career mode will provide the most longevity for the title as you select a youth team and take them from the small local league right up to the top leagues. As an added twist you can re-name all the players on your team to you friends and family for a more personal touch. The skill ratings for each player also change through the year as they play more, or less, games thus altering there on pitch performances.

As for the gameplay style the game will remain faithful to last years version - a simulation with some arcade style elements. The passing in last years game took a little getting used to, especially for those who prefer the older FIFA ball sticking to the foot game. Hopefully the player AI from last years game, and in particular their habit of standing in useless positions on the pitch, will be remedied.

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The typical in-game viewpoint.
Such is the detail that the players heads alone are apparently modelled using 850 polygons, and while some players are a little off in the looks department (you can't model 13,000 players perfectly for one game) most of the major players resemble their real-life counterparts. Team Soho have promised that this is one of the areas most improved from last years game where the players weren't that great looking. Once again the background crowds look spectacular with some wild animations, flares and flags being waved during matches. Not content with last years version, which I thought was excellent, Team Soho are also promising better lighting, more detail and better shadows. Finally the game now includes a new animation system that will hopefully fix some of the disappointments of last year's title.

This Is Soccer 2003 is a very impressive looking game. There are obviously a lot of enhancements over last year's game, not only in gameplay terms, but also graphically and in terms of game modes. While we are still to see Konami and EA's latest efforts it's doubtful that they will include as many teams as this game, or as many enhancements over last years versions. This Is Soccer 2003 is set for release here in Australia on October 11, 2002.