Football titles on the Dreamcast, a few are available, but none of them have been very impressive, so can European Super League strike lucky?
With 16 official European teams and all of the players accurately modelled, ESL starts off with a lot of promise. Unfortunately it soon becomes apparent that the game lacks almost everything which makes the "super league" so super in the first place - quality matches played by decent players who know how to play a mean game of football.
Graphics are rather bland and unimaginative, the stadiums themselves are good solid structures, but the crowds just appear to be washed out blocks of colour. A lot of work has gone in to making the players look like their real life counterparts though, with each player actually looking like the real footballer, but even so, they look very strange in shape, and not very "real" which spoils the fact that they are ment to be the real players.
The crowd sounds are quite impressive, as the chants are accurate to the teams that are playing, and also very clear, but the refs whistle always sounds the same every time they kick off from the centre spot, and the endless "thud" when the ball gets kicked soon gets a bit tiresome.
The whole atmosphere is somewhat like watching a dull international friendly on TV - you want the match to be fun, and you're prepared to sit there through the whole match, but it's just not got that edge of the seat feel to it. Yes, there is atmosphere, and it's generally pretty good, but, it's not that of a top notch game where the crowd is really into the match. It has some good points, and the crowd make you aware of this as they exclaim an "ooooh" as the ball closely misses the goal, and generally get more excited as the pace of the play hots up, but this could well be the problem with the atmosphere seeming so dull at times, simply because if the play is slow, and not a lot is happening, then they won't get excited, and won't chant very much, and this is where the atmosphere lacks.
When you do score a goal though, you are treated to something very novel - you get to control the players as they celebrate the goal, which alone makes for a fun few minutes as you run around the pitch in circles, and cause them all to bundle into each other, and this really does allow the player to actually celebrate the goal, and feel a part of the action, instead of just scoring a goal and simply watching a replay.
Artificial Intelligence in the game appears to be totally lacking, not only do your own players seem to not know how to go for the ball when it's coming their way, but also the computer players do silly things like standing there as the ball trickles past their feet, or running up to the ball, pausing as if to control it, and then running on without kicking it.
Unfortunately ESL only manages to hit the cross bar, when it could so easily have been the champion of Dreamcast footy games. This isn't a criticism of ESL on it's own - this is something which appears to affect all games of the football genre, with each one having their own plus points, of which ESL does actually have quite a few, including the good looking stadiums, official teams and real players, and quite an involving and realistic style of play.
ESL is probably one of the best Dreamcast football games, because it does have a lot of very good points about it, including the good player and stadium detail, and also has the saving grace of not having an annoying commentary! However the poor control and AI of the players simply lets the title down, and makes it yet another football title which is good, but not one that I'd really want to spend a whole evening with friends playing a tournament.Overall score: 5 out of 10
Publisher: Virgin Interactive
Recommended Price: £39.99
Available: NowBuy European Super League from Amazon.co.uk