Tom Landry Strategy Football. (computer game) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by Scott A. May
The ongoing fight for top gridiron simulation has left many participants battered and bruised. So far, the only clear winners are the fans, basking in the rumble of tough competition. The latest contender to take the field, Merit Software's Tom Landry Strategy Football, should be greeted with a warm cheer.
One of football's true innovators, Landry coached the Dallas Cowboys to 20 consecutive winning seasons, including 13 division championships, five NFC titles, and two Super Bowl victories. True to its namesake, the game adopts a low-key, conservative approach to this often volatile sport. Players don't directly control the on-field action but guide the team through myriad coaching duties. Exhibition and season games can be enjoyed by one or two players or as straight simulation with two computer-controlled teams. Head-to-head match-ups are by far the most rewarding, executed via null or remote modem link, with chat window. This exciting option makes it possible to form player leagues across town or across the country. Unfortunately, season play is for statistical purposes only--there are no built-in playoffs or league championships.
The game--offers 28 professional teams--loosely based on their real-life counterparts--divided into two leagues but no divisions. Detailed scouting reports offer coaches a glimpse into their rivals' offensive and defensive ratings, from individual player stats to overall team performance: run/pass blocking, tackles, penalties, and turnovers. Reports can be saved to disk or printed, and they're automatically updated throughout season play. The only thing missing is the ability to trade players or manually adjust player attributes.
Landry's playbook boasts 2500 possible offensive combinations and hundreds of defensive plays. Most calls on either side of the line are standard issue, although a few surprises await. For example, offensive coaches can designate a "hot" secondary receiver--useful if the primary receiver is covered or for quickly dumping the ball during a blitz. The ability to put a man in motion also helps to confuse your attackers. Otherwise, as mentioned earlier, Landry's playbook is fairly conservative. Fans of razzle-dazzle football will be disappointed.
Defensive highlights include three types of line shifts and linebacker blitzes. Run and pass coverage is quite generic, limited to straight man-to-man and two types of deep zone coverage. Strong points include the ability to specify double coverage on different primary receivers and to key linebackers on a specific running back or simply to follow the offensive flow.
The game's point-and-click mouse interface makes it easy for anyone to assemble a cohesive play. Would-be coaches will be disappointed to find no playbook designer. Instead, the program offers a scenario builder, which allows you to specify the details of a hypothetical match-up and then play the game.
Optional 256-color VGA graphics depict the outcome of your coaching expertise. The images are well drawn but superfluous to the game. Limited animation and poor color separation make the action difficult to follow. The graphics also slow the game considerably, requiring extensive hard drive access before each play. Peripheral high points include digitized referee calls and VCR-style instant replay. Context-sensitive onscreen help is available throughout the program.
The game's main weakness is common to all statistical sport designs: internal number crunching versus real-time player interaction. When the results of your efforts are simply variables weighed against mathematical percentages, the game loses spontaneity and emotional appeal. Winning or losing becomes less a matter of inspiration and personal effort than the roll of invisible dice.
Although the program functions flawlessly, it's far too dry and distant. Designer Kerry Batts deliberately limits his audience, while most of his current competitors offer both statistical and hands-on play. Saved from obscurity by its excellent multiplayer modem option, Tom Landry Strategy Football will satisfy stat hounds but leave others wanting more.
IBM PC or compatible (80286 compatible), 640K RAM, VGA, hard drive, high-density floppy drive, mouse; supports Sound Blaster, Ad Lib, and compatible sound boards--$49.95
MERIT SOFTWARE 13707 Gamma Rd. Dallas, TX 75244 (214) 385-2353
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