Both newly re-released on budget, we've pitted Kick Off against Gary Lineker's Hot-Shot
This month sees the re-release of two overhead-view football games, one being possibly the most popular Amiga sports sim ever (at least, it was until the release of its sequel Kick Off 2) the other one being, erm, Gary Lineker's Hot Shot. The former, Anco's legendary Kick Off, comes complete with the Extra Time expansion disk initially released as an optional add-on, and retails at £7.99 on the Top Shots label.
Hot-Shot was originally released by Gremlin in a quiet sort of way, and now comes courtesy of US Gold's Kixx label, also selling for £7.99. We put them up against each other for a head-to-head comparison, but it's not the foregone conclusion you might expect it to be. You see, the referee for this particular grudge match is Stuart Campbell, quite possibly the only person in the Northern Hemisphere to think that Kick Off 2 is a big pile of donkey's doings, and a man taking a look at that game's predecessor for the first time. (Mind you, he doesn't like Gary Lineker much either...)
Kick Off 2 - utter guff or what? It has to be the all-time Emperor's New Clothes of Amiga software, a near-unplayable game almost exactly the same as the one before it, selling for £20 and upwards. I loathed it, and I wasn't expecting to like its equally popular parent on little bit. Always ready to be persuaded though, I loaded these two games up and ran a series of comparisons in two major areas - program quality and game realism. Within these are certain sub-categories, but they're pretty self-explanatory, so let's get on with it...
Graphics: Well, it's a hands-down victory for Kick Off here. It looks absolutely gorgeous - you couldn't ask for an Amiga football game to look better than this. Hot-Shot is crude by comparison, dully-coloured with the unrealistic pitch stripes and the penalty shot disappearing during play.
Kick Off: 9, Hot-Shot: 5
Sound: Kick Off comes up trumps again, although neither game particularly impresses. Anco's game has significantly superior crowd noise, and in Hot-Shot there's an uncomfortably long pause between scoring a goal and the crowd cheering it.
Kick Off: 7, Hot-Shot: 4
Speed: No contest here either. Kick Off is Carl Lewis where Hot-Shot is Lewis Carroll. Hot-Shot isn't actually all that slow in its own right, but it simply can't compete with Kick Off.
Kick Off: 8, Hot-Shot: 6
Playability: A bit of a comeback for Hot-Shot and no mistake. Even after many hours of playing Kick Off, I still find myself having very little feeling of control. The ball whizzes around in seemingly random directions, and many brilliant attacking positions collapsed as the ball shot off into the stands of its own accord. I also put in a few scything tackles that were actually attempts to trap the ball. Hot-Shot uses the altogether friendlier ball-sticks-to-feet system, which is less sophisticated but a lot more practical.
Kick Off: 5, Hot-Shot: 8
Features: You'd expect that coming with all the features of an expansion disk, Kick Off would come out tops here, and that's exactly the case. You can vary the pitch type, the skill of the opposition, your team's tactics and some of the ball's travelling properties. On the other hand, Hot-Shot does allow you to change your team strip colour and name, which is good as it's a bit dull being called 'Joystick 1' in the time in Kick Off. Then again, Kick Off does let you change ends at half-time, whereas in Hot-Shot you have to shoot down the screen (unnatural and uncomfortable) in both halves. Sadly, neither game includes an action replay, so marks off all round.
Kick Off: 8, Hot-Shot: 6
Running: Running with the ball in Kick Off is practically impossible. In Hot-Shot, it's easy and realistic (you go slower with the ball than without), and so superior.
Kick Off: 3, Hot-Shot: 8
Passing: Kick Off has a 'radar' scaner showing the position of all players, and a semi-intelligent ball (it always heads in the direction of one of your players), but Hot-Shot relies pretty much on luck. In Kick Off, though, you very rarely (if ever) have time to look at the scanner, so its usefulness is dubious.
Kick Off: 7, Hot-Shot: 3
Tackling: This is probably the major gameplay strong point of Hot-Shot. Tackling is easy and realistic (you can perpetrate - and be the victim of - some vicious-looking chops which somehow escape the ref's attention, foul your own players, or even take out two opponents with one particularly good slide), fun compared to Kick Off's all-or-nothing approach and all-seeing officials.
Kick Off: 7, Hot-Shot: 9
Shooting: Pretty much like passing, but Hot-Shot suffers from having a single tactic which more often than not results in a goal (I won't spoil it for you by telling you what it is), whereas Kick Off's drawback is that by the time you get close enough to goal to take a shot, the ball's often totally out of control and heading straight for the arms of the keeper or over the by-line.
Kick Off: 6, Hot-Shot: 5
Penalties: Both are dire, I'm afraid. Only Kick Off gives you any control over the goalkeeper, but it's rather a token effort. From the kicker's side, Hot-Shot is slightly more friendly - as directional control is easier it has much less tendency to blaze the ball right over the crossbar, which Kick Off tends to do with annoying regularity.
Kick Off: 4, Hot-Shot: 4
Free Kicks: Equally hopeless in both games.
Kick Off: 2, Hot-Shot: 2
Corners and Throw-Ins: Again, both games take much the same approach and there's not much to choose between them. Hot-Shot just wins out by having an on-screen power indicator.
Kick Off: 7, Hot-Shot: 8
So, overall, where does that leave us? The final scores are:
Kick Off: 71, Hot-Shot: 68
Ruddy heck, that was close. Much to my surprise, Kick Off turned out to be superior to its illustrious follow-up (mainly by virtue of it being possible to score now and again!), but Hot-Shot out-performed its almost non-existent reputation considerably.
The real distinction is that Kick Off is more like football and Hot-Shot is more like an arcade football game, so bear those facts in mind and make your own decision. (Helpful of me, eh?) In fact, at these prices, it might even be worth getting both of them.