World cup USA '94 logo

Tina 'Striker' Hackett takes a peek at the latest footy game to hit the shelves courtesy of US Gold.

INTRODUCTION

With the many football games released this Summer to tie in with the World Cup, we all looked forward to some impressive new games, but so far there's not been one that's really astounding. So with US Gold releasing this offering, the official World Cup license, it's bound to be good. Or is it?

FLASHBACK

Many football games are available now to choose from and this just isn't worth forking out your cash for. It does have a good range of options but these are available in other games anyway. One different option is to change the 'Glue Factor' - how close the ball stays to your feet when tackling - which works well.

The others though, such as Game speed, weather, and the feature to customise the World Cup match, have allbeen included in other games which are a darn sight more playable than this tedious effort.

Save your money for Goal or Sensible Soccer. They may be old but they certainly show these new games a thing or two. Or if you realy do want a new footy game then I'd still wait... the computer footy games season ain't over yet!


 

SIMULATION

To get the idea of how World Cup USA really plays, simply imagine standing in a train toilet while going through a tunnel (for the sound effects), squinting to see only half the action and playing with a Space Hopper rather than a ball.

Seriously, it doesn't get much better than this and it is about as far away from the real thing as you can get. Set-pieces are taken using a method of setting an arc of dots to the ball in the required direction. Unfortunately this isn't very effective and is fiddly to do.

Goalkeepers are too easy to beat and the player simply takes his shot and stands there. There's no following it through its case there's a rebound which he could redirect into the goal - incredibly irritating.

A one or two button joystick can be used and even though the moves should be quite simple to carry out, the controls feel unresponsive and clumsy.

62%

 

SOUND

Yes, it does have some and at first it sounds quite convincing but after a while it does start to sound rather like being in a train toilet while whizzing through a tunnel. Sorry, but that is the most apt description I can use to describe it. It does change slightly when you take a shot at goal but somehow it just doesn't seem to crate much atmosphere.

32%

 

GRAPHICS

What a sorry sight this is. Well, first off, we have these enormous green borders around the screen, reducing the actual game to almost half the screen. Why this has happened is anyone's guess, but it looks dreadful and makes it very distracting.

And then we have the actual sprite size which give the impression of "Oh, we couldn't quite make our minds up whether we wanted small or large sprites, so we've opted for some that aren't really either." They're too small to show any animation and too big to play as well as the tiny Sensible Soccer sprites.

Animated sequences have been used to show the referee and the crowd cheering after a goal, but they don't look particularly effective and slow the proceedings down to a snail's pace.

28%

 

OPINION28%

As if all this wasn't bad enough, the game is full of bugs, it crashes and is glitchy - the graphics flicker terribly when two players cross over. The whole thing looks rushed out in time for the World Cup.

There was some hope with all the options available but this was let down by the most ridiculous option screens I've ever seen. They've insisted on using the official dog mascot at every opportunity - just in case we should forget that this is the official merchandise. This all leads to total confusion as you try to differentiate between one dog picture and another.

Incidentally, once you've changed all the variables to suit your game style they don't make that much of a difference anyway. There's even the option to change the colour of the team socks. Is this meant to be serious? Does anyone really care what colour socks they have? I mean anyone with a modicum of common sense would surely have realised and said, "Hey, why don't we concentrate on things that really matter, like gameplay?". This is what counts after all. Somehow you don't feel in control of the game and there are no impressive moves to carry out.

Most of all, the game is incredibly boring! Even the most appalling football games manage to conjure some excitement especially in two-player mode. But not so in this case. You find yourself wishing for the final whistle and the game does nothing to evoke the competitive spirit.

This really is the spit in the referee whistle - avoid - unless of course you really are a glutton for punishment.



World cup USA '94 logo

Oh dear. Oh dear, oh dear. The official footie game for the World Cup goes on sale well after Brazil have lifted the cup - and what on earth could have held it up? Anyway, the box arrives on my desk and I bung the disks into my trusty A1200. Guess how long it took before I got two teams out on to the field for a kickabout? Go on. Six minutes and 13 seconds. So I play this really average footie game and decide I want to replay the game, as you do when reviewing stuff.

How long does it take to get the same two teams back out on the park? Well over four minutes, and no mistake, guvnor.

