FIFA International Soccer logo Amiga Computing Bronze Award

Tina Hackett plays referee to decide whether EA's latest football sim should get a sending off or whether it's up there with the Premier League of footy games.

INTRODUCTION

EA's football sim was met with great enthusiasm when it was released on the consoles and now it's here on the Amiga. But a lot of conversions fall by the wayside and don't seem to have the magic they had when they first hit other formats. Take Kick Off 3, for example. On the console it really was the business but when it hit the Amiga it was nothing more than blatantly average. However, the opposite was true with Aladdin - great on the consoles and it worked just as well on the Amiga. So now FIFA is finally here, but will it have what it takes or will it be just another console cash-in?

SIMULATION

Well, it seems all the players have come complete with jet-lag from their long conversion from the console, as this is far too slow a simulation. The moves all work nicely though, but it all plays at a snail's pace. For those who really like to be in control of the game, planning each little move precisely, then it's quite enjoyable, but the main appeal of football is its excitement and somehow this fails to come across, especially in two-player mode.

It does have its redeeming qualities though. The way throw-ins and corners are taken is unusual but works well. By moving a box over the area you want to direct the ball in you get accurate results easily. Substitutions can also be made accurately as each player has a different rating for each of the attributes, like their shot power or passing skills.

The different options also make for a more realistic game, with a feature for changing the weather and the pitch type or for choosing the simulation or action option.


 

FLASHBACK

Yes, I'm going to have to cite Goal! and Sensible Soccer once again in a football flashback. They were the greats of their time and most people have played them, so they're the most obvious examples to use.

So where does FIFA stand? Well, it's graphically superior with great crowd details, the sprite size shows all the moves well and the sonics create a good match feel. But it's playability that matters and FIFA simply doesn't kick it against these old veterans.

Two player Goal! was an absolute dream to play and made for a really exciting game, and Sensi Soccer was a new and fresh approach with its miniature sprites and addictive playability.

FIFA isn't a bad game, it just doesn't have that indefinable quality that makes you want to keep coming back for another game, and it doesn't have the excitement either. On the other hand, it has far more options than others and plays a lot better than the awful USA World Cup game and the mediocre Kick Off 3.


 

Oh, he's football crazy, he's football mad, and the football it has robbed him o' the wee bit sense he had.
Jimmy McGregor, 'Football Crazy', 1960 song.


 

SOUND

Even some of the best footy sims have been let down by an appalling crowd effect - some sounding more like gurgling drains than anything else! Luckily, FIFA is a pretty reasonable attempt in portraying the excitement of a football match.

There is a good crowd chant and the appropriate roars and boos that run throughout, but unfortunately when a goal is scored there is a big delay between this and the crowd cheering louder - if it gets any louder at all, which it sometimes doesn't! All in all though, it does work well and gives the authenticity of a match.

66%

 

GRAPHICS

Overall, the presentation of the game has been well thought out with clear and colourful information charts which makes setting options and the like easy. The actual stadium is very detailed, with the crowd shown quite closely. EA has opted for a large sprite size which works well in showing all the different moves, and the match is viewed from side-on which gives a more realistic angle. However, when the ball crosses the line in the goal it is difficult to see as it doesn't actually look as if it has gone in making things rather confusing.

The animation of players add a nice touch. For example, when a player scores he runs down the pitch with a celebratory dance and the scoreboard shows an animation of a Mexican wave or hula girl. However, some of these are just adverts and there's no way to skip them which proves irritating.

90%

 

OPINION68%

Firstly, when you load the game up you notice the vast amount of options and the simplicity with which they can be selected. You have many play modes from league, tournaments and exhibition matches. Goalies can either be manual or computer operated and you can also choose whether you have full, intermediate or no fouls at all.

When it comes down to selecting the style of play there are also plenty of options to select. Team coverage allows you to select the movements of your defence, midfield and attack, and you can choose formations and strategy in a very straightforward way.

Graphics convey the ground well and the animations of the sprites add some nice moments to the game. The pre-match commentary is also a good idea and gives a brief background of the teams and a comparison of their skills.

