Can we get someone else onto the magazine team who likes football soon - please? I mean, I love the game and everything, and footy games on computer are always good fun (except when they're Gazza's Super Soccer), it's just that I'm starting to hear whistles in my sleep and I can't stop dreaming about Jimmy Graeves (but then, who can?), and I've even started walking down the street in 4-3-3 formation. But I guess I can survive for one more game, so let's take a look at they one they're all calling 'That funny 3D-ish one by the guys who did Midnight Resistance.
THAT FUNNY 3D-ISH THING IN FULL
Striker uses the previously unseen (on the Amiga) second-person perspective viewpoint, which means the action is viewed from one end of the pitch and from a position just behind and above the current location of the ball.
As usual you control what the computer deems to be the player nearest the ball and control itself is as simple as it comes, just left, right, up, down and fire to kick, with the same directions giving you a bit of aftertouch for those impressive swerving shots.
Immediate playability, then, is an area where Striker scores big points straight away. Forget the manual, just pick up the stick, click on a couple of menu options and you're right in the middle of the action, pulling off overhead kicks and dramatic diving headers with the best of 'em. Less happily, if you do read the manual and study the available options and attempt to take things a little more seriously, you find that, er, there isn't actually very much more to it.
FROM THE OFFENSE TO THE DEFENCE
And that's the big problem with Striker - there's not an awful lot to it. Rage themselves said (in our Footy Games Preview Special last month) that Sensible Soccer was the game they were going to have to compete with, and while Striker is pretty good fun by itself, when you put it up against the Sensible title it begins to look like a pretty poor second-best. Sorry about this, Rage, but you kind of asked for it...
The big problem is there's not a lot to it
Ranged against Sensible's multitude of demestic and international competitions, leagues and customisable tournaments for up to, er, lots of players, Striker lets you play either a single friendly game (one or two players) or in pre-set knock-out tournament (seven rounds) for one player only, and that's all.
Where Sensible lets you choose from dozens of teams, each with individually-named and accurately-rendered players, alter their formations at will even in the middle of a game, make substitutions, completely redesign their strips or even change the players' names, Striker gives you 11 anonymous, identical players and a choice of formations, and that's all.
Sensible has a whole disk full of sampled crowd sounds which react intelligently to the play, Striker has the occasional almost-inaudible beep when the ball is kicked and a bit of cheer when a goal goes in, and that's all. While Sensible is pixel-perfect in its accuracy despite the tiny graphics, Striker's collision detection is so inaccurate it can make the game a real pain to play at times.
The ball can fly around almost of its own free will, and players who (painstaking examination of the slow-motion action replay will reveal) didn't come within three feet of it, can still nevertheless send it rocketing unpredictably across the pitch or into the net without any apparent player influence being exerted.
And, most annoyingly of all, while Sensible's teams behave in ways identifiably similar to the real-life ones on which they're based (as far as general skill levels go, anyway), if you play anything closer in Striker than, say, Germany versus Trinidad And Tobago (with you as Germany, of course), the computer teams are irritatingly talented, in such a way as to make the game incredibly stop-start (you get the ball, run along a bit, one of the opposition players races up from behind and chops you down before you can work out what's going on, you take the free kick and the whole thing starts again).
Repeatedly, in a second-round tournament match, my supposedly world-class German players were easily outpaced by cloggers from the 62nd -seeded (out of 64) Venezuelans, which is plainly silly as well as frustrating.
And so it goes on. While Striker is a neat little kick-about, Sensible Soccer is pretty much a total football experience, and putting the two head-to-head is like matching Brazil up with the Faroe Islands under- 16 squad - extremely one-sided.
Scores big points straight away
But anyway, for those of you who haven't been put off completely and are still reading (and I hope that's most of you, because this isn't nearly as bad a game as a direct comparison with Sensible makes it look, and it'd be a bit of a shame if it was overshadowed by it totally), what else is there to know about Striker?
Well, as I've said, the main problem is that there isn't a lot. There are still, though, many things to admire in this game. For a start, you can tailor the way players behave with the ball, choosing whether to have it sticking to their feet or flying around all over the place in Kick Off 2 style (there are five different 'stickiness' settings to chose from).
You get different types of weather and wind conditions, and free kicks are executed with a neat 'line-of-flight' indicator, although the ball doesn't always seem to follow it very closely, and you can choose whether tied games will be settle by replays, extra time or penalty shoot-outs.
The animated electronic scoreboard is neat, too, and the toughness of most of the computer teams (although that's negated a bit by a recurrence of the old 'one-weakness-goalkeepers' syndrome) means that at least this won't be a game you beat in a couple of days then never play again (like, say, John Barnes European Football), and the enormous playability means that as a two-player game it'll give you endless entertainment.
THERE'S ONLY ONE GAME OF SOCCER
Striker is good fun, basically, and if we'd reviewing it a month or two earlier it would have had a much easier ride - without Sensible Soccer's appearance on the scene, this would have been, with the possible exception of Manchester United Europe, the best Amiga footy effort available.
However, when it all comes down to it, there's only going to be one Amiga football title this year, and it's not this one.