DOS - 1996
Also available on: 3DO
Description of Olympic Soccer
Last year a large amount of football games were released. Games like FIFA '97 and Actua Soccer EURO96 were the best of them, but other ones can be named; Sensible World of Soccer, Kick Off , and the new-comer Striker. Just after the Olympic Games in Atlanta, Silicon Dreams released Olympic Soccer, another contender in the battle of becoming the ultimate football simulator.
Due to the nature of football, it's hard to copy this extremely popular sport. To become a successful football sim, a game has to be as close to the real stuff as possible. Now, FIFA '97 came very close to the real thing, but it was too difficult, and the gameplay just didn't feel right. Actua Soccer had great playability and nice graphics, though the camera angles made the control system hard to deal with. Games like Striker and Kick Off lacked lots of things; they weren't actually the games you asked for in the shop. Sensible Soccer has grown a good reputation over the years, but let's face it, its EGA graphics make the game more and more out-dated for each day that passes by. Now, eight months after Silicon Dreams' release of Olympic Soccer, we suppose you can't say it has become very popular either.
When you start the game, you get surprised by the nice-looking menu. And the music makes the impression just better. The manual comes in several languages, and is a small, yet functional, leaflet. It contains all the info you need to know about the game, and nothing more. You can select the language to use in the menu system. This is a nice thing, though it contains only the major world languages.
In the game, you get to choose from four different playing modes; arcade, Olympic, league and exhibition. Arcade is the mode you play if you want a quick and jolly game of footie. If you want to participate in the Olympics (well, sort of), choose Olympic mode. In league mode you can choose up to 16 teams to play in a league, and in exhibition mode you choose two teams to play a friendly match. You can also choose what conditions the pitch and weather should be like, and how long the game should last. There are 18 camera views to choose between, some of them are very alike. In brief, you can change about everything in-game, except for the graphics, sound and controller setup. You have to start a separate Setup program to do that. It's nice to have all these options, but what makes a game a game? Obviously, the gameplay.
Olympic Soccer's gameplay isn't that bad, in fact. We must admit it's kind of fun playing, and Ola once caught Audun playing the game WITHOUT being told to. And we have become large fans of the rather crazy sliding-tackles. Believe me, they're fast and furious, and lot of fun to do. There is no multiplayer support, other from using different controllers, in Olympic Soccer, which surprised us a lot. Today it's very rare to find a game that doesn't have this option, and why Silicon Dreams had decided to leave it out, remains a mystery. As we said, the gameplay in Olympic Soccer can be fun from time to time, but this would be nearly insignificant if the graphics weren't good. And to get one thing straight, they aren't.
The players have no textures, so they look more like aliens than humans. We counted and found out that the players are made of about 40 polygons, and the ball is made of 15. This makes both the players and the ball look very cubical, and needless to say, very unrealistic. The box tells us that Olympic Soccer demands a Pentium 166 to play smoothly in SVGA mode. This is too high, because the graphics are, as stated, not very good. So, Silicon Dreams, you haven't done your job properly, we're afraid. In our sensible way of thinking, this game should run very well in the VGA resolution on any high-end 486. But it doesn't. And that's sad, because in these days of the MMX madness, this game could have had a large appeal to people with older machines. We have a feeling the producers could have squeezed the code much more to make it less resource-hungry. Bet beta-testing is an unknown word in SD's headquarters.
The computer AI is another major reason for not buying this game. Sometimes your opponent decides to pass the ball across the side-lines, to the spectators. And if you're playing with the world champs versus a bad team, you can run around for ages without being tackled.
You are not able to switch between players manually, something that can be very irritating. Olympic Soccer automatically selects the player who is closest to the ball as your active one. This annoying feature sometimes makes it impossible to do anything useful. It would have been much better if you could change your player manually, like in other football sims. If Silicon Dreams felt that this was a must-have feature, they could have given you an option to choose between this and manual selection of your player.
Your player has an arrow beneath his feet, which shows the direction to the goal. We haven't seen this in any game before, and it's useful, especially if you have a zoomed-in camera view. One thing we miss a lot though, is arrows showing where your player is when he is not in view. In the bottom-left corner there is a scanner, that is supposed to tell you this, but it is almost useless. The detail in this small display is so soupy, you can't make out anything from it.
Up to four players can play at the same time in Olympic Soccer. This is very nice, and adds a lot to the gameplay. However, the controls can only be customized from the Setup program, so you have to exit the game if you want to make changes. And while you're in the Setup, you'll have to re-configure your soundcard. By some reason, OS seems to forget those settings every single time you enter the Setup. We don't like it, nor should you.
Each player needs six buttons to play, each with a different function. But really, most of the time you only use four of these. Those who play on the keyboard will have no problems with this, but those who play with joysticks or gamepads might find this a little annoying. Might, because if you have a joystick or gamepad with four buttons, there will be two functions you can't use. We doubt this will affect the gameplay, because you'll do just fine with shoot, pass, chip and cross. If you're stuck with a two button joystick, you can use four buttons on the keyboard and two on the joystick to control your player. The buttons share functions, so the chip button will work as the header button when you don't have the ball in your possession. However, the game would require a little less practice if there were fewer buttons.
