Be your own soccer supremo; game review

MS-DOS might have been pronounced dead after the launch of Windows 95, but there's still life, and frustration, in the old operating system. Not all PC games programmers have deserted the C prompt - which can cause problems when the operating systems programmers have.

Complete Onside Soccer is really a DOS game that may, or may not, install and run from Windows 95. But for a DOS game it has some hefty optimum hardware requirements - 90MHz Pentium, 16MB RAM. Anyone who has bought such a set-up in the last few months will invariably have Windows 95 as the operating system.

The software would not run on two machines I tried under Windows 95. In these circumstances, the manual's advice to reboot in DOS mode is not helpful. For many machines that causes more problems as Windows 95 virtual drivers cannot be accessed, resulting in things such as the computer for getting it has a CD-Rom drive attached.

One option is to take the software back to the shop and demand a refund. The alternative, which the manual is silent about, is to make a floppy boot disk which loads all the drivers you need into memory and delivers you to a DOS prompt. Gamers will have such a disk. Other will have to struggle with the games magazine help columns and their manuals to make one.

Once the game is up and running, the frustrations soon melt away. Unlike most packages which are either football simulations or football management games, this one caters for both. The management side allows the usual financial wheeling and dealing with club accounts to try funding a decent squad. There are options to let you select the team, view player profiles, train the squad, practice set-pieces, sell donkeys and buy stars. The competitions range from friendlies through European leagues to knockout competitions.

Once those parameters are in place, you can sit back and watch how the team performs. If you are a player-manager, you can take part in the ensuing match. Or you can elect not to bother watching the action and go straight to the scoreline.

The action side of the game is packed with features. There are multiple- choice camera angles ranging from one player's perspective, to adjustable overhead and side views from 16 camera positions around the stadium. The controls are easy to learn and the pace of the game is adjustable to help you get up to speed.

Installation gripes aside, this is a huge game which, with its ability to combine action and strategy, has the potential to hold interest over the long term.

Complete Onside Soccer (Telstar, pounds 39.99). Min requirements: 486/66 MHz processor, 8Mb RAM, double-speed CD-Rom, VGA graphics, 8Mb free hard disk space, MS-DOS 6.2.

ANDY OLDFIELD

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