Poor saps
Sensible Soccer takes a matter of seconds; World Cup USA '94 a matter of minutes. When will these people learn? As luck would have it for US Gold (think irony here), the game was out on the shelves before we received a copy so the poor saps who rushed out and bought it were not to know these trifling details. And Lord knows how long it takes to load on an A500 (it is your job to know - Ed). Sorry Ed. However, it is hard drive installable which dramatically cuts the loading times, but this is one of the few points in the game's favour, and not everyone has the said desirable piece of hard drive equipment.

Anyway, what the hell is going on inside there to have to swap the disk twice to replay a damn game of football. And I swear, if I ever seen the loading screen picturing that daft World Cup Dog clutching a disk and sliding the shutter back and forth I'll, I'll... well I just will, right.

So I install it on to my hard drive and calm down a little. Upon loading, you are treated to a barrowload of pooch-based icons - and they are baffling. What is wrong with words such as Friendly and Tactics? Why do you need lots of little dogs doing stupid things?

This game has more options than Sainsbury's have trolleys but what is the point when the basic standard of gameplay is below par, the major fault being that often you are not controlling the player closest to the ball. Yes, I was going to get around to the game itself. And I have.

Nearest toilet
World Cup USA '94 uses the now traditional top-down view but the sprites are horrible and run like people desperately heading for the nearest toilet. This is the official game of World Cup '94 - why are none of players' real names used? Answer on a postcard to US Gold.

This is by no means the worst football game ever, it is just that I cannot think of any reason why you should buy it if you have already got Sensible Soccer, which is both smoother and far more playable. And easier to load. World Cup USA '94 is desperately average and I am disappointed because I had hoped this was going to be a real contender. Oh, by the way, the music is quite tremendous.



World cup USA '94 logo

Das offizielle Game zur Fußball-WM kommt am Amiga spät und nicht eben gewaltig: Was U.S. Gold hier abgeliefert hat, erinnert ein wenig an die USA-Vorstellung der deutschen Elitekicker...

Zumindest das Optionsangebot ist überwältigend, ohne Anleitung würde man sich im Dickicht der Icons hoffnungslos verirren. Neben dem allgegenwärtigen WM-Maskottchen Striker findet man hier nämlich nicht nur alle genretypischen Einstellmöglichkeiten, sondern darf vom Trikotdesign bis zu den Formationen kreativ sein.

Der Schwierigkeitsgrad wird von (Kleibe-) Faktoren für die Ballkontrolle, drei Spielgeschwindigkeiten und natürlich der Mannschaftsstärke bestimmt, und wer die originale Endrunde nicht mochte, kann sich die Gruppen mit acht zusätzlichen Teams auch selbst zusammenstellen - jede Elf wird dabei entweder von Mitspielern oder dem Compi gesteuert.

Die Perspektive auf dem Platz ähnelt dann der des Klassikers "Sensible Soccer", die Sprites sind allerdings deutlich größer. Leider ruckeln sie ziemlich stark über einen holprig scrollenden Rasenausschnitt, wodurch die Grafik kaum über Zweitliganiveau hinauskommt. Ähnliches gilt für die Musikuntermalung und die mäßigen Sound-FX. Zudem ist die Steuerung etwas gewöhnungsbedürftig, am besten bekommt man seine Kicker mit Zwei-Button-Stick oder Pad in den Griff, während der zuschaltbare Scanner für Übersicht sorgt.

Eine HD-Installation ist zwar möglich, am 1200er schaffte es Deutschland hier aber nicht mal bis ins Viertelfinale - nach dem dritten Spiel von Bertis Truppe hängte sich der Rechner auf.

Kurzum, dieser Nachzügler bietet nur soliden Durchschnitt und dürfte in der momentanen Flut von Soccer-Soft wohl sang- und klanglos untergehen. (st)



World cup USA '94 logo

Hang on a minute, it is all over isn't it? Brazil won, it's four years to the next one and everybody has gone home. Just when you thought it was to say 'football'.

Of course, it all began in 1986. US Gold had the licence for the World Cup, and promised a game that would trounce everything previously seen in the history of the world. When World Cup Carnival turned up, the large box was US Gold's and really quite impressive, but the game was Artic's gargantuanly awful Something Soccer. "Programming difficulties" had prevented the everything-trouncing epic from turning up, but at least you got some badges and stickers in the box to make up for the two-year-old crap game, eh?

Ripple dissolve to 1994. US Gold have the licence for the World Cup, and promise a game that will trounce everything previously seen in the history of the world. Suddenly, the game is on sale. Strangely, magazine have not been sent review copies. Is it because the majority of software sales take place in the first week? Could US Gold really be trading on their roster of great games like Flashback and Monkey Island in order to pass World Cup '94 to some ill-informed shmuckos? Only you can decide. But World Cup '94 is near impossibly terrible.

