At first, I was having a bit of a problem with my approach to this review. IT seemed clear cut at first. My home team, Kilmarnock, are struggling to stay out of the relegation zone in the Scottish Premier League. Unfair enough. I'll just talk about them for a bit, make a comparison with Sierra Soccer - World Challenge Edition and put in a derogatory comment about the game being relegation material in the AMIGA POWER Fantasy Football Game League. But that wouldn't be entirely fair.
For a start, just because a team's unfortunate enough to be caught up in the relegation zone doesn't automatically mean that it's crap and worthless (unless of course the team in question is based in Fife and go by the name of Dundee. Ha Ha Ha). You only have to ask Glasgow Rangers - allegedly one of the best football teams in Britain today - about Kilmarnock.
They'll tell you Killie are crap (they say that about every Scottish team that doesn't have Glasgow and Rangers in the title), then they'll come over all sheepish and shamefacedly explain that if it hadn't been for a presumptive myopic linesman and a disgracefully incompetent referee, the semi-final replay of the Scottish Cup would have witness a famous Ayrshire victory. Killie walked all over them. Made their £25 million line-up look like a twenty-five-pence-and-four-fruit-salads affair (Ayr United anyone?). The only people in the footballing nation who weren't surprised about Killie's performance were the Killie supporters themselves; no one rates us, we don't care.
The fortunate/unfortunate thing about football games is that they're always going to be compared against Sensible Soccer. I agree with Stuart when, in relation to Sensi, he said that some games are so far ahead in their genre that no one should bother writing games that are just going to be a pale shadow of the original. But, and this is a big but, in Scottish real life footballing terms, that's likeing the Rangers are so good that nobody shold bother competing against them because every other team is but a pale shadow in their vile presbyterian light. As Killie so magnificently proved, underdogs can still teach new tricks and pack a bone crunching bite to boot.
So, bearing in mind that Sierra Sccer - World Challenge Edition is the underdog, up against the likes of Manchest United Premier League Champions and Sensi, why can't I say the same thing about it? Well for a start, the first thing that strikes you is its uncanny resemblance to Striker. The resemblance is so remarkable that I ended up scanning the programming and design credits of both games for matching names fully expecting to shout "snap" at some stage in the search. Incredibly, not one of the names from either game matched. Looks like a "look and feel" litigation case could be in the offing if you ask me.
Striker was originally reviewed by Stewart in AP15 where it earned a softish 76 per cent. "It's got the right idea, but at the end of the day lacks the necessary polish to make it stand up to the sheer class of the all-conquering Sensible Soccer" he said.
Sierra doesn't have any polish whatsoever and here's why. I'll assume that you haven't seen Striker (if you have, skip the next couple of paragraphs). Sierra uses a second person perspective i.e. the action is viewed from one end of the pitch, just behind and above the current location of the ball. Due to the smaller player sprites and slightly altered perspective, more of the pitch can be seen than that offered by Striker; it's very similar to the 3D mode in World Class Rugby. So I suppose you could call that an improvement, but definitely not a polished one, oh no.
In Scottish real life footballing terms
OUT OF IT
Control is pretty standard fare. If you're not in possession, your nearest man to the ball is highlighted and under joystick command. Otherwise, it's one of those velcro-to-the-foot jobs until you either pass or are successfully tackled. This brings us to the three most blatant flaws of the whole game. The first most ludicrously absolutely bloody ridiculous flaw is the inability of the computer to decide who's nearest to the ball. This can result in the preposterous situation of thinking you were controlling one particular little man, only to find that he is no longer under your control, because the programmed algorithm has opted to change to another of your little men.
More often than not, the direction that you were originally sending the first little man in is carried on with the second little man. So, say for example, you had been rnning down the pitch with a midfielder trying to catch the opposition's attacker and control suddenly switched to your defender who's now in front of the ball. He's going to be left in the awkward position of running down the field away from the onrushing forward because that's the direction you were last holding the joystick in. By the time you compensate for this, you may have run so far away from the ball that another of your players is now deemed closer by the algorithm and consequently switches to him. It's no longer a case of playing computer football, it's more a case of reacting to whoever has the arrow above their head. That's not the worst of it, though.
Sometimes (and it's rather to often for comfort), your opponent will be charging down the middle towards your goal, with a defender on either side. The computer will first put the arrow over, say, the defender on the left. You'll start to move towards the attacker, but then the computer suddenly switches control to the defender on the right. Because of the direction you're holding the stick, the right-hand defender will momentarily be moving away from the forward, making the left-hand defender the closest one again.
Of course, at this moment in time you're compensating for the right-hand defender and moving in the opposite direction again, so when the computer suddenly switches back to the left-hand defender, he starts running away from the forward. This frequently continues all the way to the six-yard box, with the arrow flickering furiously between your defenders until the computer's stuck the ball in the net and your defence is standing at the corner flags. It's quite annoying, in the same way that war is quite bad.
The second major flaw is that it's just about impossible to play a flowing passing game. When you're running towards goal and you're just about to be tackled, it makes sense to pass the ball. The pace of the game isn't so fast that you're not aware of your other player's positions. There should be no problem with passing. Unfortunately, if the player waiting to be passed to faces the ball, no matter how hard or soft the pass, it will always bounce off him and travel at least five yard back the way it came. As often as not, the opposition picks up the ball. Again, this can be compensated for, but it's incredibly disruptive and irritating.
The third major flaw is the tackling. You cannot take or steal the ball form the opposition, other than him missing a shot or putting it out of play, unless you slide tackle. The odds are normally around 70/30 whether or not you're going to give away a foul while doing this. Admittedly, as soon as you've slide, your player just about immediately picks himself up and is able to start running with the ball assuming the tackle was successful. I'm now at the point of sounding needlessly repetitive, but this flaw, while tedious, can be compensated for; but you end up not wanting to bother, it's too much to take.
I know it sounds as if I'm putting the boot in, and yes, I am. The person from Sierra didn't seem to think too much of the fact that from kick off, she scored two goals simply by running up the field wiggling her player from left to right to keep the opposition (me) player control switching from player to player so that it was almost impossible to get a (sliding) tackle in. As soon as she reached the penalty box she let rip with a heavily 'after touched' shot and scored, all within about three seocnds. Surprisingly enough, I managed to do exactly the same thing to her as I got the hang of the controls. Great fun, eh?
I haven't given a great deal of space to the actual World Cup tournament and the numerous player statistics. Basically, you can have up to eight human players taking part (why not have the option to have as many human players as there are many teams in the competition), can play friendlies and all that sort of stuff, but it's nowhere near as comprehensive as other games such as Sensi.
Each player and each team have a pile of statistics based on skills such as tackling, attacking, pace, stamina etc. Before a game, there are displayed on a screen. This means that there are some instances, such as Germany v South Korea, where one team dominates on all statistical fronts, with this game Germany positively oozes attacking skill and pace. Yet surprisingly, when the computer controls South Korea none of this massive advantage is very apparent, as the defence runs circles around you seemingly at will. Strange and frustrating indeed; in some instances, you can spot the advantages, but you have to be looking very hard.
In summary, I have to say that this game has just about no redeeming features in my eyes - although some of the goals yu can score are the most spectacular you'll ever see in a football game and are fully action-replayable. Other than that, I would avoid this game. In the end it's going to share the same fate in the AP office as Dundee and Swindon have done elsewhere in the real world.