In 1995 the increased power of the new wave of systems made 3D football games a possibility several companies investigated. Most of the features people later took for granted in football games were pioneered, or at least fairly fresh, when they appeared in the first of the Actua Sports titles.
Multiple camera angles were available to view the full-3D action, with 3 Sheffield Wednesday FC players providing motion capture. 44 international squads of 22 players, each with 8 individual skill attributes, were featured. BBC commentator Barry Davies provided a full flowing commentary over the top. A full range of customised tournaments were available, as well as multi-player options allowing for both same-system and networked play.
I like football, and to me, VR Soccer '96 is a very good game. Gremlin created this game - the first title in its VR Sports series - in 1996 to compete in a market dominated by EA Sports.
The gameplay in VR Soccer is amazingly realistic. As with many first efforts, though, a little tightening up would have been worthwhile. You can trap a high ball, control your passing ability, and switch defenders with some other players. With practice you can get the hang of it quickly, but it's normal to completely lose control when playing for the first time. You'll also find that your goalkeeper has a will of his own, and that your passes tend to go astray, even when your players have control of the ball. The game's best feature is the means by which it shows what your players can do; when one of your players has the ball, shapes indicating which actions he can perform will appear beneath him. Star, circle, and square stand for shooting, passing, and crossing the ball, respectively.
Unfortunately, the game does not use actual league statistics and players' names because Gremlin did not have the license, but the 44 international teams included can be edited. The menu options are very detailed, and allow you to modify everything from player statistics to custom cups, leagues, tournaments, multiplayer modes and much more. VR Soccer also makes use of many different viewing angles which do a good job of showing the realistic motion of the players (though not as well as in Actua Soccer).
The biggest negative point about VR Soccer concerns the AI. Once you have mastered the task of controlling the ball, you will score many goals, possibly more than six or seven per game, because the computer-controlled players make lots of mistakes.
To conclude, this is a game with good graphics, even when the players are shown close up, but it isn't very difficult once you understand how it works. For this reason, I give the game a 4, as it is almost perfect.
VR Soccer '96 is a good first entry in Gremlin/Interplay's short-lived "VR Sport" series, launched in 1996 to challenge EA Sports in the lucrative market of sport simulations. The game boasts a plethora of options and features, such as: "Virtual Fieldvision" viewing system (which is just a fancy way of saying multiple camera views in my opinion), motion-captured players that move realistically (but not as convincingly as Actua Soccer), 44 international teams with full editing capabilities, eight different skill factors per player, custom cups, leagues, and tournaments, replays from infinite virtual camera angles, multiplayer modes, and more.
The game's strongest point is definitely the graphics. The rendered players look realistic, especially in the high detail modes. Camera panning and zoom are smooth, and you can watch the action from an unprecedented number of camera angles including a skycam, from the player's point-of-view, referee's point-of-view, wire, or with momentum. VR Soccer '96 can accommodate up to two joysticks/joypads for hotseat competition, and the network mode can accommodate up to 20 players via TCP/IP.
The options menu is very detailed, allowing you to customize everything from player statistics, crowd volume, and toggling on or off the cool "video wall" (giant screen in the stadium that shows instan replays). The game also introduces nice touches in the interface: the 'halo' at the feet of the player you currently control flashes if the player is in range to shoot on goal - a very helpful feature.
Unfortunately VR Soccer '96 fails where it matters most in a football game: intelligence of computer opponent. Purists will scoff at the ease with which you can score goals in this game (beating the computer by 10 goals or more isn't uncommon), since the computer - especially its goalie - is far too stupid to pose a threat. So in the final analysis, this is a good-looking game that comes close, but doesn't get it quite right. If you are new to football games or don't mind the lack of challenge, check out this old game. Otherwise, there are more superior games on the market including the FIFA series and our HOBF inductee SEGA Worldwide Soccer.
People who downloaded VR Soccer 96 have also downloaded:
SEGA Worldwide Soccer, Tie Break Tennis '98, Actua Soccer, Wayne Gretzky and the NHLPA All-Stars, FIFA 99, Total Soccer, 2002 FIFA World Cup, World League Basketball
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