Sierra Soccer: World Challenge Edition logo Amiga Computing Gold Award

The first in a long line of World Cup football games is here. Jonathan Maddock laces up his boots and shoots for goal in Sierra's latest software offering.

INTRODUCTION

This Summer the World Cup is taking place in the United States and there is a fair amount of merchandise and promotion to go along with the international football event. Part of that merchandise is the computer game and this year's batch of releases is bigger than ever before. There are a number of major software houses literally fighting a World Cup war, all vying to sell their game to you, the gamesbuying public. Which game do you buy though? Do you wait for the first game to get a good review or do you wait months until every football game has been released and then pick the best one? The decision is entirely down to you, but I don't envy your predicament.

The first World Cup football game out of the starting blocks is Sierra Soccer. Not unsurprisingly, the game has been created by Sierra On-Line and it features 24 teams and their battle tow in the greatest prize in World football. Sierra On-line haven't exactly been renowned for their prowess in the football game department, in fact I think this is one of their only games that isn't a graphic adventure. The release of Sierra Soccer is a brave step for the company that brought you the highly successful King Quest and Leisure Suit Larry series.

ADDITIONAL INFO

England haven't qualified for the 1994 World Cup, but they've still be included in Sierra Soccer, so English fans can pretend that they did. Hopefully England, now with a new manager, can bring back the glory days of 1966. In the final at Wembley Stadium, the red-shirted England, managed by Alf Ramsey and captained by West Ham's Bobby Moore, beat the superb West German team 4-2 in extra time.

The Germans took an early lead in the final, but Geoff Hurst equalised and then his West Ham colleague Martin Peters put England ahead, only to see Germany snatch a scrambled goal on the stroke of full time. Extra time was frenetic until Hurst slammed a shot against the underside of the crossbar, the ball bounced down over the goal line )or as Germany believed on to it) and the goal was awarded.

In the dying seconds, Hurst completed his hat-trick to put the game beyond the Germand and seal England's very first and so far, only World Cup win. The historic team for that day, July 30 1966 was Banks, Cohen, Wilson, Stiles, J Charlton Moore, Ball, R Charlton, Hurst, Hunt and Peters.


 

FLASHBACK

Obviously I've got to name Sensible Soccer and Goal as football games that must remain firmly in your games collection until you die. Sensible Soccer may not be top-heavy on realism with its cartoon-like graphics, but it's got it where it counts in the playability and addiction stakes.
Goal is slighly more realistic and was, for many, the successor to Kick Off 2. The introduction of back heels and overhead kicks were nice touches, but it still reigned supreme for sheer enjoyment and playability.

Before you get your mitts on a "new" World Cup football game, make sure you've got copies of Sensible and Goal because they still rule as the football games to beat.


 

Some people think football is a matter of life and death... I can assure them it is more serious than that
Bill Shankly (1914-81)


 

SOUND

Not a lot to sing or dance to, but the tune that kicks off the game is more than adequate. Actual in-game sound effects are few and far between, as with most games of this genre. Plenty of crowd noise though, with selected shouts (when a goal is scored) and boos (when a player is sent off) playing starring roles.

There's a smattering of digitised speech when a free-kick, corner or penalty is awarded, but it's not exactly going to amaze or astound you.

60%

 

GRAPHICS

One of the things that Sierra Soccer has not going for it is the angle from which you view the game. Although it's been done before in products such as Striker, the sprites are a lot smaller giving you a bigger perspective on the actual game in hand.

The 3D angle looks as though it might be confusing. For instance, due to perspective, the goals at the top of the screen look a lot smaller than the ones found at the bottom, but they are proportionally the same size. Although it's quite strange to get used to at first, you soon forget about the 3D angle and concentrate on the actual game.

The game sprites aren't quite as cartoon-like as found in Sensible Soccer and perhaps aren't as real as the ones in Man Utd Premier League Champions, they are adequate enough and have a style of their very own. There are some nice animated features to be found in Sierra Soccer such as the referee who brandishes a yellow/red card or blows his whistle whenever necessary.

Even when a player is injured the physio runs on the pitch and signals for a stretcher. It's these little touches that make the game feel much more complete than some of its competitors.

70%

 

OPINION80%

Sierra have taken some of the best aspects from previous football games, invented some new features of their own and incorporated them into a highly playable and enjoyable soccer game. It doesn't quite have the same stature of games like Sensible and Goal, but that's only because they were firmly established a couple of years ago and thus, any soccer game coming out will be instantly compared to them.

