That’s not really On…

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Complete Onside Soccer, or just Onside as the spine of the PlayStation game case would have it, was developed by Elite Systems – best known for their arcade conversions for 8-bit computers and being the current holders of the Paperboy license – and published by Telstar, best known for cheapo compilation albums and giving record deals to the likes of Ant & Dec, Vinnie Jones and The Cheeky Girls. Hardly the most auspicious signs, then.

Well, that and the fact that the game was originally going to be released on the astonishingly successful and influential 3DO*.

* Note – words in italics may be sarcasm.

Released in 1996, it purported to be the first game on the PS1 to properly combine playing and managing. Turns out it was less S.W.O.S. and more S.H.I.T.

Playing

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Look at that screenshot. Glorious, is is not?

Even for the early days of the PlayStation, the graphics could described as “stark”, “unpolished”, “basic” or more accurately “a steaming pile of visual faeces”. And that’s even before you see them move!

Players slide around the pitch, not so much in a graceful Messi-esque fashion though – think Teflon boots on an ice rink. Not to mention the speed – pre-match meals for these folk seem to be about four dozen Pro Plus each washed down with fourteen cans of Red Bull. They’re BUZZED and jittery. Very, very jittery. You’re seeing 22 Jamie Vardys out there. Play shit, get banged… sorry.

Audio is somehow even worse – crowd noises are so generic they barely warrant a mention and the ball makes that “phut” sound that only people who’ve never kicked a football believe doing so sounds like.

Commentary is by… um… some bloke. This might have worked if they’d gone down the route of getting a Japanese guy to try and do a passable attempt at a Received Pronunciation accent, only he’s missed a few elocution lessons. If you’ve ever played Taito’s Football Champ or the 16-bit ISS games, you’ll know what I’m going on about. It’s awful yet somehow brilliant. Unfortunately Elite did not have that level of imagination and seemingly just got the teaboy. And doesn’t he sound enthused?

No. Of course not. He makes Alan Green sound like a ray of fucking sunshine. Necking Mogadons like they’re Smarties before entering the recording booth is never a positive career move.

Controls then. Bloody hell. To say you’re wrestling with them is an understatement on par with Hirohito’s surrender to the Allies or Jim Lovell’s message to Mission Control. They are ghastly. Nominally, each button is meant to do something different but in practice all they seem to do is aimlessly hoof it forward like Wayne Rooney playing in midfield. The only variation is whether it ends up as a misplaced low pass, a misplaced high pass, a misplaced shot or misplaced cross. The only satisfactory way of keeping possession for anything longer than Planck time is to run with it and slalom around opponents in the manner of Alberto Tomba.

Yet it’s still one of the easiest football games ever made. I’ve had no problem putting double figures against rivals on the highest difficulty. How is this even possible if you can’t even kick with any elan? Simple. The keepers are completely oblivious to you simply dribbling the ball into the back of the net.

Defenders are pretty charitable as well. You’ll get at least two penalties in every match, at least 90% of which you’ll have no idea why they were awarded. Mike Dean must be refereeing. Spot kicks are the only realistic opportunity of seeing your player boot the vaguely football-shaped object in a forwardly direction and scoring one of them there goal thingies.

So then…

Managing

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Look at that bewildering array of options. Sports Interactive must have shat themselves when they saw that. It’s so comprehensive, it’s like you’re actually a football manager.

Seriously though, when you’ve learned how to actually play the game, most of these settings are rendered null and void.

Why do I need to set training schedules if I can just go out and pummel everyone 10-0?

Why do I need to sign a new striker if my right-back is scoring a hat trick in every game?

It’s a difficult balance that quite a few games have tried to strike. The word there being “tried”. Onside doesn’t try. It just has these bunged on because there was still room on the CD. Kind of like this bit of the review, to be honest.

The really annoying thing though is that there are a few – very few, admittedly – nice touches in there somewhere. Being able to change your kit colours (although even this is sorely lacking, you’re screwed for shirt options unless your team wears stripes), and choosing the camera angle is really well done – selecting it by marking a section of the stadium as it would appear on a ticket. I will admit I like that a lot.

An upbeat note to end on then… and I didn’t even mention Jo Guest wearing nothing but a Bolton shirt in the magazine ads.

Go on then… if you must.

cricygrwgaaxdom

Let it never be said that I don’t know what you want… perverts…

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