European Champions logo Gamer Gold

Can you kick it? Yes you can! Well you can waggle your joystick, with Ocean's new on yer 'ead-tastic footy frolic.

Football is not a funny old game - in fact there's nothing funny about it at all, although it has to be said it's far more humorous on a computer than in real life.
All soccer die-hards will be looking at the page now with their faces a mixture of outrage and amazement. So, to validate such an outlandish statement, I'll have to justify it.

How many of you out there in the real world have in your dim and distant, or indeed current life, been involved in what is termed as amateur football?
Sunday League, as it's better known, is where most of us finally realise we're not going to make the England squad and resign ourselves to the fact that we don't possess a Maradona-like touch.
Subsequently we lapse into some poor footballing habits and start working out in a different way. Training starts at 7pm sharp in the Stud and Whistle where you meet up with Gazza, Bazza, Sniffa, Frogga, Psycho, Big Dave and the rest of the squad.

The team's sex symbol Big Dave has tried his had at every female in the pub and despite a miserable response from the fairer sex, will not desist with his winning technique - the old head up dress approach.
At 9:45pm, Spud O' Reilly, manager of the team, stumbles into the bar. Eleven pints of Guinness have not stood him in good stead and within five minutes he has caused a brawl by vomiting at the Salvation Army's Warcry representative.
As the dust settles the last of the squad are ejected and lie prostrate on the pavement. However, being the keen hardened pros they are, the lads vow to train on and the Dog and Lamp Post is only around the corner.
As closing time looms the team push themselves to the limit with a range of interesting exercises. These range from Last One to the Bar is a Girle Puff, through Fizz-Buzz and Two Fingers.

Finally, it's time to reward themselves with a pre-match meal: A table for 15 at the Ganges is soon organised.
Fifteen vindaloos, 30 poppadoms and 90 pints of lager later, the team's lust for training is satiated. The only thing that remains to be done is a little weight training. This comprises of each member of the team trotting off to the gents in an attempt to rip the cistern from its mount.
After this watery affair the lads end the night with some morale-boosting camaderie. Three verses of "... out for the lads" and the team go their separate ways into the night.

Next morning at ten, Spud stands in the cold morning air waiting for his team of primed super-humans to arrive.
As it starts to rain the first of the squad rolls up, footy boots in hand. As Spud exchanges greetings with star centre forward Sniffa, he wretches and splatters concentrated hydrochloric vindaloo all over Spud's shell suit.

Time marches rapidly towards kick-off, the opposition have arrived, changed complained to the ref and still half the squad are AWOL.
Two minutes before kick-off Bozza screeches into the car park in his sporty XR3 clone. Out climb the missing players all looking the worse for fear from a night on the wrong side of a police cell.
There follows a frenetic exchange of apologies, kit and bowels as panic sets in to beat the referee's fine for late kick-off. On the stroke of eleven, The Butcher's Offal 1st XI stride forth into sheets of rain and the smell of Ralgex and curry.
There then follow 90 minutes of bone-crunching broying, as 22 mules wobble around in a foot of mud, swearing, fouling and sweating last night's training session out of them.

The first thing to say about Euro Champs is that although it's basically a football title to play against your Amiga or a few mates, there's more to it than that.
For one, EC gives you the opportunity to make tactical decisions about your players before the match. Employing a very simple system, you can decide how your players will move on such things as corners and goal kicks.
You can implement a heavily defensive system (a la Villa) or thrill the crowd with wing play and overlapping full-backs (like the Man City always do).

Within the main mouse-controlled icon menu there are more options than Kevin Keegan has curly ringlets. The choice is yours to decide from every top flight club from the main leagues within Europe.
You can alter the pitch, introduce wind, give the ref a tolerance for showing funny coloured cardboard, play in league or cup, and that's just the beginning.