The actual World Cup tournament is quite hard to win, so Sierra Soccer will keep you entertained for some time. Although it's fun to play against the computer, finding a chum will reap rewards because two-player mode is where Sierra Soccer really shines.

The actual standard of goals you score is very high, - none of this tap-in rubbish though, I'm talking about 25 yard curlers in to the top corner of the net. As soon as you score one of these stunners, you just have to reach for the replay option and watch it over and over in slow motion.

OK, Sierra Soccer might not be as good as Sensible or Goal and it may have a lot of opposition from other soccer releases (Kick Off 3, Sensible 2, etc) in the future, but as a stand-alone game it works very well. At the end of the day I guess it's down to you, the games-buyer and whether you've got enough spare cash to buy it now or wait and see what other football games are on the horizon.

Sierra Soccer is not the ultimate football purchase but it is, on the whole, a damn fine game and if you can find a friend to regularly play against I would recommend it.



Sierra Soccer: World Challenge Edition logo

Nipping smartly in before World Cup fever is upon us comes Sierra's summer football offering. Remember Striker? Not the Seventies fotie board game where you whacked the players' heads, hoofing the ball towards the onion bag only to be scuppered by the fabulous diving goalies, but the frantic Amiga game released alongside Sensible Soccer back in 1992.

Well, Sierra Soccer bears an uncanny resemblance to Striker in both looks (though the pitch view is wider) and play. In fact, one might think the same teams developed both games but no; different programmers and two years apart.

Sierra Soccer adopts the tried and tested Sensible pitc view and offers up all the teams playing in this year's World Cup with England as an added bonus - well, there's no harm in pretending, right? Mind, the players names have been changed - no official licence, see, so you get McGrarf playing for the Republic of Ireland (if he turns up) and Fyortoff turning out for the Norwegians. Unfortunately, you can't edit the names but there is room for one custom team (all you miffed Welsh, Scots and Northern Irish).

Simple steps to scoring
So what extra, if anything, does Sierra Soccer offer to the arcade football genre? Not a great deal if truth to be told. The play is quick and the controls work ina similar fashion to Sensible Soccer - the aftertouch, short and long passing work OK, but the major problem with the game, particular in two-player mode is the way the ball is almost glued to the player's feet. And it is soon apparent that the best way of scoring is to embark on a mazy dribble upfield a la Charles 'Charlie Charles (of Harry Enfield fame) before rounding the keeper and strolling the ball into the back of the net. Fortunately, the computer teams don't allow you such luxury, but all the same it's a major flaw, particularly because the goalies seem rather fallible.

The defending player is denoted by an arrow over his head and you have no means of controlling who that player is - the arrow changes automatically as the attacker comes forward. In two-player mode, this allows the attacker to run at defenders, wait for the arrow to change, and then run off. A bit of a farce!

Goals galore
Tackling seems to be limited to the long slide - it's difficult to muscle in and take the ball off your opponent. And Sierra have thrown in gimmicks which in most cases serve to annoy rather than enhance the game, particularly the fiddly shot and throw lines which appear at free-kicks and throw-ins. But, as far as goals go, Sierra Soccer is possibly the most spectacular of football releases to date. You can score the most amazing strikes although you wonder quite how you managed it.

There are all the usual tournament, friendly, up-to-eight human player options and you can practice penalties and free kicks, but these are one too many flaws to make Sierra Soccer a serious contender.



Sierra Soccer: World Challenge Edition logo

Die Sierra-Tochter Dynamix machte bisher hauptsächlich durch schön präsentierten Adventures und Flugis von sich reden - aber rechtzeitig zur WM in den USA haben die patroiotischen Amis ihr Herz für den Fußball entdeckt!

Nach bester Firmentradition wurde bei der Ausstattung nicht gepsart: Bis zu acht Spieler dürfen hier ein Übungsmatch bestreiten, Elfmeter und Freisöße trainieren oder sich gleich ins WM-Getümmel stürzen. Dazu sucht man sich aus den originalen oder zufällig ausgelosten Gruppen eines der für die Endrunde qualifizierten Teams aus.

Zusätzlich können eigene Mannschaften mit je 22 Kickern editiert werden, von denen jeder über sechs von seiner Position abhängige Eigenschaftswerte verfügt - logisch, daß für den Torhüter vor allem Reaktion und Sprungvermögen von Bedeutung sind, während ein Stürmer eher durch Schnelligkeit und Schußstärke überzeugen sollte.

