KickOff 2002 has to be one of the most difficult games I've ever had to review. On one hand, this is one of the few sports games (and practically the only soccer game) available for the platform. On the other hand, the game contains lackluster graphics and an admittedly very steep learning curve. Throw in the fact that soccer (yes, I'm going to call it soccer, not football) has a starkly devoted fanbase of hooligans who would love to tear up a reviewer who doesn't give the game a fair shake, and you see my predicament.
The KickOff series stretches back over ten years with many remembering the popular KickOff 2 for the Amiga. What KickOff 2002 represents is an update to the game's graphics, while keeping the same gameplay and extensive statistics features which made the original a hit. While sports games seem to dominate the consoles (the Fifa series being one the most popular), very few make their way to the Mac. To help remedy this situation, UK-based publisher Virtual Programming decided to have Coderus (makers of the MacDX DirectX libraries) port the game to the Mac platform.
Getting startedThe first things users of Mac OS X 10.2 are going to want to do is go and grab the latest 1.1 patch of KickOff 2002 from Virtual Programming and Coderus. The update fixes some crucial issues with input devices, allowing you to use your favorite gamepad, as well as some other, more minor, changes. Now you should be able to pop in the CD and get started. Installation is a breeze, as you just copy the folder to your hard drive, though you will have to keep the CD in your computer in order to play.
Before going too far, it should be known that the posted system requirements for the game are a 333Mhz G3 with at least 64MB RAM and a minimum Rage Pro graphics chip. In OS X, you may want to have a little more horsepower, as my iBook (500Mhz, 384MB RAM, Rage 128) plays in 10.2 with just the occasional slowdown. As mentioned above, I would highly recommend playing the game with your favorite gamepad, as the keyboard configuration feels more awkward when trying to control the ball.
GameplayThe first thing you'll want to do after starting the game is go into the options menu and select beginner ball control and slow game speed. Then jump into a practice game and get a feel for controlling the ball.
The manual is also your friend in the beginning, as KickOff is not just a game to jump in and start playing. The controls are simply directional plus one action button. Depending on the situation, these are used in different combinations to achieve various actions. For example, to add men to a defensive free kick wall, you hold right while pressing the fire button to add men or hold left to remove them. Not exactly intuitive, but it gets the job done.