The European Football Championships are over and we lost again, nothing new there. What a disaster! It's enough to make you run out into the street and burn your collection of footie games as a public statement. But before you do, you'll want to know whether or not John Barnes European Football is worth buying, just to make the bonfire complete.
Needs 1 Meg It must have seemed like a good idea at the time, when Krisalis decided to go for good ol' Johnny as their choice of front man for their European Championships tie-in. Now they must be bicycle-kicking themselves in disgust, and not just because we got knocked out of the running - poor old Barnsie didn't even make it on to the plane to Sweden. Thanks to an unfortunate injury, just before the Championships started. This leaves Krisalis with more eggs on their faces than that nice Mister Major chappie.
John Barnes European Football is a no-frills, bash-the-ball-around football game, and not a lot more. Essentially a revamped version of Manchester United with an improved pitch and slightly better graphics, John Barnes looks like a cynical marketing ploy to relieve you of a bit more of your hard-earned dosh in the name of football.
SICK AS A PARROT
There are a few improvements which make the game a little better than its predecessor. Arrows underneath the players make sure you know which way you should be kicking, and the noise of the crowd adds a fair helping of atmosphere. But overall, the experience is disappointing. Instead of the lightning-fast mega-heroes you expect to be controlling, you're given a bunch of virtually indistinguishable geeks (with the exception of Barnes himself) who react like they have semi-hard concrete in their boots. There's also a strange tendency for your players to move faster across the pitch from wing to wing which completely ruins any chance you had of reclaiming the ball in open ground. All you need is one Swede to come running along and they're off with the ball like a shot.
The performance of your goalie isn't much better. Try a pass-back manoeuvre from just outside the box, and your gloved guardian leaps into the air accompanied by tumultuous applause from the audience. Why? Maybe because Krisalis weren't expecting you to play real football, perhaps?
You have a few options which you can select at the beginning of each game. You can vary the playing length from 10 minutes to the full hour-and-a-half, or change the weather. Setpieces, like free-kicks and penalties can be disabled if all you want is continuous ball-on-foot action. The silliest option has to be the one which lets you control only Barnes: from the on, the game becomes ridiculous. The camera stays with the ball, and Barne's position is marked on the scanner in the same colour as all your other players, so it's virtually impossible to tell where he is.
Jerky, badly-animated sprites combine with poor ball control to make life even harder for the football aficionado. The small view of the pitch is not large enough to set up any real good passes, and even when you aim a free-kick at one of your own blokes, he usually runs away as soon as the ball is kicked. Frustration reigns supreme, and you'll be shouting at the screen with the same amount of agony that you probably used when you watched the real matches on telly, so in that respect, John Barnes European Football is accurate. But gameplay fun, it certainly isn't.
SING WHEN YER WINNING
It's difficult to work out which is the biggest travesty - England's performance during the ill-fated European Championships, or Krisalis's John Barnes European Football. With so many top-rated footballers England has no excuse to be playing so badly, and with so many top-rated football games around, Krisalis have no excuse for releasing this dog. They can't be blamed for Barnes's injury, but they sure as hell carry the can for this lousy offering. If you only buy one football game this season, make sure this isn't the one. Oh, and Barnsie - get well soon mate, it looks like we'll need you more than ever.