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'll 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 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 lineup; you can tweak the individual player's stats and names... And then it's 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's a passing play, as soon as the quarterback catches the ball, you can rotate his body through ninety degrees in order to get the best angle 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!