The vast array of moves you can carry out work well. From back passes, headers and overhead kicks, even novices to the game will be able to achieve a satisfying playing style.

However, it's not all wonderful by any means. The game is painfully slow which makes for an incredibly boring match at times. In fact two-player mode becomes rather tedious too quickly. It's not bad if you fancy a change to Goal! and Sensi, but as it's no way near up to the same standard you will find you become rather bored and irritated y it. Not a patch on its console counterpart I'm afraid!



FIFA International Soccer logo

EA's massive-selling footie sim is here. But is it in the same league as Sensi?

So here it is then. The football game that many say is superior to Sensible Soccer, the game that sold truckloads on the SNES and Mega Drive, the game with the 'unique' isometric, looks-a-bit-like-it's-on-telly view. And boy have we been looking forward to seeing it.

So we load up the three disks - it takes an age - then after all the messing about, we instead install it on the hard drive. That's better, not much waiting around now. A quick blast through the manual just to check out a few details and we're off. England verses Wales, Bugs clutched in perspiring palms, tension almost unbearable.

Wait a minute, what the bloody hell is going on. "I don't know what I'm doing," cries the Tall Scotsman McGill. "Neither do I," retorts your correspondent, with some anguish. And then: "Brilliant goal Steve," exclaims the Scot, "the way you produced that back flick, overhead kick and 40 yard volley into the back of the net was outstanding."
"Ahem, er, yes, it was pretty clear wasn't it," I return, with a distinct lack of conviction. Yes, my first impression of FIFA International Soccer is a that it's a mite confusing.

At the end of the day
But feast your eyes on those big sprites. And those hoardings give a real feel for the game. Hey, and if you choose all-out attack, you find to your delight that you are sponsored by Adidas Predator football bots. This game is BIG business.

As a console game FIFA is excellent. The sprites are huge and superbly animated and because you have a multi-button joypad you can utilise all manner of tactics to pass the ball, hoof it down the pitch and shoot. Although the graphics aren't as good as the other versions. The Amiga FIFA is still most personable.

No, the problems arise when you actually get down and play the game with your one-button joystick, which, of course, the majority of Amiga games players have. Keeping possession of the ball isn't easy for a start - it's reminiscent of playground football with crowds of players chasing after the ball.

Accurate passing is also tough - you can't knock the ball straight to a teammate's feet using a particular joystick manoeuvre; and because you have to hold the fire button and then release, judging the pace of the pass takes plenty of practice. Which brings me nicely to shooting towards the goal, your finger firmly pressed on the fire button, you're ready to unleash a howitzer. Occasionally the ball flies into the onion bag; other times it seems you are just passing the ball to the keeper. It takes practice.

Yet FIFA can be spectacular and you can perform the most dazzling moves of any Amiga football game. Backheels are a delight, diving headers splendid and overhead kicks simply glowing, but perfecting them is a mountainous challenge.
The game is best played with a joypad or two-button joystick where you can use one button to slog the ball upfield, not an option with only one button to play with.

It's only a game
Options? This game is blessed with them ranging from different competitions to varying formations and strategies. Not wanting to bore with explicit detail, it's suffice to say that the most interesting are the game types where you can play Action or Simulation, your players tire during the game affecting their passing and shooting abillity. Also noteworthy is the option for the goalkeepers to be manually or computer controlled.

So what can FIFA offer to the Amiga footie game fan; the one who already has Sensible Soccer, MUPLC, Empire Soccer and the rest? Well, it looks superb, although the scrolling isn't quite silky smooth, and the ball tends to drift off screen at times. The sound is tinny - the chants are nicked from Sheffield Wednesday and the ground reverberates to the speeded-up sound of: 'We love you Wednesday, we do,' 'Tricky Trev's barmy army' and that horrible Italian opera tune that they hum. Ho hum.

