12, 24, 36 Hup hup hup, It's

John Madden American Football logo Gamer Gold

ELECTRONIC ARTS * £25.99 * 1/2 meg * Joystick * Out soon

America, land of fast food, drugs, death, violence, George Bush, Mickey Mouse, Elvis, Madonna, Public Enemy, Bart Simpson and John Madden. The question needs to be asked, who the bloop is John Madden? I don't know who the hell he is and I don't really care, but here is John Madden's Football anyway.

The object of the game is to score more points than your opponent (pretty obvious, really). You score by getting a touchdown or by kicking a field goal. To score a touchdown you have to get the ball into your opponent's endzone. It really is a bit complicated to explain the rules, so I'll be basic.

At the start of the game, someone kicks off and the team receive the ball. Then they run with the ball trying to get it in the endzone. If they are tackled then it is a first down. The team has four downs to gain 10 yards - if they are successful then it is another first down. So it progresses until you get into the endzone and score a touchdown. The offensive team can move up the field by throwing the football to one of the receivers. Alternatively the quarterback - the guy who bungs the ball and generally controls play - can hand the ball to one of the running backs. Who will try to leg it as far as he can.

Now this sounds all fun and games, but there is the small matter of the defensive team. Their job is to get the ball off you. Now these guys aren't softies and will more than likely break your legs just to get the ball. They can intercept the ball or claim it if it is fumbled, but they can't steal it out of your arms.

After you have scored a touchdown and gained six points, there is an opportunity to kick a field-goal for an extra point. This entails booting the ball over the post, just like they do in rugby.

There are of course loads more rules and regulations, but I haven't got enough space to tell you them all. If you buy John Madden's football have a look inside the manual, all will be revealed and then you'll be able to find out what Mick Luckhurst was babbling on about.

Now on to the game. It starts with a funky tune and a nice graphical introduction - it even features one of those American commentators who introduces you to the game.
Once past the copy protection, it's time to select what type of game you want to play. You can play a regular game with two of your favourite teams or you can start a playoff series where you choose your team and you play until you get knocked out or until you win the Superbowl.

You can play on joystick or keyboard, against the computer or a friend. There are other choice to be made, like whether you want to play indoors, or outdoors in the rain - you can even play in the snow. Once you've selected all your options, it's time to kick off. During the game, you have to select plays. These determine whether you are to kick, throw or pass the ball, or whether you are to launch a full-scale attack on your opponents. They can be a little confusing at first, but the more you play the more you learn.

Overall, John Madden's Football is the best American Football game on the Amiga. The graphics are brilliant and you can hardly tell the difference between the Amiga and Sega Megadrive versions. The players are well animated and all the teams seem to have their team colours.

The Megadrive has three different Fire buttons compared to the Amiga's one, but the Amiga version still plays fairly well. On the sound front, there is the stonking intro tune and there is even a "mix" of the original Megadrive music before you begin the game.

While you are playing there are some good sound effects like the "Hup hup Hup" before the ball is in play and loads of bone-crunching tackle noises.

There are a couple of slight problems. The first one is that it's rather easy. Whether it's just because I'm amazing at John Madden's and can beat all the others in the office or because I've loads of practice playing the Megadrive version, I don't know, but it is still easy. The other problem is that it slows down in parts and always seems as though the other team is much faster than you. Apart from that, once you've mastered the control system it's great fun to play, especially when you score that all-important first touchdown.

You just can't help jumping out of your seat and bopping to the touchdown tune. What I am disappointed about is the distinct lack of beautiful cheer-leaders. Oh well, you can't have it all.
If you are a fan of American Football (as I am) then this game will definitely be at the top of your shopping list.

Don't forget - once you've bought the game, go round to your Megadrive-owning chums' houses and say"anything you can do, we can do just the same". That'll get them riled.



John Madden American Football logo

Why is it that most sport sims are dead boring? We've all seen them, masquerading as accounts packages, with no action. But they're not all like that, y'know.

Touchdowns, quarterbacks, tight-ends, first downs - it's all gobbledigook, isn't it? That's the usual response you get this side of the Atlantic, whenever you ask someone about American football. For years now, it's been regarded as an inferior game, compared to our own soccer and rugby. But the times, they are a-changing, and Electronic Arts know this. We even have our own British team, the London Monarchs, and they're currently the World Champions. So maybe now is just the right time to kick off with John Madden American Football.

The trouble with American football (or so the story goes), is that it's too stop-start, with too many adverts and too much going on at once. It's impossible to follow the action. Some of this is true, but like any sport, it has to be learnt so you can understand what's happening. Not just a great game, John Madden American Football is the perfect study-aid. It's a far cry from the text-based strategy games which have traditionally been the way to play American Football on computer.

