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Retro Corner: 'Sensible World Of Soccer'

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First released: Amiga, PC (1994)
Now available on: PC, Xbox Live Arcade

Sensible World Of Soccer
In recent years, the beautiful game hasn't always lived up to its name. With their one true passion marred by sexism scandals, monopolisation and players' off-the-pitch antics, many football fans find themselves yearning for the days of old. In a similar fashion, gamers who grew up in the 1990s are pining for simpler times too, looking back fondly on an era when the footie sim wasn't all about which software company holds the biggest licensing agreement. The Sensible Soccer series embodies an age when gameplay was all that mattered on the virtual pitch, and a single-button interface was all we needed to lead our team to glory.

Debuting on Amiga and Atari ST in 1992, the original Sensi was an instant hit, garnering a dedicated following with its user-friendly control scheme and fiendishly addictive gameplay. The game went multi-platform shortly afterwards, and several new iterations arrived in the ensuing years, but the series truly fulfilled its potential in 1994 when Sensible World Of Soccer arrived on the market. Combining the simplistic approach of its predecessors with a detailed manager mode, Sensible Software's latest offering was in a league of its own. Released for PC and Amiga, the studio's ambitious project was the first attempt to cram every team from across the globe into a video game.

From European giants AC Milan to the virtually unknown Alianza F.C of El Salvador, almost every club and national team in existence were playable in SWOS. This created tremendous scope for scouting players, since the transfer system enabled users to scour any league at will, and bidding was free for all. Unearthing hidden talent from the Estonian league was just as rewarding as purchasing the likes of Romario with the big bucks you earned winning silverware. Career mode spanned 20 seasons, giving you the option to sit games out as coach or take control of the entire team on match days as player-coach. There were a few off-field matters to attend to, such as squad selection and tactics, but these took a backseat. Depending on your level of success, job offers from other clubs would come in, and the most successful coaches were headhunted by national teams.

Sensible World Of Soccer
Despite the inclusion of over 1,500 teams, more than 27,000 players and the introduction of a comprehensive career mode, the biggest selling point of SWOS lay in its gameplay. Matches took place from the bird's eye perspective and looked like modest affairs, even by 16-bit era standards. Their appeal lay solely in playability, and in this department the game took the Premiership crown. Through the use of a streamlined single-button interface, it was possible to perform diving headers, slide tackles and even curl shots. It was an economical system that was easy to pick up, yet difficult to master. Where strategy is concerned, players had their own skill sets, but attributes such as speed, control and shooting were valued beyond all others. SWOS was (and still is) a great game to play in short bursts, taking on either the computer or a friend, though career offered enough substance to force the cancellation of other weekend plans. Though it was soon be surpassed technologically by the likes of the FIFA series, few sports titles have ever come close to matching its addictiveness.

Modern-day football games usually make realistic simulation of the sport a priority, but the Sensible Soccer series was happy to exist in its own universe, where the laws of physics are relative and world-class players like Alan Shearer are perfectly content to sign for a club in the Latvian top flight providing they can foot the transfer fee. This quirky arcade approach worked tremendously well, and even managed to hook a few casual gamers with little interest in football. It also maintains a cult following today. There are several websites that provide modern updates unofficially (though some of these do little beyond crashing your computer) and the title has featured at numerous competitive gaming events over the years. Attempts to revive the franchise in 3D were not received favourably by fans, many of whom refuse to acknowledge these later entries as part of the series. However, current licence holder Codemasters successfully brought it back to the mainstream with an Xbox Live Arcade release in 2007.

Sensible World Of Soccer
As much as we love FIFA 11, the pinnacle of football simulation will always be Sensible World Of Soccer - from a purely gameplay standpoint of course. The Amiga version was arguably the most definitive, but if you missed it the first time around, the XBLA re-release is a faithful recreation of the formula for 800 MS Points (£6.80 / $10). Sensible Software scored a wonder goal with this one in the mid-'90s and its legacy will always remain strong.

Do you have any fond memories of Sensible World Of Soccer? Add a comment in the space below!

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