Microsoft International Soccer 2000 lets you choose from more than 70 teams across the globe and start the season nine different ways. At the outset, the seasons are divided into three modes: Friendly Matches, Leagues and Competitions. The former is for those who wish to play but not compete, while the latter offers several cup competitions. No matter which mode you choose, the game displays a realism that keeps your face glued to the monitor.
Each team has its star players, but you are free to change the roster at any point before, during or after the game. When the camera zooms in on a player, you can clearly see his name and number on the back of his jersey -- a very nice feature. Since all players have the exact same moves, most of the teams feel similar at first.
The main difference in gameplay involves the speed of the individual players. Each has a speed rating and some are noticeably faster than others, especially when using the sprint key -- thus, teams with faster players have a slight advantage. The sheer number of teams available is a great aspect and, even though the basic controls and actions of the teams are similar, the star players always look different. You can spot star players easily since they score the most goals and the camera zooms in on them after each goal.
Fouls are strictly enforced but the number allowed is quite high -- a fortunate aspect since you can easily foul someone by slide-tackling them from behind. You can commit more than 15 in a game and have no problems whatsoever, although certain players can be kicked out. The slide tackle is the move that will most likely cause a foul unless done properly. So, if you only use the "steal" button, you probably won't have many fouls in the game.
All the rules of soccer are fully in place and you really get the feeling of playing in an actual game (minus the hard work and sweat). The camera angles show virtually any area of the stadium and give you the feeling that you're watching the match on television. Although the camera can move around a great deal, it doesn't ruin gameplay.
The controls are easy to manipulate, but one negative aspect is the difficulty of switching to the specific player you want to control. When the opposition has the ball, it's hard to switch the cursor to the player you want so you can make a tackle. In fact, at times, if you are traveling in the opposite direction with a player and try to switch, the character you want to activate will go the wrong way. With experience, though, you can get used to the interface and will be able to control the players more easily, but it's not an intuitive or easy task.
After you learn how to select players you want to use at any given time, the rest of the game controls are a piece of cake. When using the keyboard, you only use the W, E, A, S, and D keys along with the directional arrows. A joystick simplifies the controls even further by allowing you to use the buttons for every game function. Advanced ball controls are also available after you've mastered the basics, but they're not mandatory. Many of the advanced controls such as increased shot power, long passes and low or high kick modifiers will be performed accidentally as you play, simply by pressing buttons at random.
Microsoft International Soccer 2000 is addictive because of its competitiveness. Even if you lose your first match, you want to keep playing until you win. Some teams, like England, are slightly better than others and, at times, it can be more enjoyable to pick a team that doesn't rate as high (e.g., Scotland) so the games will be even more competitive. The Friendly Competitions are fun when you just want to play a game without worrying about standings, and there are plenty of Leagues and Competitions to keep you busy.
With a challenging and competitive atmosphere, Microsoft International Soccer 2000 offers countless hours of fun. You can save your progress after every game if you're playing for a championship and easily resume from the point where you suspended play. The number of teams, quality of graphics and sound, and the attention to detail all contribute to making this title a winner. Even with the few control design problems, the game is well worth checking out.
Graphics: If you have a good graphics card, the characters are very detailed right down to the muscles on their arms. Camera angles from all sides give you the feeling of watching the match on television. Snow and rain effects are well done and the action is very smooth. Crowds in the various stadiums look like real people from a distance and when the camera zooms in on players you can view their number and name clearly.
Sound: Besides the typical soccer kicking sounds and fans cheering, the game offers two famous British announcers: Ron Atkinson and Jonathan Pearce. While it makes sense that their comments be generic (e.g., "that's a great save by the keeper" or "they're really trying to give the other team more options"), it would've been nice to have some new comments for different teams. The announcing gets old after a while due to repetition but never gets annoying.
Enjoyment: It's an enjoyable game if you win or if you lose. The competition is fierce either way (although you will wallop some teams). Fans of soccer at any level will find the game entertaining.
Replay Value: The game will last as long as you enjoy playing soccer. With 70 teams, plenty of competitions, several different stadiums, weather conditions and time of day options, you'll be playing this one for quite a while.
People who downloaded Microsoft International Football 2000 (a.k.a. Microsoft International Soccer 2000) have also downloaded:
Microsoft Soccer, Microsoft Golf 3.0, Microsoft Baseball 2001, MotoGP 2, NBA Inside Drive 2000, MotoGP: Ultimate Racing Technology, Virtua Tennis, SEGA Worldwide Soccer
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