You can't play a quick passing game like in, say, Sensi, nor does it have the speed and quirkiness of Empire Soccer. No FIFA is a game that has to be learned, a game that you must persevere with to get the best out of because, for all its undeniable visual charm, the gameplay is a struggle to come to terms with. Despite this misgiving, it can be a thrilling ride, particularly when you manage an outrageous goal and glance smugly towards your aghast opponent.

FIFA makes the top 10 Amiga football games. It won't be everyone's cup of Bovril and fans of Sensible Soccer may sneer at its rather clumsy approach but if you like your footie games, it's certainly worth a view.



FIFA International Soccer logo Amiga Joker Hit

Die Bundesliga läuft auf vollen Touren, auch die WM-Schlappe ist beinahe vergessen, und jetzt macht Electronic Arts das Kicker-Glück perfekt: Ihre Vorzeige-Bolzerei hat sich endlich den Weg zum Amiga freigeschossen!

Der FC Konsolero und die DOSendribbler sind ja schon länger Stammgäste im EA-Stadion, höchste Hochseilbahn, daß hier nun auch mal die Amigos zum Einsatz kommen - immerhin gilt dieses Spiel als derzeitige Referenz im Genre. Neben dem Allstar-Kader von Electronic Arts laufen dabei noch 48 unterschiedlich starke Nationalteams zur WM auf, welche entweder die gesamte Endrune oder nur die Playofs der letzten 16 im K.O.-System berücksichtigt.

Daneben ist noch ein Liga-betrieb mit maximal acht Mannschaften möglich, genau wie das schnelle Freundschaftsspiel zwischendurch. WM und Liga stehen bis zu acht menschlichen Teilnehmern offen, wobei zwei davon jeweils gegeneinander oder zusammen im selben Team antreten dürfen.

Steht nach Ablauf der regulären Spielzeit noch kein Sieger fest, geht's zunächst natürlich in die Verlängerung, dann zählt der schnelle Tod des nächsten Tors: Es kann nur einen (Sieger) geben...

Was wird nun an Optionen geboten? Nun, erst mal darf die Spielzeit von knappen vier bis hin zu vollen 90 Minuten variiert werden, bloß, daß über die gesamte Distanz halt ein bißchen unrealistische, weil turmhohe Ergebnisse zustände kommen. Der Torwart kann entweder manuell oder von der CPU gesteuert werden, man darf die Jungs über Natur- oder Kunstrasen traben lassen, und vier verschiedene Witterungen machen auch mal eine wahre Schlammschlacht möglich.

Was den Schiri betrifft, so ist er regulierbar wie ein Frühstücksei, von wachsweich bis steinhart. Außerdem darf man die Abseitsregel ein oder ausschalten und den Grad an Realismus festlegen: In der Simulationsvariante zeigen die Ballkünstler ins besonders gegen Ende einer Partie schon stärkere Ermüdungserscheidungen, die sich dann negativ auf Lauffreudigkeit und Schußpräzision auswirken.

Damit nicht genug, denn Taktiker stellen zunächst Paßlänge, Spielformation oder Aktionsradius von Abwehr, Mittelfeld und Sturm nach ihren Vorstellungen ein, und falls sie sich dabei geirrt haben, läßt sich das alles sogar während eines laufenden Matches noch abändern. Ja, selbst die Seiten dürfen auf Wunsch noch gewechselt werden!

Natürlich können auch Spieler aus- bzw. eingewechselt werden, und ebenso natürlich sollten die zwölf individuellen Eigenschaften jedes der 20 Cracks (weitere sieben Werte charakterisieren die gesamte Truppe) auch dabei Beachtung finden.
Last but not least gibt es im WM- und Ligabetrieb nac jeder Begegnung ein Paßwort, damit man auch mal so unsportlichen Tätigkeiten wie Essen oder Schlafen nachgehen kann.

So schön das alles ist, mit das Schönste an FIFA International Soccer dürfte die im Genre sonst eher selten anzutreffende Grafik in Iso-3D sein. Nach der Begrüßung durch den Starreporter Ron Barr und dem anschließenden Münzwurf scrollt das Feld etwas ruckelig in alle Richtungen, aber die Zuschauer sind entzückend und die Animationen der kleinen Stars (der ballführende Spieler ist stets mit einem Stern gekennzeichnet) eine Klasse für sich: Das Repertoire an Stunts reicht hier von Fouls über Flugkopfbälle und Fallrückzieher bis hin zu prächtigen Torwartparaden.

