Go back to Puma World Football ’98

Written by: Rik

Date posted: June 8, 2011

As part of our 10-year anniversary (2001-2011), we decided to go back and have another look at some of the games we’ve covered over the years. This article is part of that series. Go here if you want to know more.

The Game: Puma World Football ‘98

Original review: Written by Rik, August 2001.

What we said: “Eventually you’ll get bored and move on, especially if you want the complete football experience…but [Puma] remains a solid and playable effort that was sadly overlooked at the time of its release.”

 

One down

Stoo: Good morning…

Rik: Hey dude! Yes, on time this week. So, we’re talking about…Puma World Football! ’98. Although there wasn’t ever another game in the series. I should point out that Jo isn’t here. She hasn’t played the game, and most likely wouldn’t want to either. [Note: This isn’t a ‘girls wouldn’t like football’ comment – I’ve checked, and Jo definitely doesn’t like football.]

Stoo: It’s the only sport game I ever played extensively myself.

Rik: Yep – that was my memory also.

Stoo: I actually have it fired up on my other machine right now. And I’m losing.

Rik: Aha! So you got it working – is that in Windows 7?

Stoo: Yep, it works near perfectly…unexpectedly enough.

Rik: I couldn’t get my XP machine to run it. I think it *might* be to do with the AMD processor rather than the OS though. Anyway, long story short, I had to dig out my old Win98 box this morning to get the game fired up.

Stoo: Is it…beige? (The computer, I mean. Not the game).

Rik: Extremely beige. And heavy. And dusty. I didn’t want to have to rely on memory because I thought that this might be one that time hadn’t been kind to. But actually, after a few minutes, I was really starting to get into it again.

Stoo: It is quite easy to pick up – only three buttons to worry about. Of which I’m using 2…this may be why I’m losing.

Rik: Which one don’t you use?

Stoo: Ctrl – apparently that performs the “special” action.

Rik: Erh, I think that might be the ‘run faster’ button. Also, chipped pass…I think. I still have my old [ancient Microsoft joypad from the 90s] MS Sidewinder so I’m not so familiar with the keyboard controls.

Stoo: Wait…I’m drawing now! (I keep unpausing to play for 30 seconds). Their goalie just kind of flopped over uselessly when I took a fairly basic shot. I’m sure they were usually a lot harder to beat.

Rik: They’re curiously vulnerable to looping, low-powered shots. I think that’s how the famous ‘Laa Laa Goal’ [Blurry footage of which here] came about.

Stoo: Oh, [old school friend] Peter’s goal from the half-way line?

Rik: Yep. I mean, I can’t explain the way the ball looped and swirled around in the air in the first place. But even so – the goalkeeper should have saved the shot.

Stoo: Maybe the sun was in his eyes.

Rik: Heh. Well, seeing as you mention it, I was going to say that chances aren’t exactly hard to come by in Puma. Where in real football you might pass it around and try and create an opening, here, you’re going to have hundreds of chances. Dribbling is really easy because the ball sticks to your feet – you can just run past players with ease.

Stoo: Right, is that normal for football games? The dribbling bit…

Rik: It should be more difficult to keep hold of the ball. For example, in modern FIFA or Pro Evo, you don’t struggle to control the ball. But if you dither, run too fast, or try and attempt a ridiculous, pelvis-smashing turn, then someone can nip in and get it from you. In Puma, you just press a direction and your bloke goes that way, even if it involves an 180 degree turn.

Stoo: Well, passing is a bit too clever for me. So I just kind of run in and veer around a bit then shoot.

Rik: Passing a lot isn’t really worth it, unless you see a guy in lots of space. The chipped pass can be quite good, because volleys and headers are really powerful.

Stoo: Aha! I clearly need some tactics more advanced than “boot it from just outside the box 50 times and hope one goes in”.

Rik: It’s not exactly a tactical game. But you can still have loads of shots and never score if you don’t adopt some kind of strategy. Shots rarely miss the goal, so in order to stop you scoring too much, they’ve made the ‘keepers superhuman.

Stoo: They are a bit catlike.

