World Cup calling

Soccer sims get you ready for a summer of sport


FIFA SOCCER
2002 for PlayStation 2. $80.
Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNNN


GRAPHICS: Eerily accurate, down to the shape of the stadiums.

ADDICTIVENESS: Immense, especially if you’re trying to take San Marino to the World Cup.

ANTI-SOCIAL FACTOR: Bouncing a ball by yourself’s no fun.

PROXIMITY TO THE REAL THING: The World Cup awaits.

WORLD TOUR SOCCER 2002 for PlayStation 2. $80. Rating: NNN

GRAPHICS: As good as it gets.

ADDICTIVENESS: Time flies by.

ANTI-SOCIAL FACTOR: Heckle your friend when he dives for a penalty.

PROXIMITY TO THE REAL THING: Spelling counts.now that the olympics are fin-ished, full attention can finally be paid to the other great sporting event this year — the World Cup.There are fewer than 90 days until two weeks of wall-to-wall soccer heaven (I’m counting). Footie fanatics are already trying to figure out the best ways to catch matches that will be shown at 4 am local time and whether their favourite boozer will be able to open in the middle of the night for England v Argentina.

Canada, typically, won’t be there, so if you were hoping to see how Canuck stars like Craig Forrest could handle the world stage, settling in front of the TV now for some soccer simulation will be your only choice.

There are two very different soccer games for PS2, FIFA Soccer 2002 and World Tour Soccer 2002. Both are excellent time-wasters capable of putting a smile on the face of even the most obsessive football fan, but the details vary.

FIFA Soccer 2002 is the franchise for soccer sims. Updated annually, it’s the most accurate and most lifelike. Players look and act like the real guys (even given the success of the women’s World Cup, there’s no women’s game), right down to the advertisers’ logos on the front of the shirts.

Play in the rain and the ball will skid around. Hit it with the right part of your boot and you’ll be able to curl your ball like Beckham. Four hundred different teams are represented, and for sad nations like us who aren’t going to the big dance in Korea and Japan, there’s an option that lets you try to take your lousy team to the World Cup by competing in all the qualifying games for a shot at glory. Next to watching a real game, this is as good as it gets.

World Tour Soccer 2002 is a more generic game but has loads of nifty extras. Teams available here are more diverse, ranging from big clubs like Barcelona to English lower-division teams and tiny regional clubs from around the world. The players look even more realistic than on FIFA, but attention to other details is lacking. Considering all the time spent on making the scene as realistic as a television broadcast, right down to the camera in the corner of the net, you’d think they’d make sure the names of the players were spelled correctly.

Little gripes aside, the best thing about World Tour Soccer 2002 is your ability to cheat. Diving has become something of an art in soccer: players routinely tumble to the ground as though they’d been shot, in hopes of getting a penalty. World Tour Soccer 2002 is the first game to allow you to pretend you’re enrolled in the Manchester United school of acting and take an intentional dive.

Do it right and you could get a crucial penalty. Ham it up too much and it’s a red card. Genius. mattg@nowtoronto.com

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