Schön, daß man sich so was oder Replay auch in der Wiederholung ansehen kann, schade bloß, daß die Function nicht abspeicherbar ist. Wiederholungen hat leider auch die Soundkulisse aus kurzen Samples mit Fangesängen, Grölen und Jubel schon recht bald zu bieten, und die Musik nervt binnen kurzem gewaltig.

Für die, bei Beachtung der Stellung zum Ball, höchst präzise Steuerung (bei Ecken und Abstößen bestimmt man mit einem Rechteck, wo das Leder landen soll) gilt das gottlob nur im Zwei-Spieler-Betrieb, und auch da nur, wenn keine Zwei-Button-Sticks vorhanden sind - dann kommt nämlich noch die Tastatur zum Einsatz.

In der Summe haben wir es also mit edel präsentierten Digi-Fußball und jeder Menge Spielbarkeit zu tun, selbst wenn ein paar "Kick Off"-Puristen nun einwenden mögen, daß FIFA International Soccer weniger auf Taktik und dafür mehr auf launiges Kick & Rush setzt. Sicher, die Paßwörter sind kein vollwertiger Einsatz für eine Save-Option (mit der man auch während eines Matches abspeichern könnte), und manchmal landen recht popelige Schüsse aus schwer nachvollziehbaren Gründen dennoch im Netz, aber das wird den Siegeszug dieses Programms nicht lange aufhalten können. Denn unter dem Strich hat EA auch am Amiga einen Volltreffer gelandet und die gerade hier so rechlich vertretene Konkurrenz ganz locker ausgedribbelt.

Wenn es um den Spaß an der Freud geht, steht FIFA International Soccer jedenfalls konkurrenzlos da - und geht es um den nicht eigentlich immer> (mic)



FIFA International Soccer logo

There's something lacking in FIFA International Soccer and it's hard to say what. I've played the original Mega Drive version quite a lot (explaining why I got to review this even though I usually stay away from football games lest my prejudices to show through) and enjoyed playing it heaps more than I did this version.

Judging it as a conversion from another format (which some may argue isn't a fair appraisal, but I'll cover that in a bit) the most obvious thing is that there's masses of disk swapping. Now you can castigate cartridge games on most fronts, but despite their ridiculous cost and frequent offence of containing bland platform games, you can't complain about the accessing time. You just slam in a cart, wait a few seconds and, yup, there's your game. FIFA on the Amiga however, doesn't cut it in this department.

Loading it up on an A1200, you have to wait four minutes before the option screens appear and a further two minutes before you play the game. That's a ridiculous six minutes (and six disk swaps) before you get to play it. It doesn't stop there - you also have to swap disks at half-time (to be told it's half-time) and when you pause the game. Ah, no, say EA, after the initial load the A1200 version keeps the data in memory so it's much better the second time around (which, of course,m doesn't help A500 or A600 owners) and, anyway, you should be playing from hard drive. Yes, Cheers.


That dreaded Street Fighter 2

SIX MINUTES LATER
FIFA's gimmick is the wa you can easily do flashy moves such as overhead kicks, headers and buckheelers. The three buttons of the Mega Drive have been recreated on the Amiga keyboard, so with a thumb-controlled Bug joystick held in one hand, you can cover the keys with your other hand. It's a bit fiddly, but it's instantly preferable to the one-button joystick option which randomly gives you some (but not all) moves in that dreaded Street Fighter 2 'context sensitive; way.

Okay, that's comparing it to the Mega Drive version over with, so let's press on and see how it fares as a game in its own right. Well, there's no getting away from the fact that the graphics are great. The game's got the look and feel of a televised match, from the familiar TV camera angle to the slightly cheesy American commentators who introduce each match.