Rik: I’m actually jealous of you playing the game now. I had to secretly clank about with old PC equipment at about half eight this morning, give it a quick go, take some screenshots, and then pack it all away. All because it won’t work on my newer computer.

Stoo: Which can be a recurring theme with Windows 9x games. They’ve become the more troublesome generation really, now that everything DOS-based is sorted.

“To stop you scoring too much, they’ve made the ‘keepers superhuman…they’re rather catlike.”

Rik: Definitely. The hardened retro-gamer needs to have an old Win ’98 box around. But I’m glad Windows 7 seems to be okay with Puma. I’m not convinced it has a problem with XP to be honest.

Stoo: Bastards just scored. I don’t handle corners well.

Rik: Who are you playing as/against?

Stoo: I am…Tampa Bay Mutiny. Playing Panathinaikos.

Rik: Well, no wonder you’re losing.

 

Unbelievable, John

Rik: Right. So, I had a look at the review as well as the game. It’s another early one. At the risk of sounding too pleased with my own work, I think I’d stick by my conclusions.

Stoo: It feels unambitious, but it’s very competently done.

Rik: At the time I think people overlooked a 2D football game. But actually, this has aged much better than, say, FIFA ’98 or Actua Soccer 2.

Stoo: FIFA had gone 3D by this point, right?

Rik: Yep.

Stoo: It’s my general opinion that early 3D doesn’t age well, at least aesthetically speaking. Unless you’re playing something like Mechwarrior, where everything’s meant to look a walking collection of boxy polygons.

Rik: Puma was never likely to be a realistic competitor to the big-name releases. But, believe me, there’s no way anyone would want to boot up FIFA ’98 now. Whereas Puma is definitely still playable.

Stoo: Right, I think that’s a key point here. There have been 87 FIFA games. Is there any point going back to a 90s version?

Rik: Nope. That’s partly why I never reviewed one. And stayed away from football games in general, even though I’ve played billions of them.

Stoo: So this one has some kind of lasting charm…

Rik: Yes, I think of this one in the same way as others think of, say, Sensible Soccer. Although those people are idiots.

Stoo: Aha, one of our Controversial Opinions!

Rik: If you enjoy the game itself, then fine – I don’t agree, but fine. Anyone who claims that Sensible Soccer is ‘realistic’, though, is talking absolute bollocks, frankly. You can’t seriously claim it’s better at recreating football than Pro Evo or the latest FIFA.

Stoo: It’s better at recreating the feeling of spending a Saturday afternoon playing Amiga games, though.

Rik: Of course. And, nostalgia aside, I can understand why people might enjoy it, as I enjoy Puma. However, I’d never say that Puma is anything like real football, no matter how much I like it.

Stoo: I also imagine in real football the action doesn’t pause for 3 seconds while the commentator prepares his lines.

Rik: Heh, I wondered when we’d get onto this! Just to finish my rant/point: FIFA ’98 is still better than Puma at simulating real football. But since FIFA ’98 there have been 14 other FIFA games that are even better at doing that. While Puma never was realistic, and so it’s aged better. Ahem…anyway, the commentary…

Stoo: Pheeeep! [pause] whirrrr – “It’s a goal kick.”

Rik: My old CD drive is on its last legs and sounds like a space shuttle launch. Which just re-emphasises the whole thing. The commentators are silent throughout the match, until the ball goes out of play, then whirrrr…”The linesman has raised his….flag” [Note: For some reason this line was extremely amusing to our adolescent brains first time around, even though it contained only minimal innuendo, at best]

Stoo: Yeah, I thought commentators were meant to get excited when people take a shot? Or something like that.

Rik: They’re meant to comment on things as they’re happening. Not after they’ve happened. It’s funny that they managed to get Martin Tyler on board. He’s been the main Sky Sports commentator since the early 90s, possibly the number one guy you’d go to now (so he’s in FIFA these days, natch) and yet they managed to persuade him to do this one.

Stoo: The other guy isn’t a real commentator, right?

Rik: I don’t know. There’s this whole business about his name, which is confusing. Martin calls him “John” in game, but that isn’t his real name.

