Legends '98 Football

a game by Accolade
Platform: PC
Editor Rating: 8/10, based on 1 review
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Overview

The idea is an intriguing one: combine the greatest (or the worst) players from four great eras in football history and let them play one another in the ultimate fantasy matchups. Couple this with Accolade's long history of innovative sports titles, and Legends '98 Football looked to have all the makings of a landmark title. Alas, such is not the case. In fact, there is not enough here to even warrant a passing grade for effort; it seems that as with a couple of notable previous Accolade products (see Hardball 5), the retail product was rushed to market long before it was ready for prime time.

Gameplay, Controls, Interface

It is tempting to dismiss this game with a tired football cliche about someone dropping a ball or flubbing a handoff, but that would not do this game justice, because it's really much worse than any such cliche might suggest -- it is inept from the very first snap and is, quite frankly, a bit of an embarrassment given its hype and expectations. In just two words: avoid it. Avoid it if you want realism, avoid it if you want graphical beauty, avoid it if you want to remember those glory teams of old with a shred of respect. It's just plain badly done.

It's hard to know where to begin with this one, or how far to go without needlessly tarnishing Accolade or anyone else associated with this game; perhaps the best thing to do is to take you through a game I played / endured that truly stood out among the computer football games I've played. And this, by the way, was a typical game, not a quirk.

1932 Bears vs. 1997 Seahawks

I assume you know about as much about the 1932 Bears as I do...however I suspect that you have a fair handle on how the Seahawks did last year. So, assuming that the Bears were not completely clueless, hobbled, or otherwise impaired, you'd expect them to do rather well against the Seahawks, especially when you set the game in a 1932 stadium and use 1932 rules.

Final Score: Seahawks 294, Bears 17. To my knowledge, there is not a sport (outside of perhaps Marlin fishing) where one team can score 294 points. And the other stats were just as lopsided -- 2,652 yards of offense for the Hawks, 97 first downs, the list goes on. Now let me toss in here the fact that I straight suck at computer football games in general, and no, I did not have the Bears set to play like one-armed 4th graders or the Hawks set to play like Terminators on triple shots of espresso. I just left the game settings on default and that's what I got.

But let's step back a moment and look at how such an abominable outcome came about. I won the coin toss and elected to kick off. Thumbing through the (seemingly) ample manual, I found some rather sketchy instructions on how to instruct my kicker to kick. Unfortunately for me, the instructions were for a gamepad, and I was attempting to use a joystick.

Even so, I matched up the buttons on the joystick to the instructions and proceeded to golf a nice little onside kick instead of the intended line drive into the Bears' end zone. "Oh well, this'll test my defense" I thought to myself.

Wrong. No matter which defensive package I picked (and believe me, I flubbed a good number of them due to the incorrect mapping of gamepad buttons to joystick buttons), my linebackers played like Superman beating up a bunch of sunday school kids. In no time the Bears were facing 4th and 41 (after 3 consecutive sacks). They punted, and Mike Broussard took the almost 70 yard punt and barreled it straight through the suddenly non-corporeal Bears. Some of them even disappeared just in the nick of time to let him pass through unscathed!

Seahawks 7, Bears 0. Another onside kick, another three-and-out. This time Broussard only had a 42 yard return, but it only took one play after that (a quick out that went the remaining 30 yards) to put the Hawks up 14-0. In fact, that little quick out or a nice fade pattern (button 2 or 3 on the joystick, respectively) bought me a TD better than 60% of the time on the first try. Now there's some excitement for you!

It just went on like that, until after a while I just started clicking joystick button combinations at random, hoping that I'd find one that would bring on a half-time show, or call the game on account of boredom, or something. It was in this despondent "keep playing it 'cause I have to review it" mood that the Bears finally had their big breakthrough. I picked a goal line defense which the Bears countered with a four wide receiver set and bingo! Seahawks 167, Bears 7.

This game, and other equally lopsided and ridiculous contests might be marginally forgivable if the game had broken some new ground with super-realistic visuals, a sweet 1930's radio P.A. crackling as it called the plays, or, well, anything. Instead, as if to add insult to injury, the graphics were terrible (unless I had it set on "impressionist" by accident), and the audio sounded like somebody calling the game based on the next day's sports section.

Graphics

So how 'bout them graphics? Well, what you get are incomprehensible uniforms (everybody seems to be number 88 or 89), a weird freeze-frame effect after every major play, until recently only seen in the more annoying Miller Lite commercials, and a flat, outdated look that is in glaring contrast to the slick UI that overlays the game. I honestly couldn't believe what I was seeing when I started playing this game. It looks nothing like a modern football game. There is almost no attempt at graphical differentiation between players (most of the players from previous eras are not even indicated by name when they are supposed to be), backgrounds and camera angles pop in and out seemingly at will, and again, the whole package just looks sorely dated. If you look at the screen shots on Accolade's web page or on the box for Legends '98, you will get the impression that everything looks smooth and beautiful. I played this on a Matrox Millenium with 4MB RAM plus an Orchid Righteous 3D. If that combo couldn't render the screen like it showed on the box, I'm not sure what would. Suffice it to say that you will be sorely disappointed in the graphics if you buy this.

Audio

Imagine calling a game based on a typewritten account of the game. That's what the audio here sounds like. "There's a...fine catch...by...the receiver." Sporadic use of the names of the players, even modern era players, is really annoying. On two consecutive pass plays to Jerry Rice, one will elicit "32 yards, Young to Rice. First down!", while the next will say "There's...a pass...from the...quarterback. Caught by...the receiver." What? Can somebody out there put together a decent play-by-play for a sports game? Oh yes, I almost forgot -- ambient sounds in Legends '98 are fine. The crowd murmurs or roars now and then. The whistles sound suitably like whistles. When those are things that someone points out as the high points of a football game, watch out.

Controls

Accolade made some, ah, interesting decisions here. A Windows 95 game with no mouse support? Hello? In fact, the game is specifically designed for a 4-button game pad and, as mentioned above, you are almost completely out of luck without one, $200 joystick not withstanding. If you don't have a gamepad, go get one, because this turkey won't see your joystick buttons the way it should and you'll end up with onside kicks, running plays on 3rd and 19, and even an occasional game freeze if you don't use a gamepad. Did I also mention that you should use a gamepad? The fact that this game is designed for a single input device shows an obvious lack of understanding of the wide range of devices that different gamers prefer. It's like making a driving game where you can only use the keyboard.

System Requirements

Required: IBM PC/Compatible with Pentium 90 processor; 16 MB RAM; 2X CD ROM Drive; Windows 95 compatible sound card.

Recommended: Pentium 100 processor and 24MB RAM.

Bottom Line

You could do better than this by going down to your local second hand store and finding one of those old electric football games with the cardboard cutouts that would jitter and dance when you flipped the switch on. In fact, you may be reminded of those when you play Legends '98 -- it has the same sort of random, simplistic gameplay, but without the cool cardboard cutouts. Of course, Jerry Rice is on the box, so I suppose you could cut him out...the bottom line though is stay away from this one. When (and if) there is a patch for this that basically overwrites the existing version of the game, I'll be happy to re-evaluate.

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