Die gesammelten Einzelfähigkeiten ergeben dann die ebenfalls sechs "Charakterwerte" der einzelnen Teams. Ansonsten hat man noch die Möglichkeit zur beliebigen Änderung von Taktik und Aufstellung vor oder während des Spiels: eine Replayfunktion ist ebenso vorhanden wie eine kleine Statistik, die in der Halbzeitpause und nach dem Schlußpfiff erscheint.

Während der 2, 4, 6, 10 oder 20 Spielminuten wird vertikal gekickt, wobei der sauber in alle Richtungen scrollende Spielfeldausschnitt leicht schräg von oben zu sehen ist. Da die Position der relativ kleinen, aber ganz passabel animierten Sprites zum Ball bisweilen schlecht abzuschätzen ist, bedarf es trotz der genretypischen Hinweispfeile schon einiger Übung, um seine ungs per Stick zu ordentlichen Pässen, Torschüssen, Kopfbällen oder Tacklings zu bewegen.

Auch die Ballannahme gestaltet sich relativ knifflig, so daß es für einen richtigen Spielaufbau nicht an Erfahrung und gestählten Nerven mangeln sollte - zum Teil beruhten die Handhabungsprobleme aber wohl auch darauf, daß sich die Kollisionsabfrage bei unserem Pressetestmuster noch in der Warmlaufphase befand. Trotzdem: Das Game gehört mit Sicherheit zu den hektischsten Vertretern dieses Sports und zaubert dem Spielmacher vor dem Monitor schon nach wenigen Sekunden die ersten Schweißperlen auf die Stirn.

Die Grafik ist zwar an sich eher schwach, wird aber durch einige nette Details aufgewertet. Da rennt etwa der Schiri nach einem großen Foul dem Sünder hinterher und zückt mit elegantem Schwung den farbigen Karton, oder der Mannschaftsarzt eilt zu seinem am Boden liegenden Schützling, der dann das Feld womöglich auf der Trage verläßt.

Aus dem Lautsprecher dringen ein paar Brocken englische Sprachausgabe und digitalisierte Sound-FX, die denen von "Sensible Soccer" stark ähneln; Bildschirmtexte und Anleitung sind jedoch komplett deutsch. Hektiker können mit Sierra Soccer also vermutlich gut leben, alle anderen sollten vielleicht auf Nummer Sicher warten, was die nächsten Wochen und Monate unweigerlich an neuen Soccergames bringen werden. (st)



Sierra Soccer: World Challenge Edition logo

Only one Sierra Soccer, er, there's one Sierra Soccer.

At first, I was having a bit of a problem with my approach to this review. IT seemed clear cut at first. My home team, Kilmarnock, are struggling to stay out of the relegation zone in the Scottish Premier League. Unfair enough. I'll just talk about them for a bit, make a comparison with Sierra Soccer - World Challenge Edition and put in a derogatory comment about the game being relegation material in the AMIGA POWER Fantasy Football Game League. But that wouldn't be entirely fair.

For a start, just because a team's unfortunate enough to be caught up in the relegation zone doesn't automatically mean that it's crap and worthless (unless of course the team in question is based in Fife and go by the name of Dundee. Ha Ha Ha). You only have to ask Glasgow Rangers - allegedly one of the best football teams in Britain today - about Kilmarnock.

They'll tell you Killie are crap (they say that about every Scottish team that doesn't have Glasgow and Rangers in the title), then they'll come over all sheepish and shamefacedly explain that if it hadn't been for a presumptive myopic linesman and a disgracefully incompetent referee, the semi-final replay of the Scottish Cup would have witness a famous Ayrshire victory. Killie walked all over them. Made their £25 million line-up look like a twenty-five-pence-and-four-fruit-salads affair (Ayr United anyone?). The only people in the footballing nation who weren't surprised about Killie's performance were the Killie supporters themselves; no one rates us, we don't care.

SOUR GRAPES
The fortunate/unfortunate thing about football games is that they're always going to be compared against Sensible Soccer. I agree with Stuart when, in relation to Sensi, he said that some games are so far ahead in their genre that no one should bother writing games that are just going to be a pale shadow of the original. But, and this is a big but, in Scottish real life footballing terms, that's likeing the Rangers are so good that nobody shold bother competing against them because every other team is but a pale shadow in their vile presbyterian light. As Killie so magnificently proved, underdogs can still teach new tricks and pack a bone crunching bite to boot.