Instead, a pseudo-3D view shows you the action and you guide selected members of your team around the field, rather like you can in Kick Off 2.

In John Madden, there are different offensive and defensive team set-ups to choose, ranging from the tough-guys (BIG) to the grade-A catchers (HANDS). There are five different offensive formations which they can start from - including the Shotgun (a give-away passing formation) and the Pro-Form (a less obvious pass-or-run set-up). Each formation has six different running or passing patterns to choose from - so even if the defenders know you're likely to pass, they still don't know who to, or where he'll be at the crucial moment.

More formations than the Red Arrows
The teams, formations and plays are chosen from menus which appear while the teams are in the huddle. You move the joystick left or right to bring three possible arrangements into view, and then use a combination of joystick direction and fire button to select one. This way, if you're playing against a human opponent, he can see the team you're brining onto the field, and he can narrow your formation and play down to one of three.

As soon as you line up, he can see the formation- and he can guess which the most likely play you'll use is. Meanwhile, you can see which defensive formation he's chon, and make a fair guess at whether he's going to come crashing in to sack your quarterback (a blitz) or just block your receivers downfield.

Once both sides have chosen their formation and their intended plays, they trot over to the line of scrimmage where the ball is placed. The play menus disappear, allowing you to see a large portion of the pitch. If you're the offensive team (i.e. you have possession of the ball - you're not just the ones who swear loudest), you grab the ball, chuck it backwards to the quarterback and the play begins in earnest.

But before you pick up (or snap) the ball, you can try to fool the defenders with a fake snap, by pulling backwards on the stick. Your quarterback shouts "hut, hut, hut" (which indicates a snap is imminent). If the defensive team is fooled and moves over the line, they get penalised five yards and you start again, closer to the goal line.

Snap the ball, not your back
As well as faking snaps, you can change plays at the line. If you've noticed that the defensive team has brought on its biggest players, and they're all standing at the line, you can be pretty sure of a blitz. If you've already called a passing play, there's a real risk that your quarterback will be squashed before he can pass, losing you lots of yards.

By moving the joystick forwards before the snap, you make the quarterback call an anti-blitz play. He shouts "Blue Forty-Two" or something similar, and your team-members rearrange themselves in a hurry, so that you can run with the ball instead of passing. Follow it up with a quick snap, and the defense is left with its pants down, looking for the non-existent pass. It's all in the tactics.


A far cry from the text-based games which hav traditionally been the way to play football.

If all this sounds like it's still too complicated, there's no need to worry. Whether you are playing another person or the computer, you have the option to simply call the plays and do nothing else. Your Amiga can move your players into the position you've chosen, and even handle passing and running bit, but you can't manage the more difficult passing, you can call a passing play, and wait until the ball is in the receiver's hands.

If you move the joystick then, you take control. You can do this any time after the ball is snapped, or just leave it to resolve itself. Once the ball hits the turf, you're back to play-calling again and the process starts over. This neat option allows you to be coach, quarterback, receiver or blocker as the fancy takes you.

Over the shoulder
There are oodles of hours of gameplay inside John Madden American Football. With a mate, it's even better, whether you're just having a friendly one-off match, or a full-scale contest heading for the Super Bowl. And it doesn't matter if you're still not sure about all the rules.

The manual tells you absolutely everything that you need to know - and more - and it has a distinct advantage over watching the game on TV. You can double-check every play by calling them yourself and letting the computer do the work> Soon you'll be a master of the game and know that all the gobbledigook makes sense.

John Madden American Football isn't a solitary kind of game. There's loads of two-friend against, and the whole event is as watchable as the real thing. The rest of the family, who are sure to be watching over your shoulder, will be more entertained than they would if they were watching a TV game.

John Madden American Football has one of the classiest game intros ever seen on the Amiga, complete with sampled speech, raunchy music and stunning animated graphics. Quite a few TV productions could benefit from intros this good, never mind other games.

And once you start playing the game itself, all the sound-effects that you would expect are there. There's even a roof-raising cheer from the crowd when you make a touchdown. It really is fun for everyone.

Next time you tune into Channel Four on a Sunday night, and you find that there's a Bulgarian opera on instead of the Redskins and Dolphins, there's no need to switch over in absolute disgust. There's a whole heap of fun you could be having, and John Madden American Football is where it's at. Don't spend the rest of your life just cheering on the side-lines; get yourself a copy and then you can have your football and eat it.


JOHN MADDEN? WHO IS HE?

John Madden reached fame as the Head Coach for Oakland Raiders (who later became the world-famous Los Angeles Raiders). He was promoted to top position in 1969 at the age of 32, making him the youngest professional Head Coach in the history of the game. During his ten-year term at the Raiders, Madden drove the team on to win several Western Division Championships and the 1977 Superb Bowl against Minnesota Vikings.

