Thursday, May 3, 2012

Heads Up! Action Soccer (Vectrex Game)

There are things the Vectrex does very well (shooters) and there are things it wasn't built to handle (sports not named Pong). Whereas the Vectrex was built to correctly port vector graphics arcade titles (odd that Battlezone was never ported) it had a harder time rendering some types of games that its competitors (Atari 2600, Intellivision, Colecovision, etc.) had no trouble rendering. Are you tired of my constant parenthetical statements (you are. I can tell)? Before I launch into a review of this game, let me just state that sports titles were generally not good until the NES came out, and even then there were plenty of developers who managed to botch things up. The first truly decent soccer title didn't come out until 1990 (NES World Cup, and there are still people who hate this game and claim it's crap). So GCE was venturing into an area littered with the failure of others when they attempted this ambitious yet flawed soccer game.

First and foremost, it can be difficult to get the ball downfield. The opposing defenders have a much easier time getting the ball from you than you will have in getting it from them. The game uses the same stealing technique featured in Atari's Basketball in which you merely overlap a player in order to take the ball. With the lack of a speed burst button, it can be difficult to catch up with a player on a breakaway. Your other option in tracking down the opposing players is to switch control to players further downfield. This can be problematic in that you can never tell which player you will switch to. If the opposing team gets close to your goal, good luck. I had to look up the goalie controls because they were so counterintuitive (in most decent soccer games, your goalie with either be on automatic control, or you will automatically switch to him when the opposing team gets close. In this game you have to hold down a button just so you can have the pleasure of moving him from side to side with little chance of being effective). So the Vectrex ran up four goals on me before I ever got the chance to figure out how to stop the bleeding. Also, the collision detection is suspect. The opposing goalie will be sliding from side to side as you approach the goal. If you guess right and shoot the ball to a place he isn't covering, there's still a 75% chance he'll still stop the ball even though he's nowhere in range. Oh, and when you pass the ball, you'll either kick it a few inches out in front of yourself in slow motion, or you'll rocket it way downfield with no idea who it's going to. There's no way to tell which it'll be. It just makes for a frustrating experience.

So with all that mess, you'd expect me to hate this one, right? Well, even though I know it's not that good and I'm well aware of its many flaws, I still managed to get reasonably good at it and beat the Vectrex a few times. I'll probably play this game again, which means there's something in it. It's still way better than Pele's Championship Soccer for the Atari 2600, so there's that.

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