So, bearing in mind that Sierra Sccer - World Challenge Edition is the underdog, up against the likes of Manchest United Premier League Champions and Sensi, why can't I say the same thing about it? Well for a start, the first thing that strikes you is its uncanny resemblance to Striker. The resemblance is so remarkable that I ended up scanning the programming and design credits of both games for matching names fully expecting to shout "snap" at some stage in the search. Incredibly, not one of the names from either game matched. Looks like a "look and feel" litigation case could be in the offing if you ask me.

Striker was originally reviewed by Stewart in AP15 where it earned a softish 76 per cent. "It's got the right idea, but at the end of the day lacks the necessary polish to make it stand up to the sheer class of the all-conquering Sensible Soccer" he said.

Sierra doesn't have any polish whatsoever and here's why. I'll assume that you haven't seen Striker (if you have, skip the next couple of paragraphs). Sierra uses a second person perspective i.e. the action is viewed from one end of the pitch, just behind and above the current location of the ball. Due to the smaller player sprites and slightly altered perspective, more of the pitch can be seen than that offered by Striker; it's very similar to the 3D mode in World Class Rugby. So I suppose you could call that an improvement, but definitely not a polished one, oh no.


In Scottish real life footballing terms

OUT OF IT
Control is pretty standard fare. If you're not in possession, your nearest man to the ball is highlighted and under joystick command. Otherwise, it's one of those velcro-to-the-foot jobs until you either pass or are successfully tackled. This brings us to the three most blatant flaws of the whole game. The first most ludicrously absolutely bloody ridiculous flaw is the inability of the computer to decide who's nearest to the ball. This can result in the preposterous situation of thinking you were controlling one particular little man, only to find that he is no longer under your control, because the programmed algorithm has opted to change to another of your little men.

More often than not, the direction that you were originally sending the first little man in is carried on with the second little man. So, say for example, you had been rnning down the pitch with a midfielder trying to catch the opposition's attacker and control suddenly switched to your defender who's now in front of the ball. He's going to be left in the awkward position of running down the field away from the onrushing forward because that's the direction you were last holding the joystick in. By the time you compensate for this, you may have run so far away from the ball that another of your players is now deemed closer by the algorithm and consequently switches to him. It's no longer a case of playing computer football, it's more a case of reacting to whoever has the arrow above their head. That's not the worst of it, though.

Sometimes (and it's rather to often for comfort), your opponent will be charging down the middle towards your goal, with a defender on either side. The computer will first put the arrow over, say, the defender on the left. You'll start to move towards the attacker, but then the computer suddenly switches control to the defender on the right. Because of the direction you're holding the stick, the right-hand defender will momentarily be moving away from the forward, making the left-hand defender the closest one again.

Of course, at this moment in time you're compensating for the right-hand defender and moving in the opposite direction again, so when the computer suddenly switches back to the left-hand defender, he starts running away from the forward. This frequently continues all the way to the six-yard box, with the arrow flickering furiously between your defenders until the computer's stuck the ball in the net and your defence is standing at the corner flags. It's quite annoying, in the same way that war is quite bad.

The second major flaw is that it's just about impossible to play a flowing passing game. When you're running towards goal and you're just about to be tackled, it makes sense to pass the ball. The pace of the game isn't so fast that you're not aware of your other player's positions. There should be no problem with passing. Unfortunately, if the player waiting to be passed to faces the ball, no matter how hard or soft the pass, it will always bounce off him and travel at least five yard back the way it came. As often as not, the opposition picks up the ball. Again, this can be compensated for, but it's incredibly disruptive and irritating.

THERE'S MORE
The third major flaw is the tackling. You cannot take or steal the ball form the opposition, other than him missing a shot or putting it out of play, unless you slide tackle. The odds are normally around 70/30 whether or not you're going to give away a foul while doing this. Admittedly, as soon as you've slide, your player just about immediately picks himself up and is able to start running with the ball assuming the tackle was successful. I'm now at the point of sounding needlessly repetitive, but this flaw, while tedious, can be compensated for; but you end up not wanting to bother, it's too much to take.

