By Al Giovetti, 03/14/97
Front Page Sports: Football Pro '97
Sierra has been contending for the top position in sports simulations for the last few years with its Front Page Sports series which was started in 1993 by Dynamics with the first Front Page Sports: Football. The original game feautred a full 47 man roster, up to 28 teams and 1400 players per league, 8000 digital frames of animation, over 200 stock plays, 9 playable field views, over 300 statistic categories, and even multiplayer (two player) over the same game console. FPS: Football was hailed by industry reviewers, including the great writer Russ Ceccola, as the most complet football game ever.
The graphics on the first Front Page Sports games was phenomenally realistic and rival todays leaders such as the EA Sports three dimensional motion captured players. FPS Football has won coveted Computer Gaming World Sports Game of the Year awards in 1993, 1994 and 1995, and called by their staff, "The best pigskin simulation available," and "Still the champ of football games." Will the newest in the series measure up to this exemplary past? Let's look.
Company LineThe best-selling and most highly-rated football game now sports modem, network and Internet play, allowing you to challenge friends to a gridiron battle. Whether you call a safety blitz or a last-second Hail Mary pass, the competition will be fierce but an on-line victory is just a game away! Every pass, every run, every bone-shattering tackle looks, moves and feels authentic. With individual player Artificial Intelligence and motion captured movements, no other football sim is as genuine or comprehensive. From the first round of the draft to the final seconds of Super Bowl Sunday, Football Pro `97 delivers the big play. Series Awards PC Gamer
You can play as commissioner, general manager, coach, or individual football player. FPS Football is the only football sim to offer career play, where you can watch players mature, get injured, improve their skills and maybe even make the Hall of Fame. Ageing affects performance as you follow a player from college recruitment to retirement.
All simulations sports and otherwise need to have adequate views or camera angles. Since FPS Football is built on the updated original Red Baron game engine, it has a special Camera Angle Management System (CAMS) which lets you watch the action from any place on or off the field in breathtaking 3-D graphics.
FPS Football includes every NFL team and every NFL player along with gaggles of statistics on each player since FPS Football has license contracts with Players Inc and the NFL.
In addition to the hundreds of pre programmed plays to choose from in the FPS Football playbook that has been developed over the last four years, new to this year is the PlayWizard. PlayWizard allows you to create plays while in time out, off line, and on-the-fly during the action of a game. PlayWizard starts out with a play that you already know or from scratch and adds or modifies the elements needed to make a coplete play. The process is easy and fast - less than one minute per play. The play editor is now a 32 bit program for ease of use.
Native Windows 95 play is seamless and makes for easy game play while balancing your checkbook in another window, or keeping up with work or stocks.
A new Quick Plan system helps you create game plans much quicker by selecting the number of types of plays you want in your game plan. Once you have selected the number of types of plays the computer will then generate the game plan for you. This allows you to create game plans in only a fraction of the time required in previous versions.
You can now assign groups of players to a substitution set. Once you have a saved set you can create plays and substitute in a group of players in a single action. This allows you to assign players for special situations and create plays quicker than before. Previously you had to sub players in one at a time. You can also use your presaved sets to substitute in players on the play call screen.
"Player logic is now assigned via pop up menus, this facilitates quicker play design by reducing the amount of mouse movements required to create a play," according to one Sierra source.
Play one game or a gaggle of seasons from college recruitment to retirment as Commissioner, general manager, coach or individual player.
Little black dots represent rain.
AnimationAnimations of all your favorite moves are smooth and well executed including dives, flip-over tackles, sticks, flying tackles, jumping interceptions, and finger tip catches. Each animation has sixteen angles of rotation which doubles the angles from the previous game, making this game look twice as good as its predecessor. The animations at 8 or 16 frames per second appear slower than earlier DOS versions of the same game, and require a manual edit of the game .INI file to switch.
Sound EffectsThe sound effects are recorded and played back at 22 MHz which is twice that used in the previous game so that the sounds sound twice as good this time around. If you want to use dht 22MHz sound you must manually edit the .INI file. This manual edit should have been an automatic function of the game, selected from a configuration menu.
UtilitiesFPS Football has VCR features like instant replay were the play can be examined from every possible camera angle and analized the way real world coaches debrief their teams.
Unfortunately, the latest version of this game contains a few multilegged crawling things. Gameplans imported from the 1996 version can cause the game to crash after the first kick off. There is a patch on Sierra's website that fixes the bugs so go online and get the fix before playing the game you buy off the shelf.
These bugs in the box problems may become real problems years later when you dust off the game and want to play it again in say 2050, after you have removed the game from your hard drive. Your machine may be astronomical but you have a yen for nostalgia and good game play. Will Sierra still have the bug fix online then? Only time will tell. (Clancy Shaffer and I have recently replayed several games from the early and mid 1980's just because they were the best and even better than many today where flashy graphics replace game play. We have the same problem today with games that were sold on 5.25 inch diskettes. How do you load them?-Ed.)
The principal strengths of the game lie in the ability to edit teams, plays, player ratings, and leagues the way that you want them.
Multi-player FeaturesFPS Football supports modem, network, and Internet play for ultimate play calling action. A special chat mode allows you to play the game while you play against one another. It is too bad that the multiplayer does not include a cooperative multiplayer mode where a son and dad could play against the computer intelligence as two players on the same team.
Internet updates to current version and updating of teams to new rosters are as easy as pushing a button within the Sierra FPS Football interface, which launches your browser, logs onto the Sierra site, loads the update, and logs off, all automatically. Business program and other game program designers take note.
Cheats, Hints, Walkthrough
JournalistsJason feels that the numerous bugs, screen clutter, slow animation, and problems with the multi-player make this a useless downgrade from previous DOS versions.
FuturePerhaps internet play and even editable jerseys and uniform colors inspite of the difficulties the Sierra claims they have been having trying to implement this stuff.
ReferencesThe National Football League Web Site
Sierra's Front Page Sports: Football Pro '97 Web Site
Christopher Tou, PC Games, volume 4, number 3, March, 1997, pg. 84, 88%.
Tom Hurley, Computer & Net Player, volume 3, number 11, April, 1997, pg. 78, 80%.
Jason Bates, PC Gamer, volume 4, number 4, April, 1997, pg. 117, 65%.
Next Generation, May, 1997, pg. 158, 70% (2/5 stars)
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