The animation and scrolling are both smooth and natural-looking, and (provided you can master them) the special moves vary the action enough to make it resemble a real match, rather than colorful pixels endlessly cycling through a running routine. Which of course is exactly what they are.

Despite the size of the characters and the curious angle, you're still left with a usable playing area, although you're at the mercy of the game when it comes to long passes from midfield. Throw-ins and goal kicks are skillfully dealt with by putting the kicker ina small box in the corner of the screen, leaving your free to roam your cursor around the rest of the pitch to decide where he's aiming for. (Hang on - 'throws-in', surely? Ed.) As a final method of overcoming the restrictions of the limited visible area, a coloured arrow points to the player under your control when he's off-screen, and between them, these little tricks pretty successfully overcome the 'large scale equals small-playing area' problem.


Maybe the original was like this

SIX MINUTES LATER
Which leaves the game itself. Not being particularly skillful at any football game, and pretty much unable to get to grips with the fiddly special moves, I've played most of my games against a real person (if JD can be acknowledged as a real person) and only a few against the computer. It makes little difference who you play against though. Controlling your team, one thing quickly becomes apparent - you're not controlling them very much. I suspected my team was not really doing what I wanted during the games I played, and my suspicions were confirmed when I selected a two-player game against an uncontrolled, inanimate joystick.

Despite having no-one at the helm, the other side consistently tackled my men, intercepted my passes and, more often than not, saved my goals. And I'm not talking about moving men into position here, I'm talking about the computers running in, tackling my man and then running off with the ball.

With this much computer interference, running any distance with the ball proves impossible and the action looks more like the pack violence of a rugby pitch than the ordered play of football, with computer-controlled players dashing all over the place.

As a consequence, playing against the computer's pretty much the same as playing against a human, and I was left with the nagging feeling that I was merely assisting the computer in the game - and playing second fiddle to the CPU is bad for the wellbeing fo the soul. I don't know. I haven't played the Mega Drive version for ages so maybe the original was like this. And maybe Amiga gamers are used to less attractive, more interactive games, and maybe the way the computer teams don't bother with the flashy, crowd-pleasing moves doesn't reflect tellingly on their usefulness in a match. But I really can't see football game supremos going for a game that as soft and mushy and vague as this one. Still, it does look great though, doesn't it?


REPLAY
FIFA International Soccer
For particularly memorable moments such as this, there's a replay function.
FIFA International Soccer
However, you can watch what every player was doing as the ball slammed home.
FIFA International Soccer
And even check on the other goalie who's looking a bit lost and lonely.
SPONSORSHIP - HANDIWORK OF THE HORNED ONE

Although we didn't dock any marks for it, we'd like to point out that gratuitous advertising in games is the WORK OF SATAN. Do we get cheaper games because of it? Or cheaper football boots or VCRs? No we bloody don't.

FIFA International Soccer FIFA International Soccer FIFA International Soccer FIFA International Soccer

FIFA International Soccer logo CU Amiga Screen Star

As the sad bearer of a broken nose and cauliflower ears soccer obviously isn't Ernest Lee's preferred sport... Could FIFA change his mind?

So far football has only succeeded in being absorbing from an overhead view or in management form. It's ironic that despite the fact that the World Cup took place this summer not a single truly great football game came out during those months. There were one or two mild surprises and one bitter disappointment but all the rest were rubbish. Now however, with Christmas approaching, the floodgates are open and the Amiga is showings its footie prowess one more time.

No-one was looking forward to FIFA Soccer more than me because, if truth be told, I'm pretty useless at the old top-down games. It's a horrible admission, but when you keep getting whipped at Sensi by blind, one-armed octegenarians and members of staff from other EMAP magazines you tend to feel like giving up. But then, one bright day in sunny south London, on a Mega Drive... I beat somebody playing FIFA! Problem being, I wouldn't normally touch a Mega Drive with a barge pole. But now EA, in a final burst of passion for the Amiga, have saved me the social embarrassment of console gaming.