In 1979, Madden retired due to heart trouble and became a football commentator for an American TV network, where he can still be heard today.


Touchdown für Electronic Arts

John Madden American Football logo

Das Konvertierungs-Karussell sorgt doch immer wieder für Überraschungen: Nicht die mäßige PC-Urversion des Programms wurde auf dem Amiga umgesetzt, sondern Electronic Arts prächtige Neuauflage fürs Mega Drive!

Dementsprechend bekommen wir es hier mit einem ausgezeichneten Sportspiel zu tun, ist das Football-Game am Mega Drive doch einer der meistverkauften Title überhaupt. Und das kommt nicht von ungefähr, denn als sich die elektronischen Artisten Ende 1990 des häßlichen PC-Entleins annahmen, haben sie ihm eine wesentlich gefälligere Präsentation spendiert und gleichzeitig die Spielbarkeit spürbar verbessert. Das Problem war also nur noch, die Steuerung amigagerecht aufzubereiten; schließlich muß unsereiner mit einem Feuerknopf auskommen, wo Konsolen-Joypads mit drei aufwarten können...

Tatsächlich ist die Handhabung im direkten Vergleich zum Original etwas umständlicher geworden, allerdings fällt das angesichts des fairen und in seiner Komplexität nur mit "Kick Off 2" vergleichbaren Gameplays kaum ins Gewicht.

Wo wir schon bei Vergleichen sind: Ob "TV Sports Football" von nun an mit dem zweiten Platz vorliebnehmen muß, läßt sich schwer sagen - John Madden Football ist sowohl vom Grafischen als auch vom Spielerischen her übersichtlicher, der Cinemaware-Klassiker hat aber nach wie vor die aufwendigere Optik zu bieten. Doch genug verglichen, kommen wir zum Eingemachten:

Vor dem Saisonstart darf man mit seinen Jungs erst mal ordentlich üben und ihre Fähigkeiten verbessern; anschließend geht's entweder ins Playoff (so eine Art Superbowl) oder man entschließt sich, eine reguläre Saison in der Liga zu bestreiten. Auf dem Rasen sind Strategie und Action gut gemixt, man hat Stärkeanzeigen, Positionskreuze und vor allem über hundert verschiedene Spieltaktiken zur Auswahl.

Optionen und Optiönchen gibt es reichlich, etwa Zwei Spieler-Modus, einstellbare Spielzeit, Replay-Funktion, Statistiken, Statistiken oder auch Statistiken.

Es fällt schwer, hier irgendwas zum Meckern zu finden - die Computergegner sind intelligent, die Witterungs- und Platzverhältnisse (z.B. Morast oder Schnee) wirken sich aus, und die eigenen Leute haben allesamt ihre individuellen Stärken & Schwächen, die einem der berühmte Coach vor jedem Spiel persönlich runterbetet.

Die minimal ruckelnde Grafik ist farbenprächtig und sehr übersichtlich (leicht schräge Vogelperspektive), der Sound geradezu erschreckend realistisch (Musik, Sprachausgabe, Knochen-Knacken...), und die Steuerung (Joy, Key, Maus) kann nach der Eingewöhnungsphase ebenfalls überzeugen.

Allenfalls Kleinigkeiten ließen sich bemängeln, so wurden nicht alle der 28 NFL-Teams versoftet, und die Amiga-Umsetzung entspricht auch nicht die neuesten Fassung ('92 Edition) für Segas Renommier-Konsole. Aber wie gesagt, das sind Kleinigkeiten, in der Gesamtheit sollte John Madden die Fans des Ami-Sports wirklich voll überzeugen! (mm)



John Madden American Football logo

It may still be something of a minority interest, but the arrival of John Madden Football could be just the thing to have us all talking touchdowns in no time...

Let's get one thing straight from the very beginning, John Madden Football on the Mega Drive is in my opinion probably the best computer game ever written. This, then, is for my money the most eagerly awaited Amiga release of the year. Does that make me biased? Maybe, but if EA have in any way failed to maximise the potential of this version then rest assured I'll let you know.

That's that off my chest - now let me introduce you to a man called John Madden and his American Football game. John Madden is one of the big footy commentators in the state (like Jimmy Hill, but infinitely more hip). But his biggest claim to fame is having coached the Oakland Raiders to a Superbowl victory years ago.

The game itself is also an award winner, having been voted 'video game of the year' at the 1990 InDin awards - a prize perhaps less high-profile than a Superbowl victory, but more relevant to our concerns. This is the game that took the Mega Drive owning world by storm (before a certain blue and white spikey speed-merchant started hedge-hogging the limelight) and is now the first major Sega console game to be converted tho home computer format. So let's take a look and see what's what...

