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Urban Freestyle Soccer PlayStation 2 Official Website

Published by Acclaim
Developed by Gusto Games
Released - 6th February 2004
Price : £29.99

Alternate versions of the most popular sports continue to become both more numerous and popular. Titles such as NBA Jam, NBA Street, NHL Hitz etc. have all gained mass appeal because they relax the game rules and allow casual fans of the sports a more comfortable alternative to the games where the rules are exactly as they are in real life. Previously the only football game (known as soccer in the US and I'll call it that from now on) is SEGA Soccer Slam which was actually an enjoyable title. Can Urban Freestyle Soccer be just as much fun?

Like SEGA Soccer Slam, Urban Freestyle Soccer has a reduced number of players and the games are only four-a-side. The pitches are also small and enclosed with transparent walls. It's a no rules, anything goes experience, where you can foul as often as you like and use any means possible to get the ball into the goal. It's not just a kick and run experience though and a variety of skill moves have been included. Performing skill moves will fill your skill meter and once full you'll have a chance to take a nutbuster shot by shooting from the spotlight that temporarily appears on the pitch (in a very similar manner to SEGA Slam Soccer). It's a solid soccer experience with a good control system that can be mastered in a matter of minutes. Liberties have been taken with the physics though and the ball movement is occasionally unexpected and the ball can look like it's got a mind of its own at times. The AI also does the occasional strange thing like completely leaving the ball although this doesn't occur too often, but when it's the goalkeeper who leaves the ball it can prove costly.

Of course there are no official teams here and the ten on offer are as bizarre as they can be. Initially you'll only have access to Shakedown, Taggin' Crew, Skater Boys and the female (and only female team in the game) Hardcore Honeys but six other teams are available to unlock in the games Turf Wars mode. The Turf Wars mode is the heart of the game and it's where you pick a team and get to take on the other teams in the game. Along the way you'll get to upgrade your team. Each team has ratings for speed, skill, power and shooting. On starting the Turf Wars mode you'll be given the opportunity to take the tutorial, which is advisable as it will give you upgrade points. Should you lose a match in Turf Wars mode you'll be given the chance to replay the game. Should you not take this chance it's game over although the game does autosave after a victory so you can just continue at a later date. Other game modes include a versus mode, home turf, freestyle and street challenge, which all help to round the game out.

Graphically Urban Freestyle Soccer generally looks OK. The player models and animations are good, particularly those for the skill moves. The various pitches look OK too but the surrounding environments look rather bland. There isn't a great deal of choice when it comes to camera angles but what's on offer is OK and doesn't harm the gameplay. It would have been good to have been able to set a custom camera angle though. The teams don't wear conventional kits and look like they're more suited to a skateboarding game but each team member will wear an item of clothing in a certain colour so you can identify which team they are on. The pitches all differ from each other and some teams play on grass with proper goals whilst others will play on a tarmac/asphalt pitch with a silk sheet acting as a goal. Some pitches even have other items on them.

There are no problems for deaf gamers with Urban Freestyle Soccer. The tutorial is delivered exclusively in text, which is great but I wish the developers has used a clearer font. On our basic 20" TV the text was difficult to read whilst sitting on the sofa only 5 feet away. I understand that the font has been used to keep it in the correct style but legibility should have come first. There is no game commentary but you do have the teams throwing insults at each other, and arguing amongst themselves when a goal is conceded, and these comments are not subtitled. Thankfully though you could argue that missing out on these insults is actually a blessing in disguise as they can be quite annoying.

Urban Freestyle Soccer is a game that should appeal to most fans of the sport. It can certainly be enjoyable as a multiplayer game, and for a short while as a single player game, but if you're not going to be able to play multiplayer games then there is a question against it's replay value. Certainly being able to play the game online would have been brilliant (especially if the games would have allowed for up to 8 eight players with each gamer controlling one player each, or with 6 human players and AI keepers). Still it's a game that shows a lot of promise and hopefully it will sell well as a sequel could certainly be something special.

Overall Game Rating: 6.9/10
Fast paced, high scoring action that throws realism out of the window in favour of being easy to learn. There are a few AI problems though but as a multiplayer it can be fun. It would have been great to have seen an online option though.

Deaf Gamers comment:
The taunts are not subtitled but this doesn't harm the game in anyway.