VIVA FIFA
FIFA was a bit of a revelation for our console chums. Not used to the sort of football fare we take for granted on the Amiga it was leapt upon and awarded all sorts of accolades. But how does it measure up to 'computer' translation?

If the truth to be told, FIFA is tremendous fun in two-player mode. There's none of this piddling around with pea-
sized characters, watching 'scanners'; it's good, clean, healthy isometric action with a gigantic hoola hoop stuck to the feet of the player you're in control of, just in case you can't figure out which one it is.

The viewing perspective and the quality of the animation are the two key ingredients that make FIFA stand out over other soccer games. You play diagonally (at a 30 degree angle) up or down the pitch and a control panel allows you to toggle between normal joystick up, down, left, right control or the slightly more bizarre but game friendly angled control where the up-right joystick position makes your player run up the field while the down-left position makes him run down etc.

At first playing downfield seems to be a disadvantage: the 30 degree angle would appear to make things more difficult, but once you get used to it there's no problem - it's just like playing down field in any other football sim.

Sprite animation is where it's really at though. This is easily the nearest thing to 'real' football in terms of presentation. The players' running animations are gorgeous and when they do a shoulder charge, head the ball, do a diving tackle, or a keeper saves a goal it just gets better. In the past animations like this have tended to look out of place or have been maddeningly slow, but in FIFA everything happens with pace - especially on an A1200.

PACE UNITED
On a 500/600 FIFA is good, on a 1200 it's great. It's so fast it outpaces the console original. Control is easy too, and supports one or two button joysticks and the original's three-button joypad. However, for football game purists this is where FIFA falls down. Regardless of how many buttons you have available it just doesn't have as many moves, and isn't as intuitive or skill intensive as Sensi or the first two Kick-Offs.

I mentioned the two-player mode earlier on and this is really where the game comes into its own. It's pure fun to play and you don't have to be a twitching maniac with 20-20 vision to learn it. The moves and their execution may be simple but you still need skill and quick responses to win and what FIFA lacks in computer game joystick bashing credibility it makes up for in look and realism.

OPTION CITY
If there's one thing EA are keen on it's their options and statistics. They love 'em, but manage to make them extremely palatable for the rest of us too. Options include five weather conditions, which change the state of the pitch, grass or astroturf fields, three foul settings, manual or computer goalies, halves of between two and 45 minutes and 'Action' or 'Simulation' modes, the latter results in your players getting tired as the game drags on.

Once you've decided on the above you get to choose the team and players' skill ratings, the formation, the players' coverage (how much grounds the defenders, mid-fielders and strikers cover) and the style of play - all out attack, all out defence, long ball etc. Finally, during play you can make substitutions, change strategy and all sorts of other groovy things. And once it's all over EA's statistics men tell you how many shots at goal you've had and how many saves etc.

DISK WANDERER
So what are its downsides then? Well, not a lot really. As I've mentioned before the controls are too simple for some, which means that there's not enough scope for arcade skill development (this doesn't really concern me). And while the A1200 version is faster than the Mega Drive, it's a bit slower than the Mega Drive on other machines but by no means unacceptably so.

No, FIFA's worst crime is the length of time it takes to load and its disk swopping shenanigans. Patience is the order of the day here: not only does it take several minutes to initially load the game and get started but every time you finish a match it takes almost as long to get another going. Hard drive owners will be delighted to know that it is installable though, and this saves considerable time.

I really like FIFA, it's a bit American in concept but this is a product of being an EA Sports game (Madden's Yank Footie, NBA etc.) and has to be expected. It is very slickly put togetehr and presented and quite easy to pick up and play without making a fool of yourself. This is not to say that it lacks any depth though. With all its options, speed and realism, FIFA is great fun to play and watch and has real long term staying power. However it will never wean the true football fanatic off Sensi. Also, unless you have a hard drive, it can be hard to live with - it just doesn't have the plug in and play facility of the console version.

If you had to have two football games in your collection; one a top-down view speed and skillfest and the other a cracking good arcade sport sim that's gorgeous to look and not too demanding to play then FIFA would have to be the latter. Go on, treat yourself.