Gamestyle Archive intro: the Dreamcast needed a football title to tackle the giants of the genre and this was their great hope. Unfortunately it came up short.
Published: March 2001
VERSION: UK DC
PUBLISHER: Virgin Interactive
ACCESSORIES: Rumble, VMU.
RELEASE: Out Now
We all know that the Dreamcast has lacked quality in certain genres but with the release of RPG’s such as Grandia II, Phantasy Star Online recently and the forthcoming Skies of Arcadia the only remaining genre is football. No doubt you’ve all played the awkward UEFA Soccer, the on-the-rails Virtua Striker 2 or the continually disappointing Sega World-wide Soccer series. Is European Super League (ESL) the ISS that all Dreamcast owners have been waiting for?
European Super League is original in the fact that it deals with a mystical league that has been discussed for the last decade. The game contains 16 fully licensed teams and stadiums of the cream of Europe and promises to offer a high standard of competition. There are some glaring omissions amongst the teams such as Manchester United but at least Glasgow Rangers & Celtic have not been included such are their pathetic European adventures of late. When the promotion material for a game mentions accurate stadium advertising hoardings instead of more important game aspects you know you’ve made a bad signing. Perhaps a bit more money spent on development instead of licenses would have been appropriate.
The options are limited with only the choice of Quick Start, Friendly, European Super League, Custom Tournament or League and training. Although not original perhaps a challenge mode similar to ISS should have been included – there are certainly enough great games in the past to choose from. The stadiums themselves are a disappointment with the crowds being probably the worst that I have seen in many a year. The lack of camera options prevents anyone from actually enjoying playing in the San Siro or Anfield, if you could distinguish one stadium from another. When the game is in progress you are unable to alter the camera – instead you need to quit the match and then select the camera in the options menu. This trial and error method is annoying and is symptomatic of the sloppy half-hearted effort that is ESL, not to mention that you only have five camera angles to select from. The players and graphics are very reminiscent of the Sega World-wide Series and could be mistaken as a missing instalment.
The players are bland with jerky animation, flat backgrounds and poor AI. As the in-match screen does not have radar showing where your team-mates are on the pitch, the match often degenerates into a kick and rush affair with possession being lost frequently. Just like watching Scottish football. If you do not know where your team-mates are on the pitch off screen – the passing build-up play suffers as a result. Tactical options are limited to formation only and there is no control over individual roles or style your players will adopt. This is a shame because at times ESL can be enjoyable, although you are unable to customise the control options the range of tricks and moves available to you is excellent.
Graphically the game is below average and you will notice during the match the drop in frame rate at times. I must mention the actual football, which moves and bounces like a lead weight – in fact it reminded me of when I used to play Match Day on the spectrum. Other flaws include no commentary, only sixteen teams, poor crowd noises, FIFA style sweet spots, harsh referees and long loading times. These problems overshadow some of the good elements on offer, wasting what could have been a unique opportunity but instead providing a lack of involvement. Will the Dreamcast ever have a decent football game?