Review - Front Page Sports: Football Pro '95 (DOS, 1994)

Y'know, REALLY good games only come out so often, and the percentage of really good games that are made by Sierra On-Line is almost obscene. According to my figures, it's been over 83 years since they made a bad game. My figures may need a little tweaking here and there, but even if I'm off by a couple years, that's still a long time. Imagine the pressure that those Sierra programmers and developers must feel . . . knowing that, if they make one little error, that 83 (or possibly 82)-year old chain could be broken, and they'd be responsible. Well, needless to say, they can stop worrying, at least for now. Front Page Sports: FOOTBALL PRO '95 (or just Football Pro, as it has come to be known) is the best football game ever shoved onto a digital medium. Is anyone surprised?

Let's face it. We expect every incarnation of FPS: Football to be better than the one before it, and we haven't been disappointed yet. New to the lineup this year are 1994 NFL team rosters, the new 2-point conversion rules, and roughly 3,000 extra stock plays on the FLOPPY version. If you get the CD, your total is closer to 10,000. What does one DO with that many plays? It boggles the mind . . .

Anyway, the game is laid out the same way it always has been. If you're either lazy or in a hurry, you can choose to QuickStart an exhibition game against the computer. Pick any two teams . . . they don't even have to be from the same league. You'll be zipped onto the playing field and into the role of player, coach, or both, depending on your preference. A hallmark of the Front Page Sports series is the ability to give control of any facet of the game to the computer. In the most basic playcalling and action modes, you simply choose rudimentary offensive and defensive plays and let the PC carry them out. If you want to get a bit more involved, you can . . . either by taking control of the on-field action or calling more detailed specific plays. The results of plays will depend on a number of things . . . player ratings, weather, "hot" and "cold" streaks, and home field advantage, to name a few. A word of advice to you Madden and NFL 94 fans . . . don't try Hail Marys and Double Reverses on second down. YOU'LL be down . . . for SEVERAL seconds.

Football Pro goes way beyond the playing field, though. In fact, an entire season can be played through without every hitting the digital gridiron. The Front Page Sports league management features have been the best in the business since the series debuted years ago. Not only can you take control of an NFL team and play through an NFL season, you can also choose to dump all team rosters into a draft pool and create your own team via the draft. This is simply too cool. If you get tired of playing with the real teams, simply start a new season and have everybody redraft. You shouldn't ever get bored. Not that you will anyway. You'll be too busy saving your team from such disasters as fatigue and injuries, which could come into play at any time during the season. As the team coach, you can propose trades, make roster moves, and even sign free agents. I'm one of those guys that watches games on Sunday and questions almost every conservative play called by the coaches. Only after playing and managing in Football Pro for a while did I come to realize how smart most of them are when they call those plays. Coaching is a tough job . . .

The play editor included with the game lets you create just about any play you can think up. Assigning blocking schemes, choosing formations, sending men in motion . . . they're all fairly easy to do. You might not ever touch the play editor, though, seeing as though the playbook already at your disposal is thicker than War And Peace. As we all know, running the right plays produces the right stats, and every stat under the sun is available to you at the touch of a button during a game or afterwards. Are you impressed yet? A game this detailed and complete could only have been programmed by football fans. If you're one of those, I suggest you run a QB sneak down to your local software store and ask for a copy of Football Pro. If there's any justice in this world, you'll walk away empty-handed, because they'll be sold out.