First stop, the options screen. If there's two of you, you can play head-to-head. Alternatively, chose to field any one of 17 football teams in either a regular season game, the first round of play-offs or a sudden death first-person-to-score grudge match against the computer.

Although you won't recognize the names as genuine NFL teams, each is unique. Although you only ever see 11 men from each team on the pitch at any one time, the squad consists of 45 individual players - each with his own particular strengths and weaknesses. These are reflected in a complete catalogue of player stats which are not only used as input data for the game's copy protection scheme, but combine to shape and mould the abilities, potential and peculiarities of each particular team.

It is in this way that you can tailor the difficulty of playing John Madden Football. Start off by representing a San Francisco or New York collection of hard nuts against a weaker team such as the (quite frankly, weedy) boys from Kansas City. You could even elect to field the All Madden team - a practically unbeatable, rootin' tootin', run-and-shootin', jock-strappin' posse of superheroes if ever there was one. Then, once you feel confident enough, play more evenly matched games.

PLAY AWAY, OR EVEN AT HOME
Now choose if you want your elected team to play home or away, inside under a dome or in the open air, on grass or astroturf, in fair weather, rain and mud or snow and ice. All these options will effect the ensuing game. Players will speed up or slow down - in ice or mud a running game becomes more difficult - and so on. Finally (after a brief character assassination of each team by a digitised image of John Madden himself) the crowd roars, the visiting team run onto the pitch and we're ready for kick-off.

This is your first glimpse of the pitch, and what a fine 3D rotating, scrolling spectacle it is too. A whistle blows, the visiting team's kicker runs up to the ball and wellies it down the pitch.
It is at this point that all hell breaks lose and (unfortunately) we're going have to divide into two groups - those who already understand American Football perfectly, and those who have no idea what those ridiculous Yanks have got against good old-fashioned rugger anyway.

There's no space really to explain all the rules and technicalities of the game, but suffice to say that John Madden Football pretty much knows them all. Just play a few games, concentrate on what's going on and pretty soon you'll learn how it works yourself.

Actually, there's a better idea - for the first few goes leave your joystick or keyboard (you can choose your control method at the start of the game) well alone and let the computer play for you. Whether on offence or defence, if you don't make a choice of play within a time limit the computer will make your choice for you, then execute the moves with calculated efficiency - albeit with a distinct lack of any 'Oh my God, what the hell's going on?' sort of flamboyancy.

When you feel confident enough, you can start calling your own plays. You can then either join in the proceedings or (once again) let the computer do all the dirty work for you.


The best American Football game ever

GET MADDEN, THEN GET EVEN
While on offence, you start off playing the part of quarterback - you call the plays. Then, as soon as the action starts, you're put in direct control of whoever gets the ball. You can dive, spin or run around in circles - it's up to you. As with the play-selection sequences, you can choose to adopt a hands-off stance and let the computer get on with it itself if you'd rather.

But firstly, you must deice on a plan for the play. Facing up the pitch (John Madden Football always offers you a nice view of the quarterback's pert behind), once you've decided what you want to do (based on a quick study of the current state of the game, your team's strengths and your opponent's weaknesses) you're given control of three variables.


The most eagerly awaited release this year

THE NEW LEADER IN ITS FIELD
First off, you have to decide which set of players you want on the field. There are six different sets (two of which are 'special' kicking teams), each suited to different plays. The favoured set of guys run onto the pitch, and you must than select one formation (from a possible five) for them to move into at the line of scrimmage. Again, some formations favour running plays, some passing. Some offer the quarterback plenty of protection - allowing him a few more precious seconds of time to decide what he wants to do after the snap - while others offer different benefits. There are plenty of variations.

Lastly, you must select a play from the six on offer. All with fancy names such as 'Down And Out', 'Cross Pass' or 'Half Back Screen', there will be a mixture of running and passing plays, weighted in favour of whatever suits the selected formation best. The players move into positions, a voice calls "set" and it's time to see if all your careful planning yields any benefits.

I SHALL SAY THIS ONLY ONCE
Sounds complicated? Don't worry - you'll soon get the hang of it. But what it does boil down to is a huge selection of 120 (four sets, each with five possible formations, in turn wit its own selection of six plays) combinations at your disposal. But even then your options are still open. You have the choice of rushing with the quarterback, calling an 'audible' (abandoning your planned play and running with a predefined set play) or whatever - not forgetting the decision to be taken on which of your three receivers you're going to pass to.

Sounds a lot? We haven't even talked about punts, field-goals, on-side kicks, time-outs, fumbles, interceptions, touch-backs or conversions yet...

