Two sports games team up for action

by Alan Zisman (c) 1995. First published in Our Computer Player, May 1995

review of Electronic Arts 'FIFA International Soccer' and NHL Hockey 95'

Electronic Arts has teamed up with several of the governing bodies of pro-sports, in releasing perhaps the most realistic sports-games yet.

FIFA International Soccer gets into World Cup play, as the player gets to select one of 48 national teams, and attempts to guide it to the World Championship.

Similarly, NHL Hockey 95 carries the blessings of both the NHL and the Players Association, in what was almost the only hockey action in this year's strike-shortened season.

The games are available in both floppy disk and CD-ROM versions, as well as versions for the major game-system platforms. We took a look at the CD-ROM versions of both games. Despite being on CD-ROM, each installs quite a few files onto the users' hard disk... in FIFA's case, about 4.5 megs worth, while NHL Hockey demands a whopping 13.5 megs. This allows each game to play more quickly and smoothly than would be possible running off the CD disk.

They also require reasonably hefty hardware-- the hockey game suggests a 386-33 or faster, with at least 4 megs of ram. And some users will run into problems with DOS's infamous 640kb memory limit; they may find it difficult to free up enough ram, while loading both their sound card driver, and their cd-rom player.

In that case, the documentation walks the user through the process of creating a boot floppy, loading the necessary drivers... but even then, keep your fingers crossed. Even with a boot floppy, some users have had to drop sound support in order to play the cd-rom version. (Both programs run under Windows 95, in Single Session mode, which in my tests, permitted sound and cd-rom drivers to be used).

Once you've got the games running, you can choose to get right down to play, or to spend time as team manager. This can be as involved as you choose to make it; as hockey manager, for example, you can trade players, or even create new rookies-- the teams start off with the real rosters of the 1995 season.

There's less of this nature in soccer-- after all, Germany and Brazil aren't able to trade players from their national teams.

As well, you can play an individual game, or part of an ongoing series, leading up to either the Stanley Cup, or soccer's World Cup. Since you won't be able to play an entire season in a sitting, you can save your series, and resume play later.

Both games support keyboard play, but can be best enjoyed with a joystick or Nintendo-style game controller. NHL Hockey, in fact, recommends the Gravis GamePad controller, and can be purchased bundled together with a GamePad. (Is it a coincidence that both Gravis and Electronic Arts both have large facilities in Burnaby, BC?)

With a good controller, game action is fast, fluid, and surprisingly accurate. All four controller buttons can be supported, permitting a wide range of moves-- bicycle kicks, diving headers, heel passes, and slide tackles in soccer, for example, or fake shots and drop passes in hockey.

And the cd-rom versions fill the disk with added frills-- more realistic sounds and music, and between games sportscasts and locker room shots. The game pans the ice (or playing field) like good tv coverage. EA claims that the crowd noises are digitized recordings of spectators at real games... a minor detail, but an indication of their commitment to realism.

Either of these games is a worthwhile addition to any sports-loving computer-game player's collection.

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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan