TV Sports Football logo Amiga Computing Excellence Award

FROM the people that brought you Defender of the Crown, Sinbad and the incredible Rocket Ranger comes an accurate and classy American Football simulation. A radical departure you may think, but when you consider how the USA's favourite sport has become so heavily dependent on its television coverage, the concept begins to make a little more sense.

Cinemaware's creative driving force, Bob Jacob, reckons that the company's first products were merely experimental test runs - and seeing what's on offer from this program, it's easy to believe him.

The televisional front end is clever and entertaining, but the football game that it precedes and the almost total customisation options (allowing complete personalisation of your own team - and up to 28 friends to participate in a real-time league!) punt this product into a league of its own.

You take on a multitude of tasks, incorporating coaching and playing almost every position. Your first duty as coach is to pick a team, either using one of the 28 default lists or creating a new squad, complete with names of anyone you choose.

A list is displayed on the coach's clipboard, with each name followed by four categories: Speed, strength, hands and ability. You then allocate a set number of points between the squad, dividing each player's quota into these categories.

Depending on the player's position, each rating has a different effect, for instance the quarterback's ability rating determines how accurately his passes fly, while the same section controls how quickly the fullbacks change direction.

When you're quite sure that your team is just the way you like it, a dime is tossed to decide kick off and the opening game of the season begins.

The usual one and two player options are accommodated, but a novel twist adds still more to the program's polish. Two players can opt to take each other on in a head to head confrontation or can choose to join forces against the computer. In the latter case both players participate throughout, with one controlling the offence and the other looking after the defence.

During the game proper, a single player - highlighted by a flashing jersey - is controlled via the joystick. The highlighted player is usually in the thick of the action - for example, during defensive plays the quarterback is controlled until he releases the ball, at which point the nearest receiver is selected.

The remaining players follow the path set out for them by the selected "play", but unlike the real thing, the players are gifted with intelligence and are capable of adapting to suit the opposition's game pattern.

All games are played out in real time, and as such take a little over an hour to complete. Because of this, Cinemaware has included an option where the computer will carry on for a human player and play both sides if necessary. You can rejoin the game at any point simply by picking up the joystick and getting stuck in.

Each player's movement is believable and realistic, and anyone who follows Channel 4's regular coverage of the real thing will immediately recognise how accurate this simulation is - right down to the constant barrage of statistics that appears on screen. Other elements such as place kicking and time outs are included to complete the package.

TV Sports Football is one of the few games I've seen that comes close exploiting the Amiga's full capabilities. There is of necessity a little disc swapping, but this generally happens at times when the action has stopped and you really need a breather anyway.

A stunning American football game such as this would be enough for the price, but the addition of all the little finishing touches, such as the on-screen appearance of previous Cinemaware characters and the marvellous documentation, makes it as close as I've seen to the perfect computer game.

TV Sports Football logo

Price: £24.99

To most people the sport of American Football is nothing more than big men in big pads charging wildly into each other. But to people like me, avid supporters of the State's biggest game, there is a huge attraction to the sport coupled with avid Channel 4 viewing and essential purchases of consumer durables.

For those who are not familiar with the game I will give a brief rundown of rules and terms. The side in possession of the ball (the offense) have four attempts (downs) to move the ball ten yards forward from the line of scrimmage, otherwise the ball goes to the opposing team. If the offense manages to make it into the end zone of the opposing side with the ball he scores a touchdown worth six points. The player only has to get himself with the ball into the endzone to score, where as in rugby the ball has to be placed on the ground.

At the start of the down the quarterback (or team captain) calls the play. If on the fourth down the offense has failed to make ten yards, then they can take the risk of trying to make up the extra yardage or they can bring on one of the kickers to 'punt' the ball upfield; or, if in range, try for a field goal by kicking the ball through the upright posts at the opposition's end. A success means three points.

Each match is divided up into four quarters, each lasting fifteen minutes. The clock can be stopped when a team calls a time out; this is usually done in the last minutes of play.

So, how does TV Sports Football match up to the real thing? Well it has all the strategy of the sport, its sound, and some of its action. My only complaint is that the arcade sequence is a little too slow.

