Lance Haffner Games
P0. Box 100594
Nashville, TN 37210
reviewed by Dave Arlington
What with the player's strike early in the 1987 season, I once again began my long quest last fall to find a decent football game for my Atari computer. I was not looking for an arcade-type football game like Touchdown Football or Gamestar Football. I was looking for a strategic football game that would allow me to coach real NFL football teams and their players like Microleague Baseball lets me manage real baseball players. Unfortunately, up until late last year, there were no such football games for the Atari.
There were some attempts before this year. Gridiron Glory, late of APX and now from Main ST. Software, was the first to allow you to use real football teams. I'm not sure exactly what statistics they used, but the game was very unrealistic as the quarters were only eight minutes long and the computer coach called plays randomly. Next was Football Strategy from Avalon Hill. That game featured 16 historical NFL teams, mostly Super Bowl participants. Again the team values used were hard to judge and did not feature individual players. They also didn't seem to have too much effect on game play, as it was usually easy for me to beat the computer, with me taking teams like the (9-7) N.Y. Giants and giving the computer teams like the (14-0) Miami Dolphins.
The most recent attempt is Computer Quarterback from SSI. It is sold as a strategy football game using generic football teams. In this respect, it is the best football game available for Atari, since on offense you can choose from 36 different types of plays and 20+ different types of defenses. The computer coach can also learn to play better against you if you call the same types of plays over and over again. Computer Quarterback also includes a draft feature where general managers are given a certain amount of money to spend on a team to improve certain player positions. However, neither option uses real NFL teams or players. SSI began to make available seasons disks with the NFL teams for an entire year. Currently 1984, 1985 and 1986 seasons disks are available. Again, however, teams are rated abstractly by position and individual players are not available.
Which brings us to the star of this review: 3 in 1 Football from Lance Haffner Games. This statistical-based football game allows you to play with college, NFL, USFL and WFL football teams with the rules for college; NFL and USFL being available to play under. Teams are rated in many offensive and defensive categories including the types of plays usually called by the teams. Individual players are rated at the following positions: quarterback, running back (both running and receiving), receivers, kickers, punters and return specialists. Everyone else is rated on a team basis.
Let's talk about the bad parts of the game first to get them out of the way. The game is written in BASIC, as it was translated from many other computers. Therefore, it can be very slow at times when loading the game or the data for the teams. The actual game itself is very fast. There are absolutely no graphics in this game, so anyone expecting a fancy display should be forewarned. It is simple Graphics 0 text, white on a black background. I can understand this as the graphics were foresaken to use as much memory as possible for the many options this game has.
You may play against a friend, against the computer or watch the computer play itself. On defense, you may choose from six different formations, each having different types of effectiveness on certain types of plays. On offense, you may choose from 14 different offensive plays, or get a quickie scouting report. As I mentioned above, the actual game play itself is fast, with an average game against the computer lasting maybe 15 to 20 minutes. When the computer takes on itself, games last about five minutes. This fast game is nice, as it actually makes the possibility of replaying an entire season a reality. This would be impossible with any of the other longer football games mentioned above.
perform as they do in real life.
Quarterbacks will pick alternate receivers or
scramble for first downs, so your long pass
attempt might result in a two- or three-yard
gain or loss.
The game uses very realistic statistics for the players. However, since the game features no injuries, the program picks the ball carrier or passer on each play for you. The player is chosen based on the percentage of times he actually ran or threw or caught the ball. This is good in one respect, since the statistics generated by this game are incredibly accurate. The bad point is when it is third and long, all of a sudden, Don Strock is throwing the ball instead of Dan Marino. Or you are faced with a third and one and you do not know whom the computer will choose to run the ball on the play.
There are other things that take getting used to as well. First, all yardage is measured in tenths during the game. For example, Payton carries on the inside run for 3.7 yards, making it three and 13.3 to go. This bothered me until I realized that this was probably more realistic than the other football games, since rarely does a player in real life gain exactly three yards or exactly five yards. This sets up situations in 3 in 1 Football where you really do have fourth and inches to go. And besides, when calculating stats at the end of the game, all yardage is rounded off as in real life to the nearest yard.
