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                          Review: Total Football
                            By:  Ken Anderson 

Warning: this review contains no silly footballing references like "sick as
a parrot" or "a game of two halves".

A timely release from Domark, as the European Championships kick off (arf)
in Britain.  Hopefully it won't be too long before we hear more about the
eagerly awaited Championship Manager 2 ...

For all you puzzled Americans, "football" in this title is soccer - real
football.  None of that shoulder-pads-and-quarter-ton-of-ironwork lark for
us - this is the game of kings.  Kicking an inflated cow's bladder around a
muddy field with the aim of putting the ball between two sticks may seem
like an odd idea for a game, but it's one that's caught on over the years.

Up until now, the undisputed champion of footy games has been Sensible
Soccer.   Since wrenching the league cup from Kick Off 2, Sensi has been
the game that the others have failed to beat.  TF isn't better than Sensi,
but them again it doesn't try to be.

Rather than the almost-top-down view of Sensi, TF takes the FIFA-style
isometric display.  The players move with an alleged 1,700 frames of
animation, and very nicely they move too.  When a player is fouled, he gets
up and hobbles away - pitifully or heroically, depending on whether he's
one of your guys.  Better than this is the display put on when your team
scores - you can make him race around the pitch, summersaulting, punching
the air and making obscene sexual gestures to the crowd.

The control system does take a little getting used to.  Pressing the
joystick button once performs a pass to your nearest player.  Pressing it
twice in quick succession results in a mid-strength kick, with the addition
of after-touch, whilst triple-clicking punts the ball up the field in the
general direction your player is facing.  This does take a bit of getting
used to, especially as the game system has to wait to determine how many
clicks you're going to make - there's a slight lag between pressing the
button for a pass and the ball actually leaving your feet.  This can lead
to screams of frustration from untrained rival human opponents.  Things are
improved with a two-button joystick, where the buttons are used
independently to control the kicking power.  In fact, two-button
controllers (which no serious Amiga games should be without) will allow a
couple of extra moves which single-buttoners can't do.

Away from the actual gameplay, there's the usual plethora of options -
length of match, pitch type, team selection, and so on.  Playing against
the computer is fine for practice, but - like most things in life - it's
more fun with another person.  In fact, invite a few chums around, set up a
league or a championship competition, and you can re-enact the whole of
Euro 96 in front of your monitor.  Who knows - Scotland might even win in
this one.  At the end of each half, statistics are displayed for the
previous session - possession, territory, corners and fouls.  Perfect for
settling those "I played better than you" arguments.

A few minor niggles: the game isn't HD installable - not a major problem,
as the game uses all available memory to keep disk swaps at a minimum, but
an irritating omission.  Also, if player one chooses a two-button joystick,
player two must use a two-button device too ...  annoying if you only have
one joypad.

However, these are tiny flaws.  It's a fast, attractive game that is
surprisingly addictive - even after the umpteenth 3-0 defeat, you'll still
be back for more.  Add a few friends, and you'll be over the moon, Brian
...  oh dammit.

Pros: Plays like a dream, and is almost as much fun to watch as to take
part - just like real football.

Cons: Computer-controlled goalies are too computer-controlled.  Will get
boring without human opponents.