Joe Montana Football. (computer game) (evaluation)
by Peter Scisco
The 49ers might not have made it to the Super Bowl this year, but there's no stopping this game from scoring big at any PC sports gamer's house. This is without a doubt the best version of football to come to the PC, with superb graphics and animation, a well-designed and easily learned interface, a wealth of editing functions (including individual player stats as well as league functions), and an endorsement by one of the greatest quarterbacks ever to play the game.
Joe Montana Football is comprised of 28 teams, all from cities that boast an NFL franchise (no team names, just the cities). You can play an exhibition match or an entire season while coaching a team, or you can let the computer call the plays while you watch. Taking a professional football team through a season on a march toward Super Sunday is captured here in all of its essence, with the setbacks, the celebrations, and the drama that make up the game of football.
Before you jump right into a game, however, you'd better familiarize yourself with the game's controls. You can do that with two practice modes, one for passing/running, the other for kicking field goals. The kicking game is the easiest to grasp. After the snap of the ball, you must press the fire button at the proper place along an accuracy meter that is displayed at the bottom of the screen. You can direct your kick against the wind, or you can angle it toward the sideline by moving your joystick handle forward or back (the keyboard works, too).
Running is also simple. All you have to do is take the snap from the quarterback and then direct your player toward the gaps in the defense.
You may find some running plays work well and then be frustrated when the defense seems to "get smart" to your plans. That's all a part of the game-and an engaging piece of realism.
Passing is the toughest part of the game to master. After you take the snap, you can cycle through the eligible receivers, then press a button to release the ball. You must learn to do this in a matter of seconds, or the defensive linemen will have you chewing turf.
Only by practicing can you gain the skills you need. And even then you'll want to play a few exhibition games to try out your new-found talents before engaging in a full-blown season.
Everything about this game, from its presentation to its sound effects, puts a premium on bringing the realism of football to the PC. The plays are professionally drawn (you can design your own) and realistically executed. The playing perspective during most of the game resembles what you would see on television; during field goals and extra points you have a view of the defensive line and the uprights from behind the kicker-a view not many PC game players have experienced in real life.
Realistic animation, coupled with the grunts, pops, cracks, and thunder of 300-pound linemen crashing into one another, create an illusion of an interactive sporting event happening right on your small PC screen.
Also contributing to the effect are injuries, substitutions, and full player rosters. The weather doesn't really play a role, and penalties are limited to two: Pass Interference and Delay of Game. (The documentation lists three but includes Safety, which is, of course, a score, not a penalty). Fumbles, interceptions, and lost opportunities round out the many pieces that go into creating an extremely realistic simulation.
With full color graphics support (from CGA to VGA), Joe Montana Football looks as good as it plays. The scrolling screen always keeps you in the middle of the action, whether you're covering a punt or throwing long on a post pattern. The onscreen characters are fun to watch even after the whistle is blown, when they continue to push and shove each other until called to the huddle. My only small quibble is that the team uniforms aren't a match for their real-life counterparts. (Chicago wearing Miami blue? Cincinnati in gold and black?)
The sound support for this game is also excellent, with full attention paid to the Sound Blaster, Game Blaster, and MT-32 sound cards. The music is a kind of never-ending trumpet fanfare that eventually grows tiresome, but the sound effects add a dimension to the game that shouldn't be missed.
Aside from team editing and league play, Joe Montana Football brings its own method of instant replay to PC football. Each play is recorded as it happens; you have the option of seeing an instant replay from the field or of saving the replay on an option screen.
If you save from the option screen, you have the capability of splicing together several replays to create your own "game highlights" film.
Another special feature is what Sega calls its Receiver Cam. This feature allows you to check off your receivers during pass plays. Football games that incorporate action as part of their design have always had trouble dealing with the multiple receivers that pro quarterbacks routinely use; the Receiver Cam feature is a unique way of solving that problem, by presenting a small window in the comer of the screen that highlights each receiver as you toggle through the possibilities. You still have to keep an eye on the pass rush, but this method is less intrusive than those employed by most PC football games.
Don't drop the ball on this one. With its superb blending of action and strategy and its use of stats and reflexes, it's bound to go down as one of the best sports simulations ever to hit the field. And even if you never play as well as Joe Montana, this game will just about make you think you could.
IBM PC and compatibles, 512K RAM (640K for optimal performance), CGA, EGA, MCGA, Vga, or Tandy 16-color; hard disk and joystick recommended--$49.95.
573 Forbes Blvd.
South San Francisco, CA 94080