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For the soccer purist, ISS '98 offers a mind-boggling array of coaching options. You can select your starting lineup from 20-man squads and assign each player a specific role. A player's motivation -- symbolized by six different faces, including the grinning one above -- can greatly affect his performance. For the biggest psychological edge, pick an especially cheerful soul as your captain.
Even if you bypass ISS '98's sophisticated coaching options and go straight to the pitch, you'll discover razzle-dazzle moves available at the push of a button. While the A Button launches a simple pass, Up C initiates a through pass that the receiving player can field while running. Right C launches a one-two pass, in which the receiver shovels the ball off with a tap of his foot.
Players are rated on 10 different characteristics, including speed, stamina, defensive ability and, most intriguingly, the ability to curve a kicked ball. The national teams are fairly faithful to their real-life counterparts, but all the players are fictional. If you crave a game with authentic stars, you'll want to pick up one of EA Sports' FIFA games.
You can play Dr. Frankenstein, soccer-style, and create a player. In keeping with the sport's international appeal, you can give him a name with plenty of accent marks and even a Greek letter. Unlike some sports games, though, you only get a limited number of skill points, so you can't create a soccer superman.
Although the players making up ISS '98's national teams are fictional, the teams' strengths and weaknesses closely resemble those of their real-life counterparts. In short, Japan's always going to have a tough time with Brazil. As a matter of fact, the 16 nail-biting second-half scenarios include a Japan-Brazil mismatch, in which the plucky Japanese are down by three goals with time running out. Now that's a test of your soccer skills.
ISS '98 gives you a choice of nine international stadiums; day, evening or nighttime play; sunny, cloudy, rainy or snowy weather; and five CPU skill levels. You can command any of the three refs to call or not call fouls, offsides or yellow cards. Informal handicapping can be done by fielding seven to 11 players per side and weak, average or excellent goalies.
ISS '98 deftly combines endless strategic possibilities with out-and-out fun. While lacking the coveted FIFA license, it merits serious consideration by any soccer fan -- or anyone who appreciates great sports games, period.
Contributed by Evil Ryu (51609) on Aug 16, 2005.