Thursday, 25 June 2015

The Quest To Like a Football Game #2

Microprose Soccer a.k.a. Keith van Eron's Pro Soccer (1988)
By: Sensible Software / Microprose  Genre: Sport  Players: 1-2  Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Commodore 64  First Day Score: Won 2-0 :)
Also Available For: Amiga, Atari ST, PC, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum

For the first part of this feature I decided to look at probably the oldest football game that I actually remember seeing/hearing about first-hand, but for this instalment I've gone for a slightly more recent one. It's a game I had also heard much about (though not played), and I've never heard anything but glowing praise for it, so I was slightly more hopeful this time that my quest would bear some fruit. A strength of Match Day was its great presentation and that was the first thing that struck me about Microprose Soccer too. As well as allowing you to change several aspects of the gameplay there are even two different styles available - the normal 11-a-side game that most of the world enjoys and the 6-a-side indoor game that was popular in the US around the time of the game's release.

It may only be Oman but I'm still winning! :)
These actually have to be loaded separately from either side of the tape/disc, but the pleasant options screen on both gives you the same choice of four modes - Microprose International Challenge, World Cup Tournament, Soccer League, Two Player Friendly. The first of these is basically a one-player arcade mode wherein you play against a series of ever-tougher opponents represented by the national teams (normal game) or American league teams (indoor game). The World Cup Tournament isn't massively different, allowing you to take control of a national team on a quest for the grandest prize of all (in between the computer rounding up the scores of all the other games). The Soccer League mode, meanwhile, is a multi-player tournament - up to sixteen players no less - although only two can play at once, obviously.

The indoor game is quite a bit trickier...
The helpful menu screen also lets you sample a Demo Game and has a Name Bank which allows you to enter your own team names, and a Control Panel that lets you change several game settings including the length of games. I had to be brave enough to actually try playing the game eventually though, and first impressions were actually pretty good. The action is viewed from directly overhead and the graphics are pretty decent, including some nice detail on the players, pitch and various animations, but more important are the controls. Happily, this aspect of the game is superb, with player movements being as quick and responsive as you might hope, and things have been kept nice and simple too. The sole 'action' button performs a sliding tackle when you don't have the ball and obviously kicks it when you do have possession.

England are doing well as usual then...
There isn't an actual charge meter or anything but the longer you hold down the button the further it can be kicked (to an extent), but even more splendid is the much heralded 'banana kick' you can perform by holding left or right diagonals after kicking. Not everything is great though. Like Match Day, passing is rather slow and fiddly here so if you're anything like me you're more likely to just run end-to-end with the ball, doing your best to dodge tackles. Another nice feature is the variable weather which basically means it rains now and then. The problem with that is, if you perform a tackle during a storm you'll slide halfway down the pitch before stopping. By this time, of course, your opponent will be long gone and may well have scored too! This was no doubt done for comedic reasons but it can be a little annoying as well.

Oh no, Pea Town have taken the lead!
Something else I found annoying was the player-selection system. There are two different options for this but neither works terribly well, mainly because the rather zoomed-in viewpoint and lack of match 'radar' means you often can't even see the player that's under your control when it switches from one to another because he's not even on-screen, and this can at times result in aimless running around until you find your guy! Sometimes it's not easy to spot your players at a glance either, as most shirt-colours are not very bright and not much of them is visible. These issues are not game-breakers but they can reduce enjoyment of Microprose Soccer somewhat, for me at least. For the most part, though, it's still good fun and still well worth playing.

Hooray, time for a replay to revel in my brilliance...
Indeed, for while Match Day was undoubtedly a good game back in its day, it has aged pretty badly and isn't really enjoyable anymore; Micoprose Soccer is a game that still is good. It's clear from playing it that some areas of it could've been improved a bit (and probably were in subsequent games) but nothing is bad or annoying enough to dissuade you from having yet another go. The presentation is really nice, including a nice rolling demo, instant replays of goals, and probably my new favourite SID tune on the menu screen (although the in-game music isn't so hot), but more importantly it's great fun, especially with more than one player involved. Even in one-player though, few things in gaming are as satisfying as scoring with a long-range banana kick! There are a few niggles here but this is now my favourite footy game (so far).

RKS Score: 7/10


  1. Fond memoris of this, not sure which version. Dont remember doing banana kick - must have missed out on that! :'( In it's day I gave it a 9, so 7 is fair now. Replay facility blew my mind - an incredible achievement on computers with such limited storage and processing ability. Still impressed by that now :)

  2. Hey buddy, I didn't know you'd ever played this. It was available on the CPC which I guess is where you played it but was most famous on the C64. This was the first time I'd played any version and I enjoyed it :)

  3. I was never the biggest fan of the top down football games, but this is one of the best on the C64. Got plenty of playtime out of it

  4. Hi Garry :) Did you prefer the isometric ones then, or did you not like footy games until the 3D ones started appearing?

    1. ya, those side on footie games just 'felt' better to me as a kid going all the way back to International Soccer on the C64 (which I think holds up better than the overhead games from the same era?). The only real top down game I played enough to get good at was Super Kick Off on the Megadrive, but once Fifa and Fifa'95 came along, there was no going back

  5. I'm surprised you didn't mention (though the info is in the details at the top of the review) that this was coded by Sensible Software, and as such is very much a precursor to Sensible Soccer. Of the two, I'd honestly have to say I prefer this one - I could never quite get to grips with the ball in Sensi. I much preferred Goal! on the Atari ST, though it's a much more sober game.

    I'm no footie fan, but it does make a good videogame and this is one of the few I hammered. Having gone back to it, it does have its flaws as you rightly point out, so it's lost some of its playability to its successors. Not a bad game by any means, but I can't love it like I used to. Presentation is top notch though, and very much skewed towards having fun with its bouncy SID tunes.

    After Goal!, the only footie game to grab my attention (and I'm still not sure why I bought it) was Adidas Power Soccer on the PS1. Stupidly powerful comedic special moves made it easy to win once you'd got the hang of it, but who doesn't want to send the keeper sailing to the back of the net with the ball, or do flying kicks at an opponent's back? The latter tended to be my method of play on the rare occasions I was forced to play at school (though usually I'd be kept on the sidelines, since apparently you can't control a football through the power of the mind alone, much to my team mates' dismay when they put me in goal).

  6. Hi Mr Ant, nice to see you again :) I planned to mention the link between this game and Sensible Soccer when I eventually review the latter but you're right, it could've been mentioned here too.

    I haven't actually played many footy games but, prior to starting this series of reviews, I hadn't found one I really got into. I had Kick Off on the MS and didn't like it but I must admit - I've never played SS so I'm at least intrigued :P

    Funny you should mentioned Adidas Power Soccer - a friend of mine had that back in its day and lost his temper with it so much he destroyed the disc in a somewhat unconventional manner - he placed it face down on his floor, stood on it, and span around as fast as possible. Suffice to say, his PS had trouble reading it after that :P