Sensible Soccer

As far as I'm concerned, if any console wants to be a success it needs to have a decent football game. And by football, I mean soccer...but I'm English so the game where players kick a ball around with their feet will forever be known as football. Yes, I know about the whole 'Association Football / Soccer' thing...but meh. Footy is footy. Going back to my opening statement though, you only have to look at a console like the Dreamcast - a fantastic machine that really didn't have a worthy football title on it. It had UEFA Striker, sure, but there was nothing of the calibre of International Superstar Soccer or even the FIFAs of the era. So what of the Jaguar then? Well, I've already looked at the turgid experience that is Fever Pitch Soccer and as you can probably guess from the way I just described it, I didn't think too much of it. The other football game on the Jag is this - Sensible Soccer.

I can remember the very first time I played Sensible Soccer and funnily enough, it was the Jaguar version back when I had my first system in the late 1990s. I clearly remember being really excited to play it after hearing all the hype about it being 'the best football game of all time,' and I also remember being massively disappointed by the basic visuals, the pinball-style gameplay and the whole unpredictable and imprecise nature of the gameplay. And to be honest, my opinion hasn't really changed. Back then I'd already spent lots of time playing FIFA International Soccer, FIFA 95, Striker, European Club Soccer and Kick Off...and compared to those I found Sensi severely lacking. Playing it now, in an age of FIFA 14 and Pro Evo just makes it an even more painful experience. Sure, it has a great roster of international teams (and this Jaguar version has real player names due to it being a 'World Cup Edition'), lots of options, leagues, cups and a great deal of customisation...but lets be brutally honest here - Sensible Soccer is not - by any stretch of the imagination - the best football game of all time. It wasn't the best football game of all time back in 1994 either, and anyone who says it is clearly hasn't played either ISS or FIFA International Soccer or any of the myriad other contemporary-ish games that leave this in the dressing room.

Maybe I'm a little biased as I never played the original Amiga versions and was spoilt by the choice of football titles on the Mega Drive before getting to play Sensible for the first time, but the thing that I really can't get to grips with is the gameplay - the thing that most people hold aloft as the main reason for loving this game. As I mentioned earlier, it's like playing pinball - the ball just 'pings' around randomly as these ant-like players zip around the pitch following it. Once you do get possession, it is so easy to lose it again that you'll normally just end up chasing the ball again...repeat to fade. If you do manage to get the opportunity to shoot at goal, the shooting feels very random and the amount of swerve you can apply is unrealistic to say the least. There are some nice details, such as foul throws, but the passing is imprecise and the speed of the players just feels wrong.

Maybe the game improves in two-player but I haven't had the chance to play against another human being yet. As you can see from the shots below, the visuals aren't where Sensible excels - it's meant to be all in the gameplay...but this puzzles me because the gameplay is a bit shit, truth be told. I refuse to believe that this is just a trait of the Jaguar version - I have it on good authority that this port is one of the best available so it leaves me in a bit of a quandary. Why is Sensible Soccer constantly branded as one of the greatest footy games of all time? On playing this, I have no idea. It's certainly better than Fever Pitch and has some lovely menu music (and again, lots of teams and options), but it just leaves me cold.

I'd have loved to have seen an EA-developed FIFA game on the Jaguar and am pretty confident that the Jag CD could have handled a port of either the 3DO or 32X renditions of FIFA...but we'll never know now. As it is, Sensible is the best football title on the Jag...but the competition is hardly stiff.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah I feel the same I just don't get Sensible Soccer.
    I also don't have any motivation to play as I can't seem to find a proper campaign mode.