Adidas Power Soccer 98 answers the question of “what if you released a mediocre football in order to hock Adidas branded merchandise?”. Because ultimately that’s what Adidas Power Soccer 98 is. Based solely on its gameplay, it’s an unsatisfying football-em-up that was already about 18-24 months out of date from a gameplay perspective when it hit Video Game store shelves in the summer of 1998. It feels like a slightly more advanced version of mid-90’s games like Actua Soccer even though it would count the likes of FIFA 99 and International Superstar Soccer Pro 98 as contemporaries due to them coming out around the same time.
It has none of the smooth gameplay and none of the graphical advances that those aforementioned releases have. What Adidas Power Soccer 98 does have though is a shedload of Adidas advertising. Whether it’s the menu screens, loading screens, pitch side hoardings or even the FMV cut-scenes that load before matches, you can’t move for a cheap Adidas plug. If you happen to love the Adidas brand to a near fanatical level (like my old manager Karl for instance) then getting to see the same Alessandro Del Piero commercial over and over again for whatever Adidas footballing shoe he’s trying to sell to you at that given moment might be a big reason for you to rush out and buy Adidas Power Soccer 98. For the rest of us though, I’m willing to guess that it will be a considerable turn off.
Developed by Shen Technologies and published by former giant of the industry Psygnosis, Adidas Power Soccer 98 was released in Europe for the PlayStation in June 1998, with North America getting a version for Windows PC’s around the same time. As the release date would suggest, the game was released to coincide with the FIFA World Cup being held in France that year, and the trippy opening cinematic sequence focuses on players travelling to the tournament and dreaming of succeeding on the world’s biggest soccer stage.
There had already been a game released for the series back in 1996, a series which seemed to be killed off for good once Adidas Power Soccer 98 kicked the ball into Row AA (because it’s further back than Row Z innit). The game received middling reviews, with even the Official UK PlayStation Magazine furnishing it with just a 5 out of 10, and this was a magazine that would sometimes bend over backwards for heavily sponsored sports games, especially footy ones. It should speak for the quality of the finished product that Adidas Power Soccer 98 ended up being received coldly by OPSM of all outlets.
If I had to describe the gameplay in Adidas Power Soccer 98 with just one word I’d go with “archaic” and I would mean that even by 1998 standards. A nice passing game is all but impossible due to how ridged the passing mechanics are, with accuracy and speed of passing at a premium. Thus you’ll probably see the best luck by just forgoing it all together and making slalom like runs into the opposing team’s defensive area and then firing off a shot straight at the keeper in the hope that they’ll spill the rebound favourably. Seriously, scoring in this game is nigh-on impossible sometimes due to you seemingly having no say as to where you are aiming your shots. This often leads to every shot going straight at the keeper like it’s some kind of homing missile.
In a few matches I had to resort to getting in close, hitting the ball at the keeper and then hoping I could just dribble the rebound into the net. On the rare occasions that I could actually get two players to pass it to one another successfully, I found that passing it to another player and then shooting would cause the keeper to get confused and thus not save the resulting shot, but most of the time I just found shooting was a hit and hope situation. So you can’t pass, can’t shoot, can barely tackle and the game is beyond stodgy with stupid A.I.
Am I selling this to you? I certainly hope I am!
The way my team mates would just stand in outright offside positions over and over again, meaning I couldn’t pass the ball to them and would have to just keep running at opposing players (which in itself often leads to your player losing the ball because they don’t hold on to it like they would in FIFA or ISS) would drive me utterly bonkers. I think the record I had for players offside at the same time was close to 3 or 4. They would just stand there looking at me gormlessly, sometimes with the opposition players doing similar, and I would want to switch the PlayStation off and use the Adidas Power Soccer 98 disc as a coaster.
You could maybe excuse this sort of clunky rubbish gameplay in earlier Fifth Gen titles like Actua Soccer because companies were still getting to grips with moving the football game into the third dimension and teething problems were naturally going to happen. By the time Adidas Power Soccer 98 had hit the shelves there had actually been some competent Fifth Gen soccer sims that had been released, so there was really no excuse for not learning from them and creating a better gameplay experience in the process. It feels like Shen Technologies just took the original game from 1996 and added a new lick of paint, which wasn’t going to pass muster in 1998 and certainly doesn’t in 2021.
Graphics and Sound
This is one area where the game should have excelled as they’ve drafted in legendary football commentator Brian Moore to handle the commentary duties, but sadly his commentary comes down to the same hackneyed comments over and over again about how footballers need to be role models and how all he season tickets have been sold. Of course, things like season tickets aren’t really a thing when the World Cup is going on, but that doesn’t stop Brian from saying it in every single game you play. The crowd effects are pretty drab, especially on the rare occasion that you actually score a goal. The in-game music is pretty bland and the graphics aren’t especially good either. The stadiums you play in do look decent at least, as do the weather effects, but aside from those Adidas Power Soccer 98 has a bland look and substandard sound for the most part.
There are plenty of leagues and tournaments to play in, with both licensed club and national teams present, but there’s not much point having those things if you don’t actually want to play the game itself.
Would I recommend it?
In a word, no. In two words, definitely not. In five words, this game is pretty rubbish.
Adidas Power Soccer 98 is a lazy effort in many ways, and seems to exist only to try and sell you Adidas gear. I’m more of a Nike man myself anyway….