Amiga Power1st June 1992
Published in Amiga Power #14
Krisalis manage to get their game of two halves out first, but will updating Manchester United Europe be enough to secure a win?
John Barnes European Football
Hold it right there and ask yourself this question: Is there really any room in your crowded games collection for yet another football simulator? Well, yes, quite frankly, there is in mind - and the software houses seem to be betting that there is in yours too. This is but one of a whole number of new footie games released to tie in with the European Championships (see Stuart's feature this issue). There's a good reason for this, of course - they can keep on churning them out until someone actually gets it right, as far as I'm concerned.
That's right, despite numerous stabs at it from just about every software house ever, I'd say that nobody has come up with a footie game that does the genre justice yet. To date I would say that Anco came closest with Kick Off - an opinion not shared by everyone at Amiga Power, I know [Too bloody right! - Mark & Stuart] - but while it's far from perfect, and arguably nothing like real football at all, it plays better than Waylon Jennings live, and I couldn't ask for much more than that.
There's one other big contender, of course - Manchester United Europe, the predecessor to this John Barnes game. While this didn't attract me in quite the same way, I just this minute produced a personal Top Ten Footie Chart, and it managed to come second anyway.
As John Barnes European Football is, presumably, an improvement over Manchester United, then, it has a fair chance of becoming the reigning soccer game - at least until the almost certainly all-conquering Sensible Soccer becomes available. But does it? Well, let's find out, shall we...? Without further ago, it's me against Barnesy in The Bottom Line Championship finals...
Phweep! Kick Off!
And already Barnsey's in possession... In John Barnes you can play a single match against either a computer-controlled or human opponent. (No surprises there.) Or you can compete against seven other European teams (under human or computer control) in a Championship of sorts (two Groups of four teams slug it out, as it were). It's fine as far as it goes, but doesn't offer much scope for lone players in the long run.
Phweeep! One Nil!
And Barnes is the scorer! He's off to a cracking start with options galore. Among other things, you can determine the length of the match and turn off the weather (otherwise it rains from time to time), the scanner, the setpieces and celebrations if you don't like them.
Phweeep! One All!
Oh dear. Despite being simple enough to handle immediately, I found the control a little too sensitive for my liking. When it comes to gaining possession, it's too easy to tap the ball away by mistake, and all the boys move rather too fast - they end up running around the pitch at great speed and looking like dorks. Surely with all these options, some form of sensitivity adjustment wouldn't have gone amiss?
A near miss. The setpieces used for throw-ins, corners and free kicks are too clinical and not as free-flowing as I'd like - particularly the free kicks taken just outside the box (that does my head in).
Phweeep! Two One!
Spellbinding! It's that old Barnesy magic coming through! The title music's a thumpy toe-tapper, and the sound during play is even better. There's a dead 'thunky' ball-biffing noise, classy klaxon hoots, the occasional 'Boom!' (!), grunts from the 'keepers at full stretch, and requests of "Here!" from eager players. And even though the lively crowd's as tinny as the whistle sound, it all makes for a big Big Match atmosphere.
Phweeep! Three One!
I also like the way the players stand around with their hands on their hips, waiting for you to move or pass the ball. The players' heads turn to follow the ball too, and scorers sometimes run off the pitch and on to the surrounding track to share their delight with the fans.
That was close. Barnesy's primarily horizontal action is claustrophobic (the players are roughtly a fifth of the size of the area of the pitch shown). The radar showing the players' positions is all very thoughtful, ta, but it has no practical application. Your best bet is to keep playing with the same team and get used to where they by and large position themselves (that's if you can instantly tell the difference between the faceless players without wasting a valuable split second looking down to see the name of the man in possession).
There's Nothing In It, Brian
And at the end of the day we have a result. Barnesy's winner, but only just - it could have gone either way. Supporters of Man United Europe will be able to wallow in Barnesy's shallow waters happily - this is a very atmospheric footy game, packed with neat touches, but still significantly flawed, in particular the small area of pitch on screen at any one time. This was apparently a speed trade off - Man United had a bigger area visible but moved more slowly - it's up to the individual which you prefer.
Me? After 90 minutes of sheer hell (well, it's not that bad), I'm off to pontificate with the lads over a Lucozade. Ah, if only Barnesy could reproduce his Liverpool form on the Amiga.
The Bottom Line
Uppers: Atmosphere is Barnesy's strong point - its sound and nice touches make the going as electric as the Real Thing. Barnesy also scores in the accessibility stakes, and there's playability to be found provided you dig deep enough.
Downers: The claustrophobic display and fiddly control let the side down, but all told there are no own-goals scored here.
It's fine - better than most footy games, but still No Big Deal Barnesy doesn't deserve to be shown any cards but it won't win any major cups either. It's likely to be one of the better footie games from this year's crop, but we're willing to bet, even at this early stage, that you-know-exactly-what will show it a clean pair of [some text missing]