Due to an oversight in programming (probably lost in a conversion somewhere) time on the clock does not always show all the necessary zeroes. For example, when the clock should say 2:08 left in the first half, it will say 2:8. This can be confusing sometimes as you might go from 2:43 to 2:5 on a play, and it looks like the clock went backwards. Another programming bug crops up when displaying accumulated seasons' statistics. After looking at the first team, the program will not allow you to look at another team without first quitting the stat-viewing program and reloading it again.
Also, printing statistics to your printer results in a tremendous waste of paper, as each screen is dumped in total to your printer even if it might contain 20 blank lines. Since there are about five screens of information, the results of one game can cross several pages.
After all this, you're probably saying that this game has some real problems. Au contraire, mon ami. Sure, it has what I consider small problems, but most of these are due in part to being translated from so many computers and not taking advantage of all the Atari's features. I feel the game's pluses far outweigh its minuses. In fact, the game has so many great features, I'm afraid I might miss some!
Let's see, I already mentioned how accurate the statistics were and how fast the game plays. Let's get back to the accuracy of the game first. Players really do perform as they do in real life. Quarterbacks will pick out alternate receivers or scramble for first downs, so your long pass attempt might only result in a two- or three-yard gain or loss. When playing against the computer, teams play as they do in real life. You can expect the Rams to keep it on the ground with their boring philosophy, while Miami will be sure to air it out quite a bit. Playing Tampa Bay against Chicago is usually the mismatch it is in real life.
The computer coach is good. It will run a lot more if leading in the last quarter, and throw more if behind. The game features a two-minute offense in the NFL version, and you can work the clock by throwing sideline passes, calling time-outs and running a "hurry up" offense. Games can be played in either team's stadium or at a neutral site as is done for the Super Bowl.
The game keeps a complete record of all game statistics, and they may be shown on the screen or on your printer at the end of the game. The game also includes a statistics compiler that will keep track of a team's record and the accumulated statistics for all its games. So not only does the game play fast enough to complete an entire season, but at the end you will have complete statistics for every team. All this is included at no extra cost.
I have saved the best for last. How many teams do you get with the game? 50? 100? Try almost 600! That's right, almost 600 completely rated and accurate teams with all the player types and team ratings I've mentioned above. You get all 28 NFL teams from 1986, 180 college football teams from 1986 and 12 WFL teams from 1974. (Normally the USFL had been included, but since the USFL did not play in 1986, the WFL teams were included instead. Don't ask me why.) You also get 174 of the best college football teams of all time, including the 1967 USC team with O.J. Simpson.
And last but not least, you get 96 NFL teams from past seasons. Or do you? Here was where I got a big surprise. I just happened to be poking around on the disk with the old-timer NFL teams when I noticed a team that was not on the list that was enclosed with the game. Looking a little closer at the list that came with the game, I noticed some team numbers were missing. It turns out that you actually get not 96, but 189 past NFL pro football teams on the disk! With all the pro teams available on this disk, you can replay every Super Bowl from 1966 to 1982. Taking my hometown Buffalo Bills as an example of the wide range of teams that are offered, you can play with the Bills' teams that are included from 1986, 1981, 1975, 1974, 1973, 1971, the 1-12-1 1968 team with Eddie Rutkowski, 1966, 1965, 1964 and even the 1948 Buffalo Bills of the AAFC! Imagine, 11 different Buffalo Bills are yours to coach.
If you are a fan of some other team like the Miami Dolphins, Oakland Raiders or Dallas Cowboys, you will find an equally large range of your favorite teams to choose from. It is really quite interesting to play 1972 Miami with Bob Griese, Larry Csonka and Jim Kiick against Vince Lombardi's 1966 Green Bay Packers with Bark Starr, Boyd Dowler and Jim Hornung. All the greats are here to coach in their prime: Joe Namath, O.J. Simpson, Jim Brown, Otto Graham, Walter Payton, Fran Tarkenton and many, many more.
All in all, you get a total of 583 past and present, college and pro teams. That alone makes this game a great value. Add the great statistical accuracy and your ability to replay some "dream" football games, and you have a real winner that is a definite bargain and a great enjoyment.
Dave Arlington, an Atari devotee since 1983, has recently graduated with an A.S. in computer science and math. He is rediscovering his Atari while looking for "real" employment. He enjoys programming in Action! and computer simulations of all types.