While in defence, you're faced with an equally daunting array of options and possibilities. Experimentation is the only way to learn what works and what doesn't. You can decide which player to control before the snap (the player to control before the snap (the player you control is standing on a cross so you can recognize him 0 even with his helmet on), and then swap to controlling whoever's in the thick of the action and once the action starts.

If your opponent's quarterback manages to get a pass away, then a tap of the fire button swaps your control to the player nearest your opponent's receiver. You can then jump to intercept or bat down the ball or tackle the receiver (but be careful not to get penalised for pass interference).

So is this Amiga version of my precious fave game the classic conversion I was so dearly hoping it was going to be? I'm pleased to say that the answer is yes. The graphics are excellent - although there is occasionally slight slow-down - and the sound effects and sampled speech are as good as anything else I've ever heard. But, perhaps most importantly, the tricky job of maintaining the game's controllability while switching from a three-button joypad to a one-button joystick has been handled as it were never going to be a problem.

A QUESTION OF GAME TACTICS
But still, the real hook is the game underneath the gloss - there's just so much here. If all the options, decisions, choices and permutations that I attempted to outline earlier sound daunting, then take it merely as an indication of John Madden Football's colossal depth.

I played the Mega Drive version of this game solidly for around six months - and still came nowhere near to exploring everything that there was on offer. Practise playing against the computer with on particular team and you'll soon find yourself able to beat all the opposition with ease. But then start fielding a different team (with different strengths and weaknesses), and you'll find yourself back to square one.

Better still, play against a human opponent. There are so many routes of discovery, so much scope for developing your own individual style of play, that no two people will ever find themselves having taken the same path to mastering the game. Hence no two players will ever (ever) find themselves not surprising (and in turn being surprised) with or by the plays and tactics that the other regarded as standard stuff.

Surely there has never been a game that demands so much of the player, in terms of both hands-on, adrenalin pumping, pure arcade action and strategical thinking (don't underestimate this - third and two, three points behind, on the six yard line with 20 seconds on the clock with no time outs remaining is nothing less than a situation of grandmaster chess complexity).

That this is the Amiga's best ever American Football game ever is without question - I'm talking about higher stakes. For my money, and I'll accept that different people like different things, this game offers more than anything else I've ever seen. John Madden Football is quite possible the most complete Amiga game you'll ever have the joy of playing.


WHAT ARE THOSE AMERICANS DOING?

Although it may seem ridiculously complicated, American Football is one of the simplest around - the jargon's what puts people off. Sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin...

The END ZONE is the area behind the goal lines. Both teams have got one. The object of the whole game is to have one of your team holding the ball in your opponent's end zone - this is a TOUCHDOWN. At any one time in the game, one team will be attacking and one defending. The attacking team is called the OFFENSIVE team. They will try to work the ball towards the DEFENSIVE team's endzone.

The ball is moved about in PLAYS. The play starts by both teams facing off at the line of scrimmage - at a point level with wherever the ball finished up at the end of the last play. When the QUARTERBACK of the offensive team calls for the SNAP, he is passed the ball and he can do one of three things. Firstly, he can pass the ball to one of his team-mates to run with - this is a RUNNING PLAY. Secondly, he could chuck the ball up the pitch to a team-mate - this is a PASSING PLAY. Or he could RUSH (run) with the ball himself.

The offensive team is allowed four DOWNS (plays) to get the bal a total of ten yards up the pitch. So first down and ten means that it's the team's first play, and that they stil have ten yards to go.

If they manage to gain ten yards, then they're allowed another four goes to get the ball a further ten yards - and so on, until they either score a touchdown or they fail to make the ten yards. On fourth (hence, last) down, unless a field goal is possible the offensive team will PUNT the ball as far up the pitch as they can. They lose possession, but have gained a lot of territory. The team swap roles, and the ball starts moving back down the pitch. There's a lot more to it, but that's the basics.


John Madden American Football logo CU Amiga Screenstar

American Football hasn't had a chequered history on the Amiga. Only Cinemaware's aging TV Sports Football managed to convert the sport into a playable game and, even then, if you weren't a fan of the sport, you stood no chance! Now, thanks to Electronic Arts, there's a new contender for the Amiga Footballing crown.

John Madden Football lets you become both coach and quarterback to one of 16 NFL teams, effectively combining arcade-style action with in-depth strategy. Such a mix of gaming styles helps capture all the excitement of the real thing and effectively translates the sport's complex rules, statistics and plays into a white-hot conversion destined to become something of a classic.

Such gushing praise is not undeserved. There are more than 100 plays in the whole game offering a wide variety of running and passing options backed up by some serious bone-crunching defensive strategies.

The game begins with a comprehensive options screen which allows you to chose from 16 of the NFL's top teams as well as the John Madden All-Stars, a squad of players that are almost invincible and can run, pass and catch better than any other team.