Once you've selected another screen you can alter your players, attributes, opt for equal skill within your squad or set individual levels of skill for each player. This is very handy for the custom team options, so you can put yourself up front and can give yourself loads of skill. After you have pondered over the plethora of choices on offer you might actually get to the touchline. The play itself is very reminiscent of Emlyn Hughes International Soccer - this is because it too was programmed by Audiogenic.

European Champions differs from rivals like Goal and Sensible Soccer in its graphics and presentation. For one, in EC the sprites of the characters are larger and detailed than those in either of its rivals.

The characters being larger means that unlike Sensi you only get a portion of the pitch on your screen at one particular time. However, a radar gives you an overview of the positions of the players and the player in possession. This is the kind of tool I could done with on a cold Sunday morning when a 17-stone abattoir worker is bearing down on me.

The other thing to mention is that to all intents and purposes EC is two games, because you can view play from an overhead view or the contemporary horizontal left-right view.
The play itself takes a little coming to terms with. Euro Champ uses a slightly different system to other footy titles you might have come into contact with previously.
For one it contains an automatic corner, throw-in and shoot system, which takes you a little by surprise at first. This may sound a little odd, especially shooting, but it does produce some spectacular finishing. It's also worth pointing out that auto-shoot can be overridden.
With an auto-throw and corner system it also means that while a computer player is taking the throw, you can control a player the throw will be directed at.

Passing also has some rather fresh approaches to it. For example, 'ping-passing' enables you to pick out a player, on or off screen, for a precision pass. When you do finally manage to convert the ball into the back of the net, you also have a full video replay at your disposal to view your triumphs and analyse your mistakes on.
Once you've mastered the control system, which at first renders the play a little alien and gives a slight feeling of being out of your control, EC is really very playable.

The graphics are smart and when you're accustomed to the control system European Champions is a really enjoyable joystick jape against mates on the computer.
It's always going to be tough to compare EC with such legends as Sensible Soccer and maestros like Goal, but it has to be said that while Euro Champ has only just turned pro, it's straight in the first team and quite capable of holdings its place.

With the variety of options and different competitions available at your fingertips, European Champions will keep you on the attack well into injury time.

Goal of the season!
Good evening everbody and welcome to my very own self-opinionated frame by frame account of "Jimmy Goal of the Season".
European Champions
Here it is, in the game between Aston Villa and my mate George "boring style of one-dimensional play" Grahame's Arsenal.
European Champions
The move starts here while Arsenal are on the attack. I remember when I was in Saudi I invented this move, come to think of it didn't I invent football?
European Champions
Now watch this very closely... there, Villa start their break deep in their own half. The ball is passed to Dean Saunders, skips past the sledgehammer subtlety of Adams...
European Champions
...making it better for the game as a whole! Wanting to make it Jimmy special goal, Saunders clearly passes from the Arsenal six yard line... Desmond?
European Champions
Now, here we seen Houghton picking up the ball and floating an inch perfect ball towards the run of Saunders. Aren't you glad it's me doing this rather than Terry Venables?
European Champions
Saunders meets the ball clearly... and clearly out-jumps the stranded back four. I should let Alan Hansen talk you through this bit but I'm not going to cos' I like the sound of my voice.
European Champions
As Seaman comes the ball loops over his flaccid trunk... good game, good game... Here's the bit where Saunders gets mobbed by his team mates.
European Champions
My favourite bit, I remember when I was at Fulham it never happened to me because when I was a pro I was crap.

European Champions logo

Nowadays soccer skills are not measured how tenacious your tackles are, but the way you waggle your joystick. At the flick of a wrist you could be on your way to Wembley...

When football was invented by Yorkshireman Albert Soccer in 1863, he couldn't possibly have imagined how popular it would become. And when Barnsley housewife Agnus Chippy unleashed the first computer on an unsuspecting public in 1950, she could surely not have foreseen the demand for the 'football simulation'.

