FROM the people that brought you Defender of the Crown, Sinbad and the incredible Rocket Ranger comes an accurate and classy American Football simulation. A radical departure you may think, but when you consider how the USA's favourite sport has become so heavily dependent on its television coverage, the concept begins to make a little more sense.
Cinemaware's creative driving force, Bob Jacob, reckons that the company's first products were merely experimental test runs - and seeing what's on offer from this program, it's easy to believe him.
The televisional front end is clever and entertaining, but the football game that it precedes and the almost total customisation options (allowing complete personalisation of your own team - and up to 28 friends to participate in a real-time league!) punt this product into a league of its own.
You take on a multitude of tasks, incorporating coaching and playing almost every position. Your first duty as coach is to pick a team, either using one of the 28 default lists or creating a new squad, complete with names of anyone you choose.
A list is displayed on the coach's clipboard, with each name followed by four categories: Speed, strength, hands and ability. You then allocate a set number of points between the squad, dividing each player's quota into these categories.
Depending on the player's position, each rating has a different effect, for instance the quarterback's ability rating determines how accurately his passes fly, while the same section controls how quickly the fullbacks change direction.
When you're quite sure that your team is just the way you like it, a dime is tossed to decide kick off and the opening game of the season begins.
The usual one and two player options are accommodated, but a novel twist adds still more to the program's polish. Two players can opt to take each other on in a head to head confrontation or can choose to join forces against the computer. In the latter case both players participate throughout, with one controlling the offence and the other looking after the defence.
During the game proper, a single player - highlighted by a flashing jersey - is controlled via the joystick. The highlighted player is usually in the thick of the action - for example, during defensive plays the quarterback is controlled until he releases the ball, at which point the nearest receiver is selected.
The remaining players follow the path set out for them by the selected "play", but unlike the real thing, the players are gifted with intelligence and are capable of adapting to suit the opposition's game pattern.
All games are played out in real time, and as such take a little over an hour to complete. Because of this, Cinemaware has included an option where the computer will carry on for a human player and play both sides if necessary. You can rejoin the game at any point simply by picking up the joystick and getting stuck in.
Each player's movement is believable and realistic, and anyone who follows Channel 4's regular coverage of the real thing will immediately recognise how accurate this simulation is - right down to the constant barrage of statistics that appears on screen. Other elements such as place kicking and time outs are included to complete the package.
TV Sports Football is one of the few games I've seen that comes close exploiting the Amiga's full capabilities. There is of necessity a little disc swapping, but this generally happens at times when the action has stopped and you really need a breather anyway.
A stunning American football game such as this would be enough for the price, but the addition of all the little finishing touches, such as the on-screen appearance of previous Cinemaware characters and the marvellous documentation, makes it as close as I've seen to the perfect computer game.