The instruction manual comes with a complete breakdown of each team's strengths and weaknesses and each player's skills and attributes are rated on a scale from 0 to 15. For instance, defensive backs are rated for their hitting ability, pass coverage and tackling whereas the Offensive line are scored on their weight, pass blocking, run blocking and speed.

All these attributes are reflected in a team's on-field performance and no amount of joystick wiggling will make up for the fact that your quarterback is a complete klutz and couldn't run down the street without catching wind.

Other options include a one or two-player game, a choice of keyboard or joystick controls, and variable pitch and weather conditions. Matches can either be part of a regular season, sudden death, or, if you're confident enough, part of the Superbowl playoffs. Each Quarter can either be the regular 15 minutes or scaled down to last for five or 10 minutes.

Once you've waded through all the options, a pre-match Scouting Report lists the strengths and weaknesses of both teams. For example, one team might have a strong running game but a poor defensive line-up who are weak in the air whereas the other side might possess a big money quarterback who likes to play the long ball. It's important to study these reports as well as the manual's breakdown as spotting a team's weakness and then exploiting it is the way to win games.

Play is viewed from above and behind the offensive line-up so that the defensive team always run downfield. This foreshortened 3D view works surprisingly well, especially with the graduated colouring of the pitch, and the screen scrolls up and down the field as well as from side to side depending on where the ball is at any given moment.

Unfortunately, each time the ball is lost the screen flips around so that the offensive team is progressing up the field. It's a bit disorientating at first and can cause you a few lost points into the bargain. This annoying feature can happen at virtually any time during the game. For instance, if a pass is intercepted the screen will flip so that the team now in possession are headed up field!

After the referee spots the ball, a football-shaped strength gauge appears. By holding down the joystick and moving if from side to side, it's possible to determine the strength of the kick up-field as well as the direction the ball will take. Once the ball has been caught by the opposition and returned up the field, both the offense and defense must select their plays for the first down. This consists of picking the players who will take part in the play, the formation they'll take up on the pitch and the strategy used to pull off the play. This is done by a clever menu system which displays a selection of running, passing or defensive plays depending on which team you're controlling.

By moving the joystick to the left or right it's possible to move through the different combinations until the required play is displayed

The game then reverts to a display of the pitch. Even at this late stage it's possible to change your mind about a play and call an audible to initiate a new tactic. These are the strange grunt-like utterings of the Quarterback which can often be overhead during televised matches. There are six in all and each team has their own specific calls. Once the ball is snapped into play, you can either choose to take control of the quarterback or let the computer execute the move.

If you've opted for a passing play, your three receivers will pop up at the top of the screen. To pull off a successful pass it's a good idea to throw to those players who are holding their hands aloft, otherwise you risk the chance of an interception, an incomplete pass or a fumble. Even when a receiver is in a good position, you'll still have to get him underneath the ball to make the catch.

If you've got control of the defense you control the player nearest to the ball, but it's possible to cycle through each player in your team to take up a better position. Obviously, the best play you can make is to sack the quarterback or make an interception.

Unfortunately, all of this isn't as easy as it may sound due to the cumbersome control method that's replaced the three-button joypad used in the Megadrive game. Everything in the original was geared to the pad's engineering with a choice of three on-screen plays, three receivers and so on. Merely transferring these characteristics to the Amiga and expecting them to work perfectly with a conventional joystick is asking a bit too much of even the keenest gamesplayer. It'll take quite some time to familiarise yourself with the control method which involves multiple presses and joystick movements to pull off the majority of plays.

However, once you've become accustomed to the control system it's possible to pull off some spectacular plays without raising a sweat. In one game against the Denver Broncos I managed to throw a Hail Mary close to the Endzone from my own 30 yard line and run it in for a touchdown while shaking off the unwanted attentions of three defensive linebackers.

Ploughing through tackles, diving for extra yardage or spinning and avoiding tackles all together becomes second nature after a while.

The sprites are remarkably detailed and wel-animated. Touchdown boogies are common place (even if the real thing has been banned in the NFL!) and the realistic movement of players during the many set plays is excellent. Bone-jarring sound effects when unstoppable offense meets immovable defense add significantly to the atmosphere as does the sampled speech during crucial plays. Even the crowd noise is authentic-sounding, something many sports sims overlook or use samples which sound like TV static.

The lack of an instant replay facility for dubious or close calls is a disappointment, especially if you pull off a long bomb or manage to sack the opposition's quarterback and want to watch it all over again.

It's also annoying that only 16 of the NFL's 28 teams are included in the game. Fans of the Dallas Cowboys, New York Jets, New Orleans Saints or the Green Bay Packers will be disappointed to find their team aren't included in the game. Also, a bit more Speedball 2-type violence might have got some more mileage out of the game. Off the ball fights or the chance to follow up a hit on a player with a fist in the face might not exactly be fair play, but it sure would be fun!