You can choose from league or exhibition matches, or which team you want to use from the current NFL line-up; you can tweak the individual player's stats and names... And then it is onto the match itself. Start by tossing a coin to decide who kicks off; then the tactics screen comes up. If your team is in possession of the ball, you can choose one of four plays: "Shotgun", "I Formation", "Pro-Set" or "Kick". On the first three plays you also have to choose the formation you want the team to take. This is a tricky bit as ideas tend to surface way above the borders of realism and the wrong formation is usually selected.

The arcade section follows next. The flashing player is controlled by you, usually the quarterback on offensive play. If it is a passing play, you can rotate his body through ninety degrees in order to get the best angel for a pass. Hit fire and he launches the ball; then the player nearest the ball comes under control and has to be positioned in order to make the catch. And in best football tradition, if the catch is made you can almost guarantee three members of the defense hitting him almost straight away.

As an ardent Phoenix Cardinals fan I was over the moon with a real American football game on the Amiga. And I am very pleased with the results. It combines strategic action as well as arcade skills perfectly, and although each match is rather overdrawn (lasting about thirty minutes real time) it is enough to keep you playing. A most definite thumbs up to the best American football sim I have ever seen. Roll on the super bowl!

Heave pigskin about in the most realistic Gridiron game yet

TV Sports Football logo Zzap! Sizzler

Cinemaware/Mirrorsoft, Amiga £29.99

Someone once said about Gridiron, 'Football is war,' and with all the heavy contact going on, this seems to be true. But there is more to this game than just running, throwing and hitting - there's loads of tactical play as well. Before we got into that, maybe we should give a quick explanation to those unfamiliar with the sports of

The idea is to get the ball into the other team's 'endzone' (the area behind their goal line). To do this yer pigskin thingy must be moved at least ten yards in four plays (called 'downs'), otherwise possession is handed to the opposing team.

Points can be scored in four ways:
1 - A touchdown scores 6 points and is awarded when a player catches the ball in the endzone or runs into the endzone carrying the ball.
2 - A conversion is scored by kicking the ball between the two posts after a touchdown, and is worth 1 point.
3 - A field goal is worth 3 points and is scored by kicking the ball between the two posts; it's taken instead of a down.
4 - A safety is when the opposing team's Quarterback is 'sacked' (tackled behind the line of scrimmage) in his own endzone, for 2 points.

The method of scoring these points becomes very complicated, each play having its own name and code. In Cinemaware's simulation you must learn the effectiveness of these tactics and use them in the correct combinations. You too can be a Head Coach!

Kati Hamza I'm not really a great fan of American Footy, but even I can spot a game that has been brilliantly packaged and presented. TV Sports Football is such a game. The general appearance of the game is very attractive, with some brilliant intro scenes and intermissions, such as the cheering crowed, waving players and humorous commercials. The combinations of tactics are really comprehensive (enough to be way over my head) and I can see fans of the sport getting well stuck into the action, As a matter of fact, even though I found it very confusing at first, I'm starting to enjoy the game - well, when Maff isn't shouting and swearing at the opposing team!
Maff Evans American Football is my most favourite sport, so when I saw the demo version of this my mouth didn't 'arf water! Now the finished game has arrived with all its presentation I can safely say that it's the most realistic Gridiron simulation on the market. There are a few annoying bit that I didn't like, such as the repeated disk swapping and some niggling technical errors, but this doesn't detract from the gameplay too much. Computer gamers who aren't especially into American Footy won't like this, because that's all there is. No arcade sequences, just pure Football - both tactical and action packed. Gridiron fans buy it today!
All the strategies in TV Sports Football are controlled via a tactical screen. Offensive players choose between, Shotgun, I-formation, Pro-set and kicking plays, followed by the running patterns and the kick types. Defence players set up their defensive line (4-3, 3-4, 6-1 and 'key' plays) and the corresponding defending tactics. Play then moves onto the field, where the defence controls the 'man in motion' and the offense control the Quarterback, sending the pass forward the opposing endzone.