At the beginning of the GameCube’s lifecycle, there was one sport that players were seemingly drowning on: soccer. And while few series tried to come close to the technical simulation that FIFA provided, many of the offerings available focused on bringing an arcade experience to your living room. RedCard 2003 was no exception.
Following in the footsteps of the popular Hitz series of sports titles, as well as continuing Midway’s pension for arcade-like home titles, RedCard doesn’t do much to set the stage. On the surface, it’s a fast-paced, sort-of ridiculous soccer game. The main goal is to play soccer, which at this point for us at GCNdex, isn’t that hard of a concept to grasp. This time, there’s turbo buttons to easily avoid or keep up with opponents, and instead of simply stealing the ball, you’ll usually be tackling other players and sending them across the pitch. This was actually one of the stand-out features of the game that was advertised, and even the back of the box touts “aggressive” and “adrenaline-style” gameplay. Players are given the the option to change the attentiveness of referees in order to make sure games are played according to official league rules or with no supervision whatsoever.
The brutality and craziness of these tackles and kicks is nowhere near the level of, say, SEGA Soccer Slam, but RedCard isn’t trying to be cartoonish with its style. The game is presented as a realistic soccer title in the vein of FIFA, but it plays much looser, and it would be perfectly appropriate if it had the words Blitz or Hitz in the title instead of the more subtle RedCard. In many ways, this feels like a game made for hardcore soccer fans looking to blow off some steam and relax from the regimens of a simulation game. However, there’s also a sense that developers Point of View Inc. held back and didn’t fully commit to the over-the-top aspects of their previous sports titles. Rather than the players becoming engulfed in flame and tearing across the turf, their feet might get a bit smokey. Players might trip hard over each other, but none go helplessly flying dozens of feet away from each other after a collision. For the most part, during traditional matches, RedCard feels like FIFA with some hints of Blitz sprinkled in there for good measure.
That is, of course, until you start your World Conquest. That’s right, beyond your standard “Friendly Match” or “Tournament” modes, you have the ability to take your favorite team and set out to defeat every soccer team in the world to become the champion. This is where everything starts to go off of the rails. Here’s how it happened to me: After leading Japan to victory over Australia, the loading screen appeared for the next match and I read the team name as “DOLPHINS.” Being the non-sports fan that I am, I became confused, as I know that the Dolphins are an American football team. Imagine my complete shock and excitement to find that my opponents for the next match were literal Dolphins, and we were playing in an underwater soccer stadium. Once defeated, which was a match that I never wanted to end, the Dolphins became unlocked for me to choose at any time. In addition to these great grampuses, there are nine more fantasy teams available to unlock, including Samurai and a SWAT team.
RedCard 2003 is a solid soccer title, providing enough nonsense to entertain, but standard matches don’t really hold enough lunacy to also hold your attention; most of the fun is to be found among the unlockables, which can be few and far between. I’d recommend RedCard to anyone that wants to enjoy soccer without taking it seriously, but it’s not one I’d recommend for gatherings – pull NHL Hitz or NFL Blitz out for that, you’ll be more entertained without having to spend a lot of prep work unlocking a team of Matadors.
RedCard 2003 never got a sequel, and Point of View, Inc. would return to NFL Blitz, leaving RedCard to be a singular anomaly that was better suited to rent, not to buy.
Did you ever play RedCard 2003? What did you think of it? What did you like or hate about the game?
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