Replay Value: 6.5
Midway has always had a knack for a good over-the-top sports game. One where the rules were bent drastically, and where sports etiquette was no where in sight. Over the years, Midway has tackled many major sports and implemented their own outlandish formula. Soccer is the team’s next victim. With the over-the-top edge intact, the sport we know as soccer, or football for some, has undergone a refreshing facelift; though, that facelift hasn’t taken full advantage of its potential.
The game was pulled off rather well from a graphical standpoint. The player models include a nice sense of proportion and size, and they’re very animated during the game, moving in a very natural, fluid motion. In addition, the players’ faces also boast a sufficient amount of detail, and subtle areas such as hair textures were taken with great care. Player emotions were also done well, which are impressively depicted after dramatic plays on the field. Unfortunately, while uproars are coming from the crowd as though they're about to blow the roof off, the game does a poor job of illustrating their spirited nature; they just sit still.
The stadiums where the action takes place also sport a nice degree of detail; however, the game doesn’t look like an over-the-top one at all. Aside from the occasional flames emerging from a player’s back as he gets a quick boost of speed, the game just doesn’t really look like a conventional Midway outing; this is rather disappointing and dampens the extreme feel.
There are two play modes as you start: World Conquest, which is the integral mode of play, and friendly play, where you can take on your friend or a computer controlled opponent in an exhibition. World Conquest lets you take your favorite country, which has its attribute stats according to real life, and try to defeat all on-comers in hopes of winning the World Cup.
Red Card plays a lot like a FIFA game, with the exception that referees are basically blind-sighted, unless penalties are turned all the way up. On defense, you have an array of gruesome moves you can inflict on the opposing team to steal the ball -- one is an aggressive slide-tackle; another, a hard kick to the shin; and yet another, a hard body check that sends the receiver crashing to the turf. There’s even a move where your foot becomes momentarily doused in flames and delivers a harsh foot smash to the ball handler. While these moves are pretty profitable, they won’t always work because the offensive player also has a nice repertoire of moves to elude the defense -- different spins and ball fakes with your feet that can make the opposition look silly.
A very small number of cards are actually given out on the normal settings, so the basis of the game is: who can stay away from tackles long enough to score, and there are a few different ways to do this: Players can pass a lot -- ground passing and lobbing. Then, once one of your players gets close to the goal, shuffling with your feet and other ball jukes are of the essence in order to escape the defensive players’ ruthless blows. If you do actually make it close to the goal and are undefended, this is where basically the only extreme presence of the game comes into play, and it’s very awe-inspiring; the camera will pan closer and move in a Matrix-esque state and animate a spectacular looking move by the player, such as a cartwheel or flip, and then a kick at the goal. It normally leads to a goal, unless the goalie makes a brilliant play. Then again, even in some instances when the goalie stops the ball, it’ll still result in a goal because the impact from the kick can send the goalie soaring into the back of the net. This is hands-down the most innovative part of the game, and it’s really fun to see in motion.
While Midway doesn’t quite live up to its extreme play, the tracks certainly deliver an exhilarating experience, and they help to accentuate the somewhat slow play. And of course, the play is filled with loud grunts and crashes. The sound of a whistle, however, is virtually nonexistent.
The color commentary sounds quite good and executes a solid play-by-play deliverance, maybe too solid; they act as though a normal game is going on, when in actuality, players are flying, flipping, and falling all over the field. So given the play, you’d expect a more witty and outgoing cast of commentators, but that isn’t the case at all. And the interaction between players is also a missing element. Where’s the trash talk? Where’s the, "He’s on fire!"? Maybe next year.
Red Card 20-03 is somewhat like a double-edged sword. On one side, there are a few nice additions to the sport, such as the Matrix-like finishers and the allowance of tackling and kicking. Furthermore, the gameplay and controls are both solid and well-oriented. But on the other side, the game just doesn’t bring a presence that’s extreme enough to really be a full-fledged rule-breaker. If Red Card 20-03 boasted some sort of on-fire mode, or something else to further accent the unrealistic play, maybe the game would be a bit better. In a nutshell, Red Card doesn’t really know what it wants to be: a simulation or a rule-breaker.