Considering soccer/football is the biggest sport in the world it really is no surprise that a lot of game developers and publishers are trying to grab a piece of the pie. The two main players thus far have been EA Sports and Konami who are at loggerheads year in year out trying to up the ante and be the premiere soccer game. Whether FIFA or Pro Evolution Soccer is the best is up to you to debate, but there is always a few wanting into this duo. The sad thing is these games usually fail to come even close. This is Soccer 2005 is Sony's crack at the market with PS2 exclusivity and while it's not as impressive as the other two, there is much to like about the game.
To have a successful soccer game you either need the most realistic gameplay available (Pro Evo 4) or a massive number of licences from popular leagues (FIFA 2005). This is Soccer has a bit of both but still comes up short. In terms of modes on offer you can play an exhibition match between two teams of your choice, play in a cup, league or season format and the two main modes of the game career and challenge. Exhibition is quite self explanatory but the league and cup modes differ to season.
When you choose to play in either a League or a Cup, you have the opportunity to select which teams will play in this league or cup, how many times each team plays each other and various other options. The season mode tries to replicate the real world leagues without the licenses such as Italy's Serie A and the English Premiership with the fictional teams playing against each other in much the same format.
The career mode is more a mini management game where you begin at schoolboy level and have to work to get that team promoted to the higher divisions managing, injuries, suspensions and the fact the players are not superstars and thus can not perform most tactical maneuvers that you see in the game today. The challenge mode is one of the most interesting we have come across in a soccer game for quite some time. As you play a match, you are awarded points for flair and skillful moves while dull and boring defending will lower your score. You can enter a code the game gives you on the official site to win prizes. The match played is between the best in Europe and South America and shows the skills of the game off superbly, its a shame these teams can not be selected in other modes.
The animations of the game are quite impressive and some featured don't even appear in Pro Evolution. One thing that is disappointing is the lack of tackling animations. You have three choices, a soft tackle, a slide tackle and a hook tackle. The last two are going to get you booked if they go wrong and it is easy for this to occur. Players have various tricks which are enabled via the shoulder buttons and in a controversial move, you can even purposely dive which can win you a foul or a yellow card.
The game has few licenses but does have one significant one in the form of the FIFPRO license. This has allowed the developers to include all the professional players in the game so chances are your favorite star features. In terms of the teams none appear to be licensed but some do have their proper names. This is because they are named after where they are located in Europe for instance. All the teams have their proper players in terms of likeness and name but only the logo and official kits are missing.
The engine the game uses gives a distinct feel or arcade gameplay but the animations tell a different story of what the developer was trying to achieve. The game can quickly degenerate into goalfests and it is relatively easier to score than it is in its competitor titles. This gives the game a feeling of casual style rather than the hardcore gamers that EA and Konami are obviously looking for. The game itself plays rather well but the collisions between players is a little disappointing. It is much to hard to win the ball fairly back when in defence putting the focus of the game squarely on scoring more goals then your opponent rather then keeping a clean sheet.
The visuals of the game are a mixed bag. The overall feel is lacking but the players are highly detailed, perhaps even more so then the competitors with players featuring unique features such as tattoos. It is fairly easy to pick out players by their looks rather than the name displayed on screen which is always a good indication of decent player likeness. The game features 27 stadiums for you to choose from, but it appears only a few, if any have been licensed for use. The stadiums also lack the big match atmosphere that FIFA carries across so well in its sound effects and the commentary at times can be to 'in your face' with the commentators going over the top for small plays. The game also features online play via the PS2 network. Via the Eyetoy camera you can also put your face into the game on player models which takes editing to the next level.
By itself This is Soccer 2005 is not the worst soccer game around, but in comparison to the two market leaders it really is not on the same level. There is some potential here though for future editions and the Eyetoy editing is likely to appeal to some gamers, but unfortunately overall this one does not kick a spectacular goal.