The background music while in the menus is nothing less than great. Trance and techno is treating your ears well when you're choosing teams and changing options, and the music can also be played on a regular CD player. So 'nuff respect to Silicon Dreams for the music.
We've told you about the great music, but the sound during gameplay is a huge letdown. The crowd noise that is constantly playing in the background is very irritating, mostly due to the sound quality. Or lack of, that is. This also applies to the rest of the sound in the game, except for the music. And when you shoot or do a header, it sounds more like an explosion than a foot or head hitting a ball.
Even though Alan Green is doing a nice job with the commentary, we can sum the OS commentary up with three words: Repetitive, misplaced and quite frankly, bad. We don't consider a pass from the midfield towards the goal a terrific shot, do we?
And another thing; the commentator seems to have an obsession about substitutes. Every time a team comes out on the pitch to start a game, the commentator says things like: "And these substitutes were really disappointed for not getting to start the game". The icing of the cake is when he says "The substitutes could play a key role in this match". How can people not playing play a key role in the outcome of a game? We only ask. Our advice is: Silicon Dreams, watch a football match. Then you'll see it's the players on the field who does the hard work, not the ones who are watching.
After playing Olympic Soccer for a while, we have noticed many bugs and minor mistakes. For example, we still haven't seen anyone run directly through the goal net after scoring in real footie. David Copperfield might be up to it, but we don't see upon football players as magicians. Oh, by the way, water isn't blue. It might look like that, but it's actually transparent. The reason why we're bringing this up is that if you do a sliding tackle on a wet pitch, large blue stains appear on your screen, as if someone had thrown a bucket of painting on it. And if you score in the last second before half-time, the goal will be considered to be an own goal, even though you put the ball between the right bars. And there's more to come... Listen to this; if you play the game in 320x200, the menu system moves about four times as fast as in 640x480. And in 640x480, the gameplay is twice the speed of the normal 320x200 resolution. Strange? Yes, indeed.
In the real world, when someone is playing a football match, the players aren't running around outside the field. Or at least, it is not a very good tactic. Well, Silicon Dreams see things different, because you're able to do this in Olympic Soccer. We don't mean that all the computer-controlled players are doing it, but you can do it if you want to. You could consider this to make the game more real, but it is more annoying than thrilling.
The first time we ran the game, it crashed after two seconds. It hasn't happened again, and was hopefully just a one-time-only event. The game also crashed when we tried to install it in Win95, but it worked fine the second time. However, it is a little strange that Win95 thinks this game better be played in MS-DOS mode, at least that's the message we got. Strange for a game that is so proud of being Bill Gates-friendly. Still, it runs.
We first played the game in the maximum resolution, which is 640x480. Then, when we tried it in 320x200 to see if there were any problems, and there were. When you're playing a match, a large number of black, horizontal lines appear. This also happened when we tried Olympic Games, which covers the rest of the Atlanta Olympics. Olympic Games is made by Silicon Dreams, just like Olympic Soccer. It wouldn't surprise us if the producers used the same engine for the two games, since they share the same problems when running in 320x200. Speaking of problems, running the game in 320x240 really messes up the display. Then you can see the menu system about 6 times at once, in the upper side of your screen.
On the CD you can find UniVBE which is a program that, while loaded, makes your video card Vesa 2.0 compatible. This can dramatically enhance the performance in your games, which is most likable.
When a game is built upon an exclusive license; like this game is based on the Atlanta Olympics, you would expect every detail in the game to be precisely like the original event. For example, like everyone interested in footie knows; Nigeria won the soccer tournament in Atlanta. Then you'd expect Nigeria to be an option when you're choosing what team to play with, wouldn't you? Well, they aren't, and we think that's really too bad research by the producers. Another fact that everyone who is into football knows; Great Britain isn't participating in the Olympics because of the trouble choosing players from England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland would have caused. The funny thing is that all these four countries are in the game. And there's more; when a game is so solely based on such a major athletic event, you would assume that there are real players' names in the game. Well, we'll have to disappoint you here, too. Brazil's heroic 'keeper is named Stud, and we don't even dare to think of how the producers came up with the name Silicon Dreams for their company... Naughty, naughty.
Considering the likes of the whole FIFA and Actua collection, this game isn't really worth bothering with. Heck, even FIFA International Soccer is better than OS on most of the aspects we've mentioned, and that's a game released almost three years ago! We could have given OS the dreaded 'GDR Junk' award, if it hadn't been for the satisfying gameplay. Avoid this one - there's a LOT of better footie sims on the market. The FIFA series (FIFA '96 recently re-released on budget!), Actua Soccer in its many editions... We could go on like this forever.
We like this game sometimes. Especially when we look at the CD, lying broken on the floor... only joking. The gameplay might be good, but the graphics and the way-too-high demands make this game just another failure. And we still haven't forgot about Olympic Games. We would have praised this game if it would have been released in early 1994. then all its features would have been revolutionary - commentary, multiple camera angles, and SVGA graphics. But all of this have been done better in previous releases. so...
Better luck next time, silicon boys.
Review By GamesDomain
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