Actua Soccer Euro 96
It Won't be long now before the streets of our cities will be chocka with happy laughing foreigners, merrily getting in the way at the bottom of Underground escalators, a plate of boiled beef in one hand and a flagon of warm beer in the other, daft flags painted on their faces, their hearts swelling with the joyous thought that their football teams are the best. And what are we going to do about it? (Apart from laugh at anyone stupid enough to eat British beef, that is...) We're going to thrash them to within an inch of their lives, that's what we're going to do. At Actua Soccer, anyway. Because the Gremlin boys have spent every day since Actua Soccer came out working on Actua Soccer k'uro '96 - the officially licensed game of the tournament. And there's lots of stuff that wasn't in the original, such as goalies who now act as if they might have a central nervous system. And other stuff. Let's get on with it.
There are many more motion-captured animations both before and during the game. At the start, for example, players no longer merely stand in a line wobbling their shoulders slightly from side to side like quadriplegics attempting one of Showaddywaddy's routines - they have a whole new range of actions to perform. One might be jigging up and down to stay warm, another bending from side to side to keep his leg muscles stretched, while a third may be busy with his hand inside his shorts, making sure that he'll be in a position to impress the Queen when she arrives to (reluctantly) shake his hand. (At least it'll be warm.)
During the game, more animations show players pleading with the ref when they're booked, rolling about in pretend agony when they're fouled, and leaping feet first into the crowd when they're sent off. There are also new animations for the ref: firing off Nazi salutes, groping forward blindly while waving white sticks, drawing varicose veins on their spindly white legs with biros... oh. alright, we didn't see the ref animations. It's a fair cop.
Talking of the partially sighted, there have been a number of much-needed tweaks to the goalkeepers - for a start, they no longer stand rooted to the spot like a certain English goalkeeper in a certain Cup Winners Cup Final while the ball drops into the net behind them. Neither are they quite so crap at dealing with shots that bounce just in front of their feet (previously, when they fell to the floor you expected Barry Davies to shout, "Oooh, Vic, I've fallen.") Anyone who's seen the PlayStation version will have seen the improvements, and will no doubt be reassured to know that they'll be included in this format.
The tackling has been improved as well. You now have the same 'speed burst' button found on the PlayStation version of the game, which lets you overtake the player with the ball. Up close, the same button acts as a 'steal' tackle, poking your foot out to nick the ball in a non-confrontational manner; further away, you can still slide tackle by using the other button. Combine a speed burst with a slide tackle, of course, and you'll be flying studs-first through the air like a jet-propelled Ray Parlour. Seconds later, you'll be off for an early dip in the communal bath, and your opponent's Achilles tendons will have twanged into the crowd and taken some poor punter's eye out.
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The free-kick routine in the original Aetna was a bit lacking on the user-friendly front (basically, you lobbed it hopefully down-field) so there's a new feature for all dead-ball situations - lifted, if that's not too harsh a word, from another popular football game.
To put it simply, there's a dotted line showing the path the ball will actually take which you use to aim your kick; if the weather's a bit windy, the line will wave about a bit. The further apart the dots are, the harder you'll kick the ball. You increase the power by taking a longer run-up, pull back to raise the flight of the ball, and so on.
A similar system is also now used for penalties, except the ball path indicator moves from side to side until you press the fire button. A bit of a giveaway in a two-player game, you may think - and you may well be right. Gremlin reckon that the aftertouch facility means that the goalkeeper won't necessarily know where the ball's going... but I guess we will just have to wait and see just how true that is, won't we?
Every team in the game has been totally re-graded, with players rated individually according to how they relate to everyone else in the tournament. Previously, they were worked out in a different way, (but don't ask me how or why). Their stats have been simplified, too. with certain ratings now acting as a sort of combined rating of other stats. As you progress through a tournament, they may become tired or injured, and their ratings will alter accordingly. Thus you will see power bars showing both their potential ratings and their actual ratings at the time. Russell Grant says: "An element of management and strategy will enter into your thinking at this point, unless you're completely stupid. Rest that tiring player. Rest him. luwie. And stay out of the house on the 12th. to avoid an accident with hot chip-fat."
The thing about the team side of things is that nobody knows exactly who's going to be in everybody's final squad yet. And each team can only have 20 players. So Gremlin have attempted to cover themselves by providing stats and commentary for 40 players per team, trying to take into account anyone who may be on the fringes of selection, and even those who many think should be selected, but almost certainly won't be. Yes. Gianluca Vialli and Matthew Le Tissier are both in there.
The wonderful, fab, gorgeous and spiritually uplifting thing is that when it comes down to the tournament itself. Gremlin will be setting up a Website with all the national squads on it: as soon as the teams are announced for a particular game, you'll be able to download the players for your own game. And they're planning to make more formations available at the same time. You'll be able to play through the tournament with the right team for every single match. Cool.
There's such a lot of other stuff that has been done to the thing, going from fairly basic stuff like graphical redesigns based on the proper liuro '96 fonts and emblems, to complex network facilities and the option to play the whole game as one player, that there isn't room to go into it here. So you'll have to wait until we go through it all in the review - that is if we're not all down the local pub watching the real thing. Just one thing: they still haven't put the team selection screen in alphabetical order. Get it right, chaps, eh?
Download Actua Soccer Euro 96
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP