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Well now, we can feel a little skeptical about Microsoft's latest foray into the world of Football (Soccer to some of you). Their last effort was unfortunately laughable, this time though they have enlisted the help of Rage (Makers of Incoming and Striker). Here are a few of the features:
Installation & Settings
Installation is a breeze, Autoplay starts once you put the CD into your CD-ROM/DVD-ROM drive and then the install begins. The most brain taxing thing you have to do here is to decide what type of install you want, small, typical or full. The game will also install DirectX 6.1 and DirectMedia if you don't already have them installed.
Once the game is installed you click on the new icon via your desktop, then you are able to decide on what display settings you want to use. I setup my G400 to 1280x1024 and loaded the game up. The game begins with the usual Full Motion Video intro, nothing special about it, just a plain old stadium and a few special effects.
At last we can get onto the gaming side of things, we are presented with a number of options upon loading the game - they include
I began my first game with the friendly option, I selected the two default teams, England and France. Before starting the first game, there are a number of settings to choose from such as Weather (Snow, Rain or Sunny), Stadiums etc. I yet again went with the default settings. The game begins with your team coming out of the tunnel, the first thing I noticed was that the player names are not correct, I'm sorry If I sound dumb, but I have never figured out why some companies can use player names while others such as Microsoft/Rage have to make up their own?
The controls are quite basic considering the number of moves available to you, playing on the Microsoft Freestyle Pro certainly made things easier. The basic moves are shoot, tackle, pass, sprint, high ball, low ball, defend the ball. The game allows you to hold the shoot/pass buttons down for harder of faster shots/passes, one of the few improvements over the current top of the crop Fifa 99. The controls in the game are not quite up to the Fifa standard, pressing pass for instance, once pressed you can't seem to get out of doing it if it was a mistake, so pressing pass then pressing shoot will still result in a pass.
Microsoft International Football 2000 is certainly full of fast paced action, but it is a little bit too easy to be tackled so fluid passing football is hard to come by. There are no special moves like in Fifa so if you want to shimming, dummy or a nutmeg players look elsewhere because you won't find those here. The game has a different feel from Fifa 99, no it doesn't have as many moves as Fifa but gameplay and enjoyment wise, it is a damn sight better than F.A. Premier League Stars.
Microsoft International Football can be run in a massive amount of resolutions, depending on your graphics card of course. I'm using the G400 so Direct3D resolutions and speed are not a problem so I went straight ahead and ran the game in 1280x1024. The animation on the players is excellent, kit designs are almost perfect and the stadium designs are much better than I have seen in any other football game thus far (Fifa 2000 excluded). That doesn't mean that it doesn't have any problems because it certainly does, some players shirts get jaded at the edges when close up, the player faces could be improved, the weather effects are bad and the net looks pretty awful.
Sound & Music
Oh dear, Jonathan Pearce and Ron Atkinson are quite dull commentators in my mind in real life let alone on a computer game. All could be forgiven if the commentary is varied but unfortunately it isn't, it is one of the most repetitive commentaries I have ever heard. Crowd sounds are much better though with some great build up noise, but it just doesn't help me forget the dire commentary. Oh and Ron, hitting the post does not mean the keeper made an excellent save.
Microsoft International Football still doesn't manage to take Fifa's crown but it is probably the closest any game has come thus far. It may not have a great deal of special moves, but it does have some fast, enjoyable action. Hopefully we will see a new version released each year, because I feel that if various improvements are added, then Microsoft could have a really great game on their hands.
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