Overview

Over the past couple of years, Midway began to build a legion of excellent arcade sports games. From NFL Blitz to NHL Hitz, Midway has more than enough sports games under its belt to become the premiere sports game developer in the world (they already are the top developer if you ask me). Konami’s ESPN soccer game is a blast, but Midway has once again one-upped the competition with their own stellar soccer game: RedCard 20-03. All of the great, hard-hitting aspects of Blitz and Hitz are present in this game, but make no mistake; RedCard 20-02 is not merely Blitz with a soccer ball. Nor is it just a soccer game without any rules. In fact, there are a few rules in this game. But most importantly, RedCard is its own unique game.

RedCard 20-03 features two meters: Turbo and Boost. The Turbo meter is the same as in Hitz and Blitz: hold down R2 (the button, not the droid) to run faster. Tap the button twice to get an even greater boost of speed. The Boost meter, on the other hand, gives you an extra "boost" of power that allows you to perform a plethora of special moves. There are four slots on the meter, which gradually regenerates itself over time. One of my favorite special moves is the boost shot. By pressing L2 and the circle button simultaneously, your player will perform a fast, uncontrollable, direct shot at the goal. If the ball hits the goalie hard enough, it’ll literally pick him up and send him flying into the goal, award you a point.

More often than not, the goalie will catch the ball (it’d be too easy otherwise), but it’s still an awesome move. The slow motion, cinematic Matrix-like effect is very cool. Another one of my favorite special moves is the aggressive tackle. Normally, an aggressive tackle isn’t that aggressive at all. But mix it with some boost power and it’ll become an "over the top" aggressive tackle. This particular move uses one bar of the boost meter (the boost shot uses three bars). There are other boost tackles, as well as boost passes, which are faster and more effective than normal passes.

Gameplay

RedCard 20-03 is Midway’s most challenging sports game yet. Scoring is not easy. With 11 opposing team members vying for the ball, it is extremely difficult to get the ball from one goal to the next. This requires you to strategize and plan each move carefully. It also requires you to use your Turbo and Boost energy as efficiently as possible. You can’t simply run up to the goal, perform a boost shoot and expect to score. As powerful as the boost shots are, the goalie almost always seems to block them when shot head-on. The idea here is to outsmart the goalie and more or less sneak the ball in. Pass it, kick it and shoot it in the corner of the net. This is by no means an easy thing to do, but I’ve had a blast trying different techniques in the game. Even when I’m losing, RedCard 20-03 is still fun. The challenge ensures that I’ll always want to come back for more.

Graphics

Not surprisingly, RedCard 20-03’s visuals are right up there with NFL Blitz 20-02. All of the background textures look really good, but it’s the player detail that impressed me the most. The animation is really smooth, as is the framerate. Regardless of how much is going on, the gameplay is never bogged by slowdown.

Fun Factor

The most important aspect of any game is the fun factor (i.e., how much fan you have while playing it). RedCard 20-03 passes the fun factor test with flying colors. Score provides a thrill not present in other soccer games. Now I know why the players run and cheer so ridiculously when they score -- because they just can’t help themselves! I love the play mechanics, especially the way the boost meter is used. Mastering its abilities is challenging enough to keep you glued to your PS2 for several months. The multiplayer mode is also impressive. Like its predecessors (Blitz and Hitz), RedCard is a time-consuming game that will entertain you and your friends for a really, really long time. After mastering the excellent single-player mode, you’ll still come back for 2 reasons: 1) because it’s fun and 2) because you’ll want to hone your skills so that you can always beat your friends!

Overall

Soccer and Midway Sports fans alike will love RedCard 20-03. It’s fun, exciting and very addictive. You won’t be able to play it for five minutes and walk away, but you could if time constraints forced you to. That is the beauty of this game. It’s so addictive that you’ll want to continue playing, but if you can’t, you don’t have to. RedCard 20-03 can be saved after every game, and the two-player games are quick enough to play on your lunch break (if you have a PS2 at the office). I love it, and I’m sure you will too.