I know it sounds as if I'm putting the boot in, and yes, I am. The person from Sierra didn't seem to think too much of the fact that from kick off, she scored two goals simply by running up the field wiggling her player from left to right to keep the opposition (me) player control switching from player to player so that it was almost impossible to get a (sliding) tackle in. As soon as she reached the penalty box she let rip with a heavily 'after touched' shot and scored, all within about three seocnds. Surprisingly enough, I managed to do exactly the same thing to her as I got the hang of the controls. Great fun, eh?

I haven't given a great deal of space to the actual World Cup tournament and the numerous player statistics. Basically, you can have up to eight human players taking part (why not have the option to have as many human players as there are many teams in the competition), can play friendlies and all that sort of stuff, but it's nowhere near as comprehensive as other games such as Sensi.

Each player and each team have a pile of statistics based on skills such as tackling, attacking, pace, stamina etc. Before a game, there are displayed on a screen. This means that there are some instances, such as Germany v South Korea, where one team dominates on all statistical fronts, with this game Germany positively oozes attacking skill and pace. Yet surprisingly, when the computer controls South Korea none of this massive advantage is very apparent, as the defence runs circles around you seemingly at will. Strange and frustrating indeed; in some instances, you can spot the advantages, but you have to be looking very hard.

HE'S CLEAR
In summary, I have to say that this game has just about no redeeming features in my eyes - although some of the goals yu can score are the most spectacular you'll ever see in a football game and are fully action-replayable. Other than that, I would avoid this game. In the end it's going to share the same fate in the AP office as Dundee and Swindon have done elsewhere in the real world.



Sierra Soccer: World Challenge Edition logo CU Amiga Screen Star

Sierra? Doing a football game? And it isn't an adventure? Tony Dillon is intrigued - he checks it out.

Football fever hots up some more as Sierra release their own entry into the computer game World Cup, and I'm pleased to be able to report that it's a very competent and extremely playable arcade soccer game.

Falling somewhere between Striker and Sensible Soccer, the game is based around the World Cup draw itself, and one of the most instantly playable arcade football engines yet seen.

Let's begin at the beginning. Although the game is based around this year's World Cup, it is by no means an official licence.

As a result, you can either play as a team in the official World Cup draw, or take part in a random one. Up to eight people can play at once, each selecting a team and playing through their respective groups until victory or rejection.

Naturally, the team you decide to play has a large bearing on whether or not you actually stand a chance of getting through - Italy are a far better team than England, for example, and because of that you are going to have a harder time with the latter. It's an interesting way of setting the difficulty level for the game, and one that works surprisingly well.

Before each match, you are presented with the only managerial aspect of the game - the chance to alter your squad. You are shown all the players in your team, including all reserves and all the relevant statistics. If you like, you can move players around by simply clicking on the one you want to move, and then clicking on the person you want to swop them with.

Adding or removing parts of a team (attackers, defenders etc) will automatically change the formation you play in. It's a shame you can't define team tactics, such as playing aggressively or close marketing, but perhaps Sierra thought they would keep this one as simple as possible.

Then it's put onto the pitch, where the game really comes into its own. Whether you have an A500 or an A1200, you'll be amazed at the spectacular animation of the players on the pitch. Over 4000 frames of animation have the players running, jumping, sliding, falling face down and there's even a fully mobile referee, complete with working whistle. A1200 owners get the benefit of a full 3D crowd too!

The game is viewed from about 45 degrees looking north, similar to the Striker viewpoint, except the sprites are roughly the same size as those in Sensible Soccer. The end result is that you get a very wide view of a convincingly 3D pitch.

Of course, it looks like one of the goals is larger than the other, but that's just perspective.

The set pieces have been 'borrowed' from Striker and games of that ilk too. When the ball goes out of play, or a free kick is awarded, all the players dash to their respective positions, and the person taking the kick/corner/throw in is shown with a curved line stretching away from them. This shows the projected path of the ball, and can be moved around with the joystick.

If the computer player is taking the set piece, you can move your wall around to match their kick positioning, and hopefully stop them from walking a goal.

Playing a game is incredibly easy, far easier than the Kick Offs and Sensible Soccers of this world. The reason being that there are none of the combinations and strange joystick positions of those games.

The whole control method is far simpler, which means you can spend more time working on team play than just keeping the ball under control. Of course, it's the learning curve that make Sensi and Kick Off the long players that they are, and naturally there will be doubts that the instant gameplay of this one will spoil longevity. Have no fear, as Sierra Soccer is just as addictive and just as much fun.

It may not have a big licence behind it, but Sierra Soccer is still great fun to play, and well worth adding to any collection.