Who can be bothered playing real football these days when you can sit at home and pretend to be Ryan Giggs? And it's no wonder the national team are struggling when John Barnes plays all his matches at home on his Amiga (allegedly).

Step forward European Champions, the latest option-packed contender. Select the strength of the wind, have a lenient referee, use the video replay system, play sideways or top down, use manual radar mode, selecting PingPass or PointPass, play for 90 minutes on astroturf, on skill level 10 - and then have a game of football. It's as simple as that, really.

Time for a change
But are these the options we want? No, it's time for something different. What about a Football Style game where you shape a footballer's look, right down to his haircut? Marks could be awarded by Football Taste Police (or your Amiga). For instance, a BMW driving, bubble--permed Cockney with a four-bedroom semi in Hemel Hempstead would be awarded, say, five out of 10. But give him an E-type Jag, a bob and a two-bedroom townhouse in Fulham and the mark could soot up to seven. Add to that cowboy boots and an affair with a 'supermodel' and you're staring down the barrel of a nine. Then you get to play in the Cup Final. However, I digress.

European Champions is at least attempting to be different. The sprites are bigger than Gordon Strachan, but when playing top-view down, they run in a very stranger manner. And with a rather restricted view, it can get a bit confusing at times. The side view is similar in look to Manchester United Europe, but the play is far quicker. It's a matter of personal preference - the side view is my favourite in this game.

Get to grips with the game
Passing the ball should, in theory, be a simple exercise. Not so in European Champions. The manual does its level best to explain the options available but it's tough going. You can find yourself playing sweeping moves and scoring fantastic goals without really knowing what you did. OK, you pick it up gradually, but it's heavy going.

And I have other gripes. There are no block players, the scrolling occasionally falls behind play, and goals are sometimes awarded when the ball hasn't crossed the line. And the crowd sound like they are singing in a toilet. But the ref plays advantage (nice to see), you can commit barging fouls, and the goal celebrations are spectacular.

European Champions tries hard to please. It makes the right noises without quite hitting the mark. The number of times I've been bearing down on goal and attempted to shoot, only to see the ball passed out to the wing. Oh, it's my fault, but it's just a mite too confusing for my taste.

It's not a bad game. It's just that there are better football games available. Top marks for trying to do something different, but beaten by a goal in the dying minutes.

Lothar Matthäus logo Amiga Joker Hit

Ein großer Name, eine teure Lizenz - und nichts dahinter? O nein, Ocean hat ganze Arbeit geleistet: Der Ruf des Bayern-Kapitäns ist gerettet, die Fans kriegen ein erstklassiges Spiel und Ihr einen topexklusiven Test!

Weltmeister, zweimal Fußballer des Jahres - Lotharchen sammelt die ehrlich erschwitzten Ehrentitel wie andere Leute Briefmarken. Und mit dieser Soccersimulation kann er einen weiteren Erfolg verbuchen, auch wenn sein persönlicher Beitrag vermutlich nur in einem Satz bestand: "In Ordnung, nehmt meinen Namen!".

Bei genauerem Hinsehen haben wir es hier nämlich mit der Fortsetzung von "Emlyn Hughes International Soccer" aus dem Hause Audiogenic zu tun. Ocean hat das Game also auch nur gekauft, in der englischen Heimat wurde es unter dem Titel "FA Premier League" veröffentlicht. Was den 1990 erschienenen Vorgänger betrifft, so mußte er seine Qualitäten ja damals bei uns in einem kleinen WM-Special unter beweis stellen und landete knapp hinter "Kick Off 2" auf dem zweiten Platz. Diesmal verhinderte das timing der Hersteller leider den Doppelpaß mit "Goal!" - was besonders schade ist, weil Lothar Matthäus in gewisser Hinsicht eine Kombination von "Emlyn Hughes" und "Kick Off" darstellt.