John Madden is certainly the most playable and addictive American Football game on the Amiga. It's not perfect, but once you've got used to the control system, you'll get hours of play out of it.


WHO THE HELL IS JOHN MADDEN ANYWAY?

For those not savvy with American Football, John Madden could be any old jock putting his name to the finest American Football game to grace the Amiga. However, Madden is a man with a history and, in 1969, became the youngest head coach in professional football when he replaced John Rauch as the man in Chargles of the Los Angeles Raiders. In 1977 he helped the team win Superbowl XI.

After retiring from the game two years later, Madden began a new career as a TV sports commentator and his expert opinion can be heard every Sunday night on Channel 4's footy coverage.

NEW PLAYERS START HERE To the uninitiated, American Football can seem like an excuse for gratuitous violence between grossly-overweight young men who bear a striking resemblance to the Michelin man once they've donned their protective clothing. In fact, the game is just as much a thinking man's game as it is for those who have an overactive thyrold gland and a penchant for steroids.

Play takes place across a pitch (the 'Gridiron') which is 100 yards long by 53 yards wide. The aim of the game is to move the ball more than 10 yards in for attempts (called 'Downs') and eventually carry the ball into your opponent's End-Zone (past their Goal-line) for a Touchdown (score). Each team has an offense, defense and special teams which come into play at different times during the game. If an opposing team's offense is on the field (having possession of the ball, then your defense will be called into play to check their progress towards your goal-line.

Each team has a number of defensive and offensive plays which they use to try to second guess the opposition and either advance the ball down the field, impeded progress or regain possession. It's a bit like chess in that each team needs to pick the right plays with the right players at the right time.


FOOTY FACTS
  • The cost of kitting out a professional team can be as high as $300,000.
  • The first professional player was Pudge Heffelfinger who received the princely some of $500 to play for the Allegheny Athletic Association in 1892 (who we all know went on to dominate the sport ever since!).
  • Harvard University were the first team to allow a certain amount of running with the ball instead of playing a largely kicking game. IN a game against McGill University in 1874, only 11 members of the McGill team were well enough to play, so the game went ahead with 11 men instead of the normal 15 men per side. If the four men hadn't come down with the flu, American Football might well be played today with 15 men a side.
  • One of the highlights of the 1968 season was the game between the Los Angeles Raiders and the New York Jets. The Raiders were trailing the Jets 32-29 when the network broadcasting the game interrupted coverage to show the children's film, Heidi, and viewers missed two last-minute touchdowns which clinched the match for the Raiders. The game became known as the 'Heidi' game and such was the volume of protest that network TV would always think twice before interrupting another televised game again.
  • The winners of each Super Bowl collects a souvenir ring for their efforts. It isn't just any kind of ring, though. Approximately 75 rings are especially designed and produced each year for the winning Super Bowl team. Such is the value and mystique of the rings that few have ever surfaced at auctions and these that have been sold have fetched astronomical prices.
IT'S A MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD

John Madden Footbal first appeared on the Megadrive almost 12 months ago and was heralded at the time as the finest American Football game ever. The eagerly-awaited Amiga conversion is the first Sega game to make it onto everyone's favourite home computer. After the one-way traffic of computer games being converted for the console market, it's encouraging to see games such as John Madden, Sega's Sonic and Konami's Mission Impossible reversing the trend.

The Amiga version of Madden has been programmed by Gary Roberts. If the name isn't familiar yet, we're sure it will be in the months to come. It's Gary's first stab at a commercial game. Before being snapped up by EA, Gary was quite active in the Public Domain and coded the excellent Amiga Tanx game, included on one of this month's coverdisks, as well as a six-disk Pink Floyd megademo reviewed in last year's July issue.


John Madden American Football logo Zero Hero

Racing is 'the sport of kings', boxing 'the sport of gentlemen' and American Football 'the sport of serial killers'. So Patrick McCarthy prefers to play computer American Football games, like John Madden Football.

John Madden Football originally appeared on the PC< but only really became 'famous' when the Mega Drive version was released. What can you say about it on the MD that hasn't already been said? You could say it's crap of course, nobody's said that, but that 's because it isn't. You could say it's the worst example of a Gordon Banks eye-patch you've ever seen, but that's just a bit of a silly thing to say. (When has that stopped you in the past? Ed.)

It's just very, very good, and any Amiga owners who have friends with Mega Drives will be heartily sick of the basts going on about it. Still, that's why the Lord gave us baseball bat. You can't afford said weaponry? Well, you can buy John Madden Football on the Amiga...

