Although the sport never quite caught on in the US (despite what some diehard fans want you to believe), several soccer games somehow managed to get produced for the major systems back in the 80's. And while the 2600 had two versions (Pele's Soccer and RS Soccer), neither was considered to be a great example of the sport due to the lack of depth in the their gameplay. For most diehard soccer fans it was either NASL Soccer on the Intellivision or nothing, that is until RealSports Soccer came out for the 5200.
True to its name, RealSports Soccer allows the player to select either five minute halves (which is about all the soccer I can take) or complete 45 halves (simulating the length of a real soccer game). While you can play against the computer (with four available skill levels to choose from), as is the case with most sports games it's better to play against a friend (assuming you have any). Once you've selected all your options you're ready to dive into the exciting world of soccer! Boring boring soccer..
Each team consists of five players, four fielders and a goalkeeper. You control one fielder at a time (who is identified by his lighter shirt color), while the computer controls your other teammates. Much like RealSports Baseball, the various types of moves are controlled by the keypad. By pressing a button on the keypad you pick the type of kick you want to perform which is then used until you select different kick. Actually kicking the ball is controller by the fire button (top button for air kicks and bottom for ground kicks), although you can also use the fire button to try and steal the ball from your opponent by simply kicking the ball away from him. The keypad is also used to switch between players on the field.
The 5200 version of RealSports Soccer follows most major soccer rules (unlike RS Soccer on the 2600), and issues penalties on a regular basis. RealSports Soccer also including all the standard penalty plays such as corner kicks, goal kicks, and throw-ins. This adherence to the rules makes RealSports Soccer particularly impressive and much more appealing to true soccer fans (all five of them).
Although RealSports Soccer has a fairly realistic scrolling play field, there were one or two concessions that had to be made to keep the game all on one screen. When a player is defending he can have his players run off the screen and appear on the other side! Not only does this make for some interesting plays, but it can dramatically change the balance of the game if used properly. This "wraparound" technique was added to keep the defending players from being scrolled off the screen and out of sight of the player.
The graphics (title screen aside) are pretty good for an early 5200 game. The players are multi-colored (with little colored shirts), and the playfield is nice and big (no valley of the giants syndrome like with in the 2600 version). The only complaint I have is that there's no crowd around the edges of the field, this give you the impression that you're playing in the middle of nowhere (then again programming a crowd willing to watch a soccer match might have been too difficult to attempt). The sounds are adequate, although the sound of the players running up the field sounds more like a pack of horses than human beings.
While it may not be for everyone, if you're a soccer fan than RealSports Soccer is worth a try. Although the graphics aren't as flashy as they are in today's soccer games (umm. there are modern soccer games right?), the gameplay and computer AI are amazing. RealSports Soccer is one of the few 5200 games to have a box/label variation. Shortly after its initial release Atari developed the RealSports line of games and decided to add the moniker to all its sports games. Both Football and Soccer were updated to reflect the RealSports line, but only the boxes and labels changed (no changes were made to the game itself). Baseball and Tennis were also updated, but since they had not been released by the time of the change, no box/label variations exist (although they still say Baseball and Tennis on their title screens).