Vor allem gilt das für gewisse Ansichten, denn das Programm enthält sowohl eine leicht nach oben versetzte Seitenansicht als auch die klassische Vogelperspektive à la Dino Dini. Aber es kommt noch besser, denn zwischen den beiden Sichtweisen kann im Spiel jederzeit durch einfachen Tastendruck gewechselt werden, und das nahezu verzögerungsfrei. Doch ist das nur eines der unglaublichen, vielen Features dieses Games, schreiten wir also mal zur Aufzählung:

Es stehen mehrere Spieltaktiken zur Auswahl, die sich noch durch selbstgestrickte ergänzen lassen, die Kicker besitzen individuelle Leistungsmerkmale (Schnelligkeit, Kraft, Ausdauer etc.) und beherrschen das Paßspiel in drei Varianten, dazu Hackentricks, Volleyschüsse, Bananenflanken und Flugkopfbälle. Es sind zehn Schwierigkeitsgrade vorhanden, der Wind weht in verschiedenen Stärken und Richtungen, außerdem können die Platzverhältnisse vom englischen Rasen bis zur ausgewachsenen Schlammschlacht variiert werden.

Zum Optionsangebot gehören auch die mehr oder weniger strenge Berufsauffassung des Schiedsrichters (mit der Abseitsregel steht der Mann allerdings immer auf Kriegsfuß, und von Gelben bzw. Roten Karten hält er auch nicht viel), ein wahlweise einblendbares Mini-Radar und die Festlegung der Matchdauer, die zwischen laschen vier und professionellen 90 Minuten angesiedelt werden darf. Selbst der eingebaute Videorekorder macht noch ein bißchen mehr, als man von ihm erwarten würde, und bringt z.B. auf Wunsch vollautomatisch eine kurze Wiederholung von besonders gelungenen Spielabschnitten und Torszenen.

Aber werfen wir doch noch einen kurzen Blick in die Kabine. Hier drängeln sich neben den 18 Bundesligateams auch die ganzen englischen, französischen, italienischen und spanischen Mannschaften; bei ihren jeweiligen nationalen Meiserschaften, anläßlich eines Freundschaftsspiels oder zur Ausspielung des Europapokals treffen sie dann am Platz aufeinander. Im Zwei-Kicker-Modus kann man nicht nur gegen, sondern auch zusammen mit einem fußballbegeisterten Freund im selben Team antreten, bloß den Posten des Torwarts reserviert der Rechner eisern für sich. Und daß von der kompletten Liga über die einzelnen Trikotfarben bis zu bestimmten Torszenen fast alles abspeicherbar ist, versteht sich bei soviel Vielfalt ohnehin von selbst.

Jetzt geht es endlich hinaus ins Stadion, wo man erfreut feststellt, daß all die schöne Theorie auch in der Rasenpraxis tadellos funktioniert - je nach gewählter Perspektive hat man das Gefühl, vor "Emlyn Hughes" oder "Goal!" zu sitzen. Richtig hübsch haben die Programmierer vor allem das Dribbling hinbekommen, selbst bei harten Kehrtwendungen verliert man das Leder normalerweise nicht. Für die etwas spezielleren Tricks muß man dagegen richtig zum Ball stehen, nur die ganz hohen und die Flachschüsse sind aus nahezu jeder Lebenslage hinzukriegen, wobei Volleys allerdings oft und gern über dem Tor landen.

Das ausgezeichnete Gameplay inklusive Fouls und nachfolgenden Elfmetern wird ergänzt durch eine prima Grafik mit herrlich großen und gut animierten Sprites, Freudenausbrüche nach einem Tor sind an der Tagesordnung, und selbst der schwarz und weiß gepunktete Ball dreht sich deutlich sichtbar im Flug! Deswegen kreischen und tröten die Zuschauer vermutlich auch so enthusiastisch, wohingegen die (abschaltbare) Musik bei unserem Testmuster noch nicht eingebaut war.

