Football Review

Developer: Atari Publisher: Atari
Release Date: 1979 Also On: None

Sports titles are a dime a dozen these days. Every year it seems that three or four companies release games for each and every conceivable sport known to man, or at least that is how it was before the recent beginning of the exclusivity wars. In an era when gamers have become accustomed to at least five football games a year being released, three by the same company, it is hard to imagine a system that only has four over its entire lifespan, but indeed that is the situation with the Atari 2600. Starting off the four football titles for the Atari 2600 was 1979’s Football, and it, while a far cry from the football titles of today and even the others on the 2600, was actually a decent game considering when it came out.

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Most people understand how football works. One group of people attempts to move a ball into an end zone while another group of people attempts to prevent that from occurring. Football has the basics of the game down, but only the basics. There are no kickoffs or extra points, but a touchdown does score a full seven points. Safeties also exist in this game.

Also making the game look better is the fact that you can pick a play before each down. A press of any of the four directions of the joystick or of the button each correspond to a different play, making the game surprisingly deep for the time. The players, however, seem to lack speed, so if an offensive player manages to get past the defensive players, you can forget about catching them. On the teams of four, the quarterback handles running duties, as well as the passing duties. The quarterback can pass on any play though even if the player originally intended to run, which makes me guess that the play calls on offense only affect how the non-controlled players move.

Speaking of passing, I have three major complaints about the passing game. First of all, after you press the button to throw the ball, it will often go straight through your receiver and he will somehow not catch it. Somehow intercepting the ball isn’t so hard though if it happens to go through a defensive player. Secondly, the ball can be controlled horizontally using the joystick after it is thrown, but will consistenly move forward.

The third and most vehement of my complaints is that if you are unable to move the ball over fast enough, or should it go straight through your player, resulting in an incomplete pass, you lose the ball to the other team. If you run, or if you complete a pass, you have four downs to get past a first-down marker or to score, but if you miss completing a pass, you surrender the ball. I know of no professional incarnation of football that possesses such a rule.

Other than the fact that the players sometimes have trouble catching the ball, the controls actually work fairly well in this game. The graphics, while basic, look decent for 1979, and Atari should be commended for at least trying to make the players look like people, something the makers of Super Challenge Football failed to do even three years later. The sound effects are also typical 1979 fare.

Natrually, the graphics in Football are the worst of the four football titles on the Atari 2600, excluding the aforementioned fact that Super Challenge Football’s players are simple squares. However, the worst nail in the coffin for this title compared to the others isn’t the unrealistic passing rules or execution or the graphical inferiority. Rather, it is the fact that Football utilizes what I call forced multiplayer, which means that you have to have a real person to play against. In other words, there is no AI player. Back in 1979, this likely wasn’t as big of a problem, but in an era where most football fans are going to want to play the most current Madden game, good luck getting another person to play against you in this.

It is primarily for the reason of its forced multiplayer that I strongly recommend against a purchase of this game. However, even if it didn’t have forced multiplayer, I would still recommend Super Football for your Atari 2600 football title needs over this game. In the years separating the two, much progress was made. If you have a friend to play with though, this game might be worth playing once or twice.

Graphics: 6
Sound: 6
Gameplay: 7
Creativity: 6
Replay Value/Game Length: 5
Final: 6
Written by Martin Review Guide

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