Disappointment. Not a word you'd expect to find in a review of one of the finest games ever created, but that was my initial impression on playing the original Sensible Soccer way back in 1992. The sound, and in particular the graphics, were basic even for over two years ago. However once seated and playing I was instantly hooked and barely a day has gone by since when I haven't had a quick kickabout. And that's obviously been the case for thousands of other computer owners since, as Sensible Soccer remains one of the best selling Amiga titles of all time and has been converted to just about every other format available.
Like all of Sensible Software's titles, Sensible Soccer's success lies in its gripping gameplay, but also in its highly responsive control system which is unmatched in any other sports game. Tapping the fire button results in a small pass while yanking the stick back at an angle pulls off a spectacular banana kick. The control is very, very intuitive and moves are carried out in a split second without having to worry about awkward joystick combinations. Critics though, have pointed out how unlike a real footy match Sensible Soccer is and this is fair comment. But while Electronic Arts' FIFA International Soccer captures the look of the sport much more faithfully, its cumbersome control method where the computer tries to take over at every opportunity, makes playing frustrating at times and goalscoring a matter of luck. And while I might share the same birthday as Tony Dillon I'd have to disagree with his rating of Cro Team's Football Glory. There's no denying that it plays a fine game of football, probably the best after Sensi in fact, but it too is let down by its difficult to master control system and a number of frustrating bugs.
Sensible Soccer seems pretty much perfect then, especially in two-player mode, but there were a few minor niggles. Firstly the game became too easy, even against classy Series A opposition, while the players themselves tended to play much the same, no matter what position they were supposed to be representing There was also no need for substitutions as until Version 1.1 appeared, players were never injured or booked And there were a couple of spots on the pitch from which the expert player could be assured of scoring, even from 50 yards.
Thankfully all of these problems have been ironed out in Sensi World, with the difficulty level pitched much higher and more realistically. Come up against Giggs and the rest of the Manchester United dream team and the player's defence will know it, no matter how good a team they are themselves. Scorelines too, are far more faithful. Nil-nil is the norm now, rather than five-three. Indeed it's worth pointing out that it took me three games to find the back of the net, so I imagine those new to Sensi will have some hard grafting ahead of them before they hit the top of the league.
Injuries are now a worrying reality, although serious injuries are rare; a four match resting period is common. This can still be very, very annoying if a key player is lost at cup ties though. The different types of injuries that can occur can be kept track of on the squad details screen. A bandaged head means that the player has simply taken a slight knock while a red cross with a number inside represents the number of days that player will be out injured. Fear the black cross because this means the player has been seriously injured and will be layed out for the rest of the season.
Apart from replacing the injured, substitutes now have a much more important role. As in real life, only two are available so choosing them with care is a priority. For instance, if Blackburn are the opposition it might be an idea to have spare defenders to combat Sutton and Shearer, while a couple more strikers would be fitting against a lowly FA Cup first round team. These management options have a far greater impact on the game-play than the first game. Indeed there's an option to play as just a manager. But you'd miss out on such good gameplay and all the brilliant matches themselves which can either be played as a one match friendly, or as part of an in-depth one season or 20 season career.
Do I not like stats?
All the players from 1.400 world clubs and 131 national sides have been included and they're up to date for the 94/95 season. The data on each player is astonishing: and as well as including the right hair and skin colour, it also includes their particular skills. This is a Godsend for the footy statistics fan, as the transfer market has an option to select not only what type of player is required but also what type of skill, from passing to finishing. This means that the knowledgeable can stay away from the famous and high priced names and instead scour the lower leagues for talent, not just in England but from every major league in the world. Most teams are happy to flog players languishing in the numbers 13 to 16 shirts and often at a lower than stated price.
The transfer market allows the player to put up to five of his own team on the market, although quite often offers will come in for other players. The value of players varies on how they are performing, A goalie with holes in his hands would soon plummet in value while a striker that bags a hat-trick every match becomes top of the wanted list. Similarly a player that's rotting in the reserves loses value slowly but surely. If you're a competent enough player it's possible to put a defender in a striker's position, score plenty of goals, increase his value and then flog him for a tidy sum.
The tactics section of the game has also been vastly overhauled. As well as more than double the number of preset formations it's possible to create and edit up to six from scratch.
The wealth of new features available adds considerably to the experience of playing Sensi World, creating a game that remarkably is better than the first. The increased difficulty level is a major boost, especially for Sensi pros, but the it's the management options that give the game a razor sharp cutting edge. Being successful with a team playing in a formation exclusively created by yourself, and full of players you bought is vastly satisfying, as is picking up a low league player for a few quid and flogging him for a million a year or so later.
The greatest and most enjoyable game I've ever played, Sensible World of Soccer is a landmark software title that once again shows the pedigree of Sensible Software and of course the Amiga.
People who downloaded Sensible World of Soccer have also downloaded:
Sensible World of Soccer 96-97, Sensible World of Soccer 95-96, Sim City, Kick Off 2, Sensible World of Soccer, Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe, Kick Off, Cannon Fodder
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