On the cusp of Pro-Evo 2015, You Died’s Gav and CJ from Twin Humanities continue a look at classic footie games from yesteryear!
You did have a gawp at part one, didn’t you?!
Gav’s Other Choices
After the list on part one, there’s only two football games that in recent memory that have grabbed me and refused to let go, the first: Football Manager. On the surface an incredible dry and incredibly deep simulation of football management (funny that), but the stories you create whilst playing the game are what make what a friend of mine once called ‘a spreadsheet simulator’ into one of the most involving and life destroying games that ever existed. Whether it’s that gifted 18 year old midfielder your scout found in Chile who stuck with you for 3 years before going on to become one of the greatest players in the world, or the time you brought Steven Gerrard to Plymouth in the twilight of his career; every game produces stories and no two games are ever the same.
A friend and myself once had a life-crippling 17 season game on FM08, ‘The A5 Derby’. He was Hinckley United, I was Nuneaton (both at opposite ends of the A5…see?) and over the course of this game, we took these clubs from The Blue Square South all the way to the lofty heights of The Championship (or in his case, the Premiership). We lost entire weekends to it, Bank Holidays were a joyous 3 day binge fest fueled by cracked black pepper crisps and diet coke. Thankfully our flats were on opposite sides of a corridor, else I would’ve probably never gone home. We played it so much that we could tell with 98% percent accuracy if a shot was going to go in based purely on what lines were used in the commentary leading up to the shot. We were hooked and it was
a dark moment in my early adult life great.
The big moments stick out: The players we brought, the players we lost, the rivalries with other players (FUCKING Craig Westcarr who would, without fail, score every time either of us faced any team he was on), the fact that I got so close but never won the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy and the fact that my mate got fired from Hinckley after leading them to glory…but it’s also the little things, like the last ditch switch of formation from a 4-4-2 to an attacking 5-3-2 that grabs you the relegation saving win or bringing on that striker you’ve had in your reserves to cover an injury and finding out he’s an incredible player who bangs 46 goals a season and wins you promotion…only to have him want to leave to a bigger club the ungrateful shite.
The game is the epitome of ‘…just one more go…’, because you never know if that next game is the one that ends your losing streak, or worse: ends your winning streak. Oh, but the FA Cup 3rd round is in 2 games time…best keep playing till then. Ok, FA Cup out the way, but…oh…it’s transfer season, lets see who’s available…well my striker is back from injury, lets see how that reverses my fortunes…oh, end of the season…transfer window is open…repeat until sleep takes hold. ‘Emergent gameplay’ is a bit of buzzword for developers at the moment, but Football Manager does it better than them all. Oh and if you play FM using any other settings than ‘Commentary only’, then know this: I hate you. Especially if you use the 3D match thing. Horrid.
Finally for me, New Star Soccer. A mobile game that captures a footballer’s career better than FIFA’s lacking Be A Pro mode can. So simple, so addictive, it has the same ‘one more game’ qualities as Football Manager.
Train, play, by some new boots, go to the casino, lose your money, the boss finds out, drops you to substitute, you don’t play, you can’t afford new boots… It’s not by any means an accurate representation of football, I’m pretty sure no pro with a boot sponsorship would have to buy their own boots, or the only way to be match fit is to own more houses or drink energy drinks…but the simple mechanics in play all tie in well together and in the context of the game, make sense. It’s been updated a few times now with some big additions: dribbling, headers, corner taking and sadly it has swayed towards the ‘Free to Play’ model (though I’ve been playing through it again for about a month now and I’ve only paid to stop the adverts), but this is without a doubt the best football game on mobile platforms.
CJ – THE DINO DINI YEARS
I first played Dino Dini’s >Kick Off on the Atari ST. Unlike the Amiga version, which boasted proper stadiums, the ST had light green and dark green raster lines for the pitch, with white markings where you’d expect them. The game played from a top down viewpoint and looked utterly unspectacular to the naked eye.
It didn’t matter a jot.
Kick Off was fast I mean really fucking fast and did something footie games don’t do as a rule. The ball didn’t stick to your feet.
When you ran with the ball in Kick Off you were trying to keep control of it. Not just looking around the pitch for the next player to pass to, but aware that any burst of speed would leave you vulnerable for losing the ball, trying to keep it between your feet and not letting it veer off at an unwanted angle. Quick reactions could see you change direction on the fly and use the mechanic to your own ends.
The game was absolute lightning in a bottle, took genuine skill to master, and was a flat out joy. Like controlling a fighter jet with a football close to it.
Kick Off 2 went on to refine this further, before Dino Dini broke away from Anco and did the brilliant Goal! for Virgin Interactive.
Goal could be played from either a top down or side on viewpoint, and I remember a mechanic which may go back to kick Off actually, I’m not sure – where one click in a direction had you moving, double click broke you into a run. For crosses you had to slow down, then turn and shoot, maybe apply a little aftertouch effectively like pulling off a special move in a fighting game to do it properly – to then barrel headlong into making a striker rise like a salmon and smash a header in. My mate Jeff had crossing and bullet headers down as an art. I was rubbish at it.
Player Manager a game I lost forever in. Kick Off mechanics, with a management game, as you’d expect, but on the playing side of things you could play as the team, or as a single player. When you then retired you purely managed from there on in.
Player Manager featured no ‘real names’, and was all the better for it. Rather than relying on bringing in Stars, you looked at teams for their worth, bringing in the right players purely of the balance they could bring to your team. Likewise you could look into the lower echelons of your own club and bring on a promising player. If their stats were applicable you could coach them into a brand new position, and as they rose to prominence not only would those stats improve, but their worth would go up and you may find yourself fending off bids from bigger clubs.
As to whether you then hung onto them, waited for more money, or spent the spoils on improving your entire team was up to you.
I’m sure a few of these mechanics may have found their way into a pure management game by now, but to have them sitting alongside an action game was incredible, never mind the technology such complexities found themselves working on.
I miss the Dini years a great deal. Really complex, brilliant football games which I truly obsessed over.
SO, I PONDER SOMETHING NEW
I’d really like to lose myself in a new football game, but my albeit brief exposure to Fifa and PES left me cold and scratching the itch on Sensible World Of Soccer.
I’ve watched live Streams by David Turners as he tried to get Millwall promoted in Fifa 14, and there’s a storming goal on my Xbox One dashboard by Leon Cox – both of which inspire finding my feet in a football game once more.
Maybe this will be the year…
Big thanks to CJ for joining us on this nostalgic look back, for writing the intros and figuring out the best way to present all this to you. If you like the cut of his words, check him out on twitter @CoffeeJezus and check out his brilliant Dark Souls based podcast, Twin Humanities, or Twin Destiny on those Destiny themed weeks.