C&VG1st February 1989
Published in Computer & Video Games #88
TV Sports Football
What's this? A sports simulation from Cinemaware! I thought that those boys were only interested in producing 'interactive movies'. Well, strangely enough, that's exactly what this is in some respects, for although American Football is an action-packed outdoor pursuit, the modern game is greatly dependent on television coverage for most of its atmosphere and, importantly, revenue.
Cinemaware claims that its first products were merely test runs, and that future games are going to be even more spectacular. If the company lives up to this claim, then computer gaming is in for a few major changes: Sinbad was good, Rocket Ranger was wonderful - but TV Sports Football is something else again. It combines a classy real-time game simulation with entertaining and informative 'TV coverage' total team customisation and a full 28-page league option!
When each player has chosen a team, a full squad is displayed on the coach's clipboard and 'Talent' points are distributed between the players. Each player's points are stored into four categories: Speed, Strength, Hands and Ability. These categories affect different skills, depending on the player's position: for instance the Quarterback's Ability rating determines his pass accuracy, while the same section controls a Fullback's speed of changing direction. The squad's names can also be customised to include anyone you fancy really (how about trying your granny as a Quarterback?).
Once the team's knocked into shape, it's off to the astrodome for the opening game of the season...
The show starts with an introduction from a desk-bound smoothie and an eye-popping display from a troupe of pumped-up cheerleaders. After this, a quick coin toss determines which site kicks off and the players take to the field for the first down.
There are three modes of play: one-player against the computer, two players against one another and two players against the computer. The first two categories are self explanatory, but the third is both unusual and interesting. When two players take on the computer, both play at all times but one controls the offence and the other looks after the defence.
When play begins, a single highlighted player comes under joystick control. In defensive mode, the Quarterback is controlled until he releases the ball, whereupon the closest receiver takes over. The rest of the team's general movement pattern is pre-determined by whatever 'play' is selected, but each player responds quickly to the opposition's movements by blocking, tackling and moving into position as required.
Occasionally a player gets into a tight scrape and may be at a loss for which play to employ. In this case the computer can be left to its own devices and happily plays both sides until the player once again decides to take control.
The realism which is sustained throughout extends right down to such seemingly minor details as punt and place kicking. In fact, the place kicking sequence is one of the most impressive visual scenes in the program, employing huge realistic characters that move smoothly and respond accurately - like everything else, the result of a place kick is entirely dependent on the player's skill.
TV Sports Football is a staggering accomplishment, even considering the Amiga's capabilities. The game itself would be enough, but when you add the little finishing touches such as the referee and the constant supply of on-screen match information and player statistics you end up with one of the most realistic and complete packages ever.
It may be my bias as a keen American football fan taking over here, but TV Sports Football is the most entertaining, accurate and engrossing sports simulation I've ever experienced. If Cinemaware keeps on improving at this rate, I daren't imagine what it's next release, Lords Of The Rising Sun, will turn out like.