In diesem Zusammenhang müssen wir uns auch für die englischen Texte auf den Fotos entschuldigen, im Laden wird Lothar selbstverständlich komplett deutsch aufspielen. Wenn seine Lolita nicht mehr dazwischenfunkt, dürfte dieses freudige Ereignis Ende August stattfinden - dann könnt Ihr Euch selbst davon überzeugen, daß der Platz auf dem Siegertreppchen für "Goal!", "Kick Off" und "Sensible Soccer" nun ziemlich eng geworden ist... (C. Borgmeier/od)

European Champions logo CU Amiga Screen Star

Being an Arsenal supporter, what does Paul Presley know about football? Enough to say that this is a damn fine game indeed...

I remember playing Kick Off as a lad. My finest moment was losing 4-2 to a certain Gary Penn in an old EMAP Kick Off World Cup Final, in what was an eerily similar match to the 1966 World Cup Final (right down to the controversial 'ball not crossing the line' goal). I remember at the time thinking 'Well, this will never be beaten by another game'. But then came Kick Off 2, followed by Sensible Soccer and, most recently, Goal!, Anyone with half a brain was switching to an overhead view, stopping the ball from sticking to the player's feet and adding 'after touch'. Now the football playing fraternity of Amiga owners is as divided as Bosnia-Herzegovina, with just as much chance of a peace plan being put into effect.

So, as if three warring factions wasn't enough, along come Ocean throwing another splinter group into the fray, except these guys have a secret weapon. With European Champions the ball sticks to the player's feet. That's right, sticks. And it still retains practically all of the playability that's come before. As if that little fact wasn't enough, European Champions also proudly boasts an optional side-on view to witness the action. It seems that Ocean have decided to cater for just about all the remaining unsatisfied tastes, while still making the game accessible to the devotees.

As to the controls, they are just as easy (or tricky depending on personal skill) to get used to as Kick Off's were, and when mastered allow you to play some really exciting football. It's fast, it's action-packed, and it's completely intuitive.

First up is the 'ping' pass. As you run around the pitch, you'll notice a little arrow above your player's head. This simply indicates the direction you'll pass in should you just flick the fire button (the receiver also has a halo around his head to make it clearer). What's more, if you press fire before he receives it, you'll enter 'one-touch' mode, in which the computer will automatically either head, pass, volley or shoot the ball the moment he gets it, depending on tactical positioning. This can lead to some thrilling goal mouth action, with the ball floating from one player to another before ending up in the net.

Following that is 'cursor mode'. Holding down the fire button reveals a movable cursor in front of the player. Simply point the cursor in the appropriate direction and let the button go. it sounds a bit tricky to get used to, and to be honest it is. But once mastered it makes for some really interesting football, with power shots, dummies, side passes and other football-related terminology springing to mind.

Finally there's 'select' passing. It's similar to ping passing except that you let the player run with the ball while you select who to pas to. It isn't used much but can prove useful when the time comes. Of course, add to that after touch, sliding tackles, barging and all the other usuals and it begins to sound like it could be a bit tricky to play but it is, in fact, brilliant (for there is no other word).

And none of that is counting the managerial side of things, where you can select, edit and create teams: play leagues and cups friendlies, edit on-field strategies, player positioning, skills and attributes and just about anything else you could want.

But go on, ask the all important question. I know you want to. Is it better than Sensible Soccer/Kick Off/Goal! (delete according to preference)?

That's a question I'm not going to answer. Let's just say that it is as good as Sensi and Co. I know that half of you reading this swear by Kick Off, while the other half stand firmly in the Sensible camp (has Goal! been around long enough to gain a fan club?), so I'm not likely to make any converts.

The people I believe will find European Champions appealing are the ones whose main gripe about the others was that the ball didn't stick to the player's feet. So, providing you don't mind that little feature, and presuming you're willing to spend a few sessions getting used to it (which, after all, is exactly what you did with the others), you're likely to find that European Champions has just become the fourth real contender for the computer football league championship.