There's always some horrible little oik somewhere who doesn't know what a game is all about, so for its benefit, Madden is an American football game. Whaddya mean, you don't know what American Football is because it always clashed with Howard's Way? Alright, there's a quick rundown on the bottom for people like you. Just read it and then come back to this, okay?

Amiga Madden has the same options and facilities as the first MD version (not the stunning new Madden '92). There are sixteen teams, and you can play regular season games (one-offs_, sudden death games (first to score wins - good for practising) or battle your way through the play-offs (a password system enables you to save your progress between games).

Like the MD version, there are no instant-replay facilities, but you can watch a play in slow-motion, a frame at a time. You can select the pitch and weather conditions in regular season play, but not in the play-offs. You can play against the computer or another person, who doesn't necessarily have to be a friend. (In fact, it's normally more fun if you hate them).

Interestingly, EA have also decided to keep the control and playing methods used in the Mega Drive version (which was based on button A, B and C selections). This means you have to emulate the button-pressing with combined fire-buttoning and joystick movement. It's odd, though, that they've kept the A, B and C next to the options, when direction arrows are all you really need. The play selection method is also the same, with the same plays and the same sub-divisions of 'sets' of players, formations then plays.
So how does it work with a joystick?

Amiga reviewPatrick: Blimey. This looks so much like the Mega Drive game that a stupid person like myself could easily be confused. There are differences - like the more refined player figures, but the view scrolls around the pitch with the same smoothness that made everyone wet their trousers when the MD version first appeared.

The only non-console American footy game that has attempted the same kind of complexity of control over individual players as this is Mike Ditka on the PC. Although you can jump between players in the same way in Ditka, you don't get the range of things to do once you have control that you get in Madden.

The controls available to you are extensive. If you're in possession, you can dive or jump to catch a thrown ball. Once you're the ball-carrier, you can dive or put your head down and charge, or even spin around to avoid tackles. As a defender, you can snap control between defending players as the situation warrants, try to intercept or knock away passes, tackle the man or try to strip the ball from grasp.

On the Mega Drive, this all become intuitive very quickly. It's not quite as easy with a joystick and one button, and you'll find you need to concentrate more. Make sure you have a glitch free joystick with fire buttons that don't accidentally repeat, don't hold things for too long, and you'll be alright.

Presumably because of memory availability, there are no instant-replay facilities, but then there weren't on the first MD version either. You can, however, watch a play one frame at a time, although you can't really do that and still throw a pass effectively.

I've spent a long time talking about the control methods, haven't I? That's because it's such an excellent conversion, this is the one area where the game could stand or fall. Once you're used to it, it works very well and the playability shines. There's a tendency to take it for granted, being used to the MD version, but when you return to the other non-console games you realise just how good it is. It's a dream of a game for Amiga owners, and pours large buckets of wee over every other non-console American Football game. Wonderful stuff. Stop


AMERICAN FOOTBALL
FOR BEGINNERS

American Football differs from proper, English football in that the ball is only touched by anybody's foot about twice a game. This begs the question: why is it called football? Who cares. Basically, ninety hyper-thyroidic monsters, smashed out of their heads on stimulants and bulging to the gums from years of steroid abuse, spend three hours hammering into each other wearing fifty-pound metal helmets and polystyrene shirts. (Remember, kids - it's not clever or amusing to do steroids, and it shrinks your winkle). Only an hour of this time is accounted for, because the clock stops every time somebody falls over so that they can remove the dead. There's a lot of emphasis on getting ten yards, because that was the width of the Mayflower and it's very symbolic.

You get four chances (or 'downs', as they're known, because that's where you end up) to get ten yards whilst carrying a sharpened inflated pig's bladder. If you do get ten yards, you have to get another ten yards. If you don't, the other team gets a go. You're allowed to get more than ten yards if you want, but this is showing off, really. Get the bladder into the 'end zone' (the fancy technical term for the 'zone' at the 'end' of the pitch) and you get six points. There's also the odd bit of kicking, but nobody pays attention to that. Right? Right.

QUARTERBACKING
FOR FUN & PROFIT
John Madden American Football
The big man on the left weighs about eighteen stones, can run 40 yards in 4.5 seconds, and wants to take your eyes out with his studs. So what are you going to do about it?
John Madden American Football
Taking advantage of the rule that says he can't maim you if you haven't got the ball, you decide on the popular 'run backwards and quickly throw the ball to someone else' move.
John Madden American Football
If your team-mate catches it, he'll be faced with the same problem you had, but with no one to give it to. He'll have to run anyway.
John Madden American Football
He accidentally runs into the end zone. You have completed a touchdown pass. The crowd loves you, your team-mates respect you and your parents are very proud. Take $2,000,000.
John Madden American Football
Sadly, the big man doesn't play by the rules - he's hit you anyway and you're paralysed from the neck down.