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Strike Force Design * £14.95

Strike Force Design's maiden attempts to capture the spirit of American football with green digitised pictures of bulky, well-padded men throwing themselves at each other's feet.

You opt either to let the computer do all the hard work and miss out on the gameplay, skipping straight to that week's results, or you can become more involved with the ins and outs of each game, choosing each move as it is played. Admittedly American footy tactics take a bit of mastering, but the manual explains them clearly and concisely, with only a little of the obligatory waffling.

Touchdown is not really the thing for total novices unless you're prepared to examine the rule books or you're a whiz with statistics (the whole game is based on statistical analysis of yardages). But the hardened fan, who thinks he can do better than the Monarch's coach did last season, could have a fair old amount of fun.

Liebe macht Blind - Football auch!

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Ein Game, das man per Scheck in England bestellen muß, hatten wir noch nie im Test - ob American Football à la Strike Force Design den Aufwand lohnt?

Also, für Grafik-Fans lohnt es hier nicht einmal, die Brille zu putzen - selbst in den tiefsten Tiefen des PD-Pools wird man nur selten auf derart Häßliche Farben und so viele so so schlecht digitalisierte Fotografien treffen!

Aber vielleicht lohnt sich dafür das Aufsperren der Lauscher? Fehlanzeige, die schauerlichen FX braucht man ebensowenig gehört zu haben wie die zweieinhalb Brocken Sprachausgabe. Immerhin kann man über Mausi und ihre Menüs nicht klagen; bedienen läßt sich das Programm einwandfrei. Es keimt also Hoffnung hinsichtlich des Gameplays auf...

Und tatsächlich, wer Hardcore-Stratege und eingefleischter Football-Fan gleichzeitig ist, mag mit dem ungewöhnlichen Prinzip vielleicht sogar etwas anfangen können: Grundsätzlich sind hier alle 28 Vereine der amerikanischen Profiliga vertreten; Vorrundenspiele, Play Off-Finals oder Spieler-Transfers fehlen ebensowenig wie genaue Stärketabellen aller teilnehmenden Junges.

Die Begegnungen selber funktionieren dann auf Rundenbasis, wobei je nach Ballbesitz eine von 14 offensiven bzw. 10 defensiven Strategien angeklickt wird - der Compi hält dagegen, errechnet das Ergebnis in Yards (Raumgewinn) und verteilt gegebenfalls die "Tore".

Na, hört sich das interessant an? Ja? Ehrlich? Trotz der möglichen Augenschäden?! Und soll es recht sein, füllt einfach einen Euroscheck über 19,95 Pfund Sterling aus und schickt ihn vertrauensvoll an:
Strike Force Design, P.O. Box 40, Sunderland, Tyne Wear, SR2 8DF, Great Britain. Ihr werdet ja sehen, was Ihr davon habt... (jn)

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What’s this? Another (mail order only) American football coaching sim swaggering onto the Amiga gridiron? Last month’s readers will remember my review of the essentially identical American Football Coach, a game that fumbled the ball in its attempt to reproduce the ups and downs of the NFL. This month’s offering is a slicker, more professional package (complete with sampled speech and digitised action stills), and – as there is surely only room for one American football management game in this country – looks likely to eclipse the earlier offering totally. Or not?

Unfortunately things aren’t quite so cut and dried. In some ways this package offers more, in others less. To be concise (for some strange reason the rest of the AP team have yet to be convinced of American footballs’ page worthiness – Philistines! - so I’ll have to be brief), Touchdown offers very little hands-on, real-time decision making. Your playbooks are severely limited (14 offensive and 10 defensive plays), so the emphasis is strongly placed on pre- and post-game analysis and backroom coaching.

The chance of each play’s success is calculated with ruthless statistical efficiency, based on a play’s default likelihood of success (large gain plays are obviously riskier than short rushes) and then tailored (before the snap) by the following criteria: your opponent’s team’s choice of play, the skill of the players in your team that will be directly involved in the play (you get marks out of a hundred here – yes!) and (correspondingly), the skills of your opponent’s relevant opposite numbers.

So, deciding which plays to base your offensive and defensive strategies on is best done before kick off. Train up your players as best you can, compare your team’s strengths and weaknesses with the scouting report from your opponent’s camp and see which plays place your strongest jocks against their weediest. It’s as easy as that. Obviously you’ll have to break up the plays throughout the game, but you’ll already know which ones you’re going to rely on.

The results of all this planning and tactical play calling is displayed immediately (if a receiver catches a ball or a running is successful then the gain in yardage pleasingly clicks up, pinball style), with the aid of pretty but ultimately superficial (after your first game you’ll ignore them) digitised stills. Every now and then a sampled voice shouts ‘Touchdown!’, but it’s heads down for the next play.

That’s not quite all though. Between matches there are other coaching decisions to be made too – including scouting for new team talent. As seasons come and go, players grow old and college rookies come up for grabs. You can painstakingly tweak and tailor (or completely replace!) your team as you see fit by introducing this new blood, though an easier way to victory is simply to elect to coach one of the better NFL teams to start off with. (This is a neat way the game gets around the problem of difficulty tuning, actually. The potential for different difficulties of game is sort of built in).

So is the game any good? Well, yes – it is a inconsequential kind of way. There is nothing here to get really excited about, but because presentation is so slick, it is both easy and fun to play. What it isn’t is the definitive American football coaching sim – looks like we’re still waiting for that, and (sad to say) I think it’ll be a fairly long wait too.

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With shoulder pads firmly in place, Tony Dillon sets his sights on the Superbowl...

With football management games experiencing a revival at the moment it is a little unusual to see an American Football sim crop up. And I'm sorry to say it isn't the best debut game Strike Force Design could have come out with.

The game fits along the lines of a classic management sim, in the same style as the ancient Headcoach. Guide your team, win as many matches as possible, finish top of the league - and so on.

As management games go, Touchdown is a very simple one. You begin with a team of 24 players, each with a skill level which increases with age and experience.

All options such as viewing fixtures or sending players off for extra training are accessed by a single click on the options menu. However, strangely, you cannot determine which specific course of training to follow.

The matches can be played out in two ways. You can either play 'Results Only' mode, where you only receive the scores of the matches you play. This makes the game incredibly shallow, leaving you with almost no control at all.

The other mode, 'Game Mode' lets you control each Down, by selecting which play to use and then watching the results of your orders, shown in text and accompanied by some green and black digitised shots.

Although this offers more control, it is still dull. After each play is selected, the pictures have to be loaded, wasting time, and for some reason the matches take ages to play, and there's no way of speeding them up. I'm sorry, but choosing one of nine options over and over again isn't my idea of fun.

American Football is a pure action game, and is exciting to watch. Touchdown is presented in such a drab way, that all the tension and atmosphere are lost.

Touchdown is available via mail order from SFD, PO Box 40, Sunderland, Tyne & Wear SR2 8Df.