I Play 3D Soccer logo

SIMULMONDO * £24.99 Joystick

Soccer, that glorious game invented in our own proud nation. Giving an air-filled leather blatter the kicking it so richly deserves. Giving rise to such sporting heroes as Keegan, Dalglish, Matthews and Gazza. Soccer is also responsible for some of the most dreadful hairstyles the world has ever seen. That aside, football games have always taken roughly the same form. Either horizontally or vertically-scrolling pitches, with lots of fat little sprites bumbling aimlessly around the field.

Virtual football reality!
Did you not ever want to be there yourself? In some really important fixture, intercepting an incredible pass, weaving in and out of the opposition and belting that football straight into the back of the net. Think about the glory, the screaming crowd, the applause and the rather amorous physical affections of your team mates.

Well now you can experience all of those (except the after-goal snogging), thanks to Simulmondo. The first 3D soccer simulation. Taking a first-person perspective of the proceedings, the aim of the game is to achieve a degree of realism never seen before in a soccer game.

The rather confusing manual does go on a bit about the difference between a game and a simulation, but the game's arcade roots are obvious.

3D Soccer is initially very confusing. The sheer speed of the action is fairly breathtaking and the range of controls and joystick actions is a little intimidating. The manual really tries very hard to explain things. Unfortunately, poor translation means that experimentation is often more fruitful than referring to the instructions. For example, there is no mention of the fact that the 'O' key is required to start a game.

Where the bloomin' heck are you?
Your player is viewed from just behind; moving the joystick left or right causes him to face the direction you have chosen. The field of play rotates in a fairly convincing fashion. Push forward and the player runs at a fair rate of knots down the field. Press the joystick button when you are not in possession of the ball and the player will automatically turn to face whoever does have the ball. This makes life a little less confusing, but the sheer speed of play means that by the time you have spotted the ball, it is already being kicked somewhere else.

I Play 3D Soccer logo

Bizarre title, unusual perspective, different game style (same old sport).

If you were to walk up to Mr or Mrs Average in the street and announce 'I Play 3D Soccer', they'd no doubt reply 'Ah ha! You must be referring to that new footie game from Italian Software house Simulmondo,' (either that or 'Blimey, what a willy. Go away!'). No, it's all right, you can come out from under the duvet - this isn't just another footie game. For starters, in this (the first in a presumably long line of 'I Play' sports sims) you take control of just one player at a time, the rest of the team being computer controlled.

And once you've read the next bit, which explains that instead of a boring old top view, it's all fancy first person perspective (so you actually view yourself running into the screen), you'll begin to see why we're looking at a rather different sort of computer football game, one that thinks of itslef as much more a simulation than a soccer blast.

And as a simulation, it does surprisingly well. The graphics are clear, fast and 3D, while the visual and tactical controls are pretty friendly to use. However, the main problem is it's far too much like the real thing for its own good. Just as in the real game (well, whenever I play it, anyway) you spend practically all your time chasing after the ball without actually coming into contact with it. The game has thought of this, and has an option where you can 'call' the ball, so it's passed to you as soon as your team has possession, but at the end of the day you still start to question whether you;ve actually contributed that much to the game at all.

The split screen two player option (play with or against another person) doesn't do itself justice for the same reason. And any ideas you may have about hogging the ball to make things more exciting for yourself go straight out of the window when you realise that this all too often leads to the unfortunate consequence that your team will lose.

It's a bit of a shame really because the game is flawlessly executed - I've no other complaints apart from the lack of playability, and I'm perfectly willing to admit that it is possible that some (much better) footballers than I am may have more success with it. Nice idea, shame about the fact that it doesn't quite work.

I Play 3D Soccer logo

Trying to recreate a fast sport like soccer within the restraints imposed by the Amiga and its capabilities is a very brave step.

While Simulmondo's effort is undeniably faster than MicroProse's game, it still does not come any near the realism or speed that are necessary. Once a massive series of decidedly user-unfriendly options have been bypassed, and the required options chosen, the game itself begins with a quick recce of the pitch, before the in-game view centres behind your selected player.

From this view, the computer then traces moves as the player whizzes all over the pitch in a vain attempt to gain possession of the ball. Where I Play fails is within this all-important control area. Although well animated, the player is cumbersome and slow to respond. When coupled with the disorientating viewpoint, the game becomes confusing to play. I spent most of my time whizzing around the fast-moving pitch, whilst trying to coax my teammates into giving me the ball. The full range of moves available include dribbling runs, huge punts and the usual array of throw-ins.

To their credit, Simulmondo have also incorporated almost all of the original's rules - including off-side. The trouble seems to be unwieldy control and unexciting action. The result is a very smart looking game with very little substance.