SIGH
The first thing that kicks you accurately in the face is the loading time. From insertion of disk to appearance of front end takes over six minutes. Six. Minutes. It is hard disk-installable, but that is hardly the point, is it? Especially when, after choosing your options (a task made a chore by the bewildering array of very pretty but mostly meaningless icons) you have to wait a further five minutes for the game itself to load. Eleven minutes, all told. Enough time to watch a good Tom and Jerry cartoon (say, Solid Serenade) and make a really splendid cup of tea spent sitting in front of a loading screen. Sigh.


Kicks you entirely in the face

BUNKERS
Now you may think I am going on a bit here, but consider this: today, the Amiga faces war on two fronts. From the West, the marching ranks of the PC compatibles, with their hard drive-based power games; from the East, the thundering brigades of the consoles with the immediacy of cartridges. Eleven minutes for loading is a joke. Moreover, a joke by Jimmy Cricket.

The game. The game is catastrophically bad. The game should never have been released in its present form. The algorithms governing play are amateurish. For example: tackling. Tackling in a footy game should be a case of running at the player with the ball and pressing fire: you then tackle him. (Or not, if we are talking about strengths and direction and so on).

With USA '94 not only do you have to time your tap on the fire button (do not press it, otherwise you will go into a treacle-slow sliding tackle and miss the ball completely) but be precisely the right position due to the inexplicable pause your player makes before moving, otherwise you get left behind looking very foolish. You can almost hear the crowd braying mockingly.


Hear the crowd braying mockingly

LAPS
The most fun I had with USA '94 was to play Who Can Do The Most Laps Before Being Tackled. In this great variation on the game, one player grabs the ball and starts making circuits on the pitch. The other player has to make a successful tackle before time runs out. My worthy opponent managed two-and-a-half laps before our increasing difficulty with drawing breath between hoots of laughter brought the game to a premature close.

Playing yer actual football just does not enter into it, because when you try to do so you encounter 'features' like the 100% pass. Yes, no matter how far away you are passing to (and we could be talking opposite ends of the pitch) the ball will get there. So scoring goals consists of getting the ball, passing blindly to the player nearest the goal and blaming it in. Or eschewing the passing method and getting anywhere near the halfway line and blaming it in one time out of every two attempts made.

The ridiculous ease with which you pummel opponents sort of balances out the appalling viewpoint, which is a similar Goodyear Blimp overhead view to Sensi, but from a leaky blimp (so the players are rather bigger) and by a cameraman without a wide angle lens (so there is less of the pitch). There is a radar display inset on the top left, but what is the point, eh?

World Cup '94 is an inoperable canker on the lungs on the innocent children of the world. (Alleged... no, spot on actually. - Ed)



World cup USA '94 logo

US GOLD £25.99 OUT NOW

It is interesting to note that, although US Gold were pleased as punch about getting the official licence to the World Cup held in the United States a little earlier this year, they did not actually release the product for the Amiga until the event was well and truly over.

Obviously, this only came about due to programming slippage, as often happens, but it is still quite amusing to see that one of the selling points of the game is that (as the flash across the box proclaims) it contains a free souvenir wallchart, in which you can fill in the results of the matches you finished watching a few months ago.

Still, nobody buys a game purely on the strength of the name, so let us brush all that aside and take a look at the product itself.

Naturally, it is an arcade soccer game, along the lines of everything from Kick Off to MicroProse Soccer - a field that has been more than adequately tailored for recently with titles like Empire Soccer and Sierra Soccer.

Unfortunately, it just does not come anywhere near as good as either. Empire Soccer is fun, Sierra Soccer is fast, World Cup is bordering on unplayable.

The control method is awful, with your players scooting about at such a high speed it is almost completely impossible to do anything with the ball.

The ball movement is jerky and unconvincing, and there is almost no sign of computer intelligence at all. A bench test showed that the computer players did the same thing from kick off five times in a row - three diagonal runs and then a shot that goes nowhere near the goal.

The worst thing about the game is the menu system at the start. Surely football games have evolved far enough to have a menu that you can use without referring to the manual. Maybe US Gold see this collection of meaningless icons as a bit of a problem, or they would not have devoted all of the manual explaining what it is. Basically, World Cup is a big let down.