Stoo: Possibly they blew all the budget on Martin, then just got a voice actor in for the other guy. Or, summoned someone from accounts – “do your best football voice”.

Rik: His real name is Iam Mitchie. Google gives me nothing.

Stoo: “And it’s in, and it’s a goal that will go down in history. What a masterpiece!” He says with moderate enthusiasm. I just equalised by the way.

Rik: Someone called ‘Ian Michie’ is a British actor with bit-parts in The Bill and Casualty to his name. Maybe it is just someone from accounts. He does sound like he knows what he’s doing though, I think he’s a pro – just not a football commentator. I’m trying to think of some of the other lines, there was one where he got really excited…”UNBELIEVABLE!!!”

Stoo: I wonder how they code these things, does it have to be a goal with a certain ball velocity, or with players in certain positions, to get a certain comment? Or is it just random? Like, you have a one in ten chance of “UNBELIEVABLE!!!”

Rik: I dunno. They still have some way to go these days with commentary. If you open up the sound files of the Puma commentary (which I have, because I’m a sad bastard) – there’s hours of stuff that you never hear in the game.

Stoo: whiirrrr….”Ohhh, it’s a goal, a monumental strike, that came in like a rocket!” I wouldn’t have called that rocketlike myself. But I am now 3-2 up.

Rik: Good work. I actually don’t mind the commentary, they’ve kept it vague at least. And not using player names means you can change them to your heart’s content.

Stoo: Yep. I recall making a team entirely named after Metallica members and comic book heroes. Clearly, nowadays I’d never be so lame. I’d name them all after death metal acts instead.

Rik: Well we should talk about the multiplayer angle, and custom teams. Because that was a big part of why we played it. I was actually trying to remember who we had in our teams, or their names. I can only remember ‘Pedro’s Deathitubbies’.

Stoo: I may or may not have had Venom and Carnage playing.

Rik: I was hoping to find some screenshots and/or replay files from the old days, to jog my memory. But they must be on my old, old PC (which possibly my parents have destroyed by now).

Stoo: It was fun being able to customise an entire team. I seem to recall we gave them all rather inflated stats.

Rik: High aggression for Darth Vader, etc…

Stoo: Wait…did I have Joseph Stalin? I recall him having high aggression.

Rik: I think it was just J.Stalin, due to character restrictions. Actually, that reminds me, I remember I got an e-mail about Puma once. This guy asked me how I managed to change the names of players.

Stoo: Someone else played Puma? That’s nice to know. I do sometimes worry that we were the only ones on the planet.

Rik: It is actually one of our rarer items.

Stoo: Go and google the words Puma World Football…we’re number 3 hit. And 1 and 2 aren’t even related to the game.

"Martin Tyler calls him 'John'...but his real name is Iam Mitchie...Google gives me nothing."

“Martin Tyler calls him ‘John’…but his real name is Iam Mitchie…Google gives me nothing.”

Rik: There’s someone on Abandonia asking about it in the forums. And then there’s a link to our review. They turned down the guy’s request for the game to be added, as it’s ESA protected…

Stoo: I think [manager of Pedro’s Deathitubbies] Peter bought a copy, so that’s four people out there who own the game. And one more who wants to.

Rik: I bought my copy from PC World Lincoln, if you remember.

Stoo: Yes!

Rik: Ten quid, I bought it on a whim, alongside Kick Off ’97 – which was rubbish.

Stoo: Well if we’re the number one source of information out there on the game, that’s hilarious but kind of cool.

Rik: I quite like it. We’ve never really gone for the ‘rare’ angle. This one isn’t even on Mobygames I don’t think [checks internet]…nope, it ain’t there. Anyway, I wrote back to this guy, but the e-mail bounced back. Now I wonder if it was just all my imagination.

 

At the end of the day…

Rik: So, as a non-football game player, and someone who isn’t interested in football…what is it about Puma that appeals?

Stoo: Well, for a start, to be honest I only picked it up after multiplayer fun when you bought it. But I’ve done that with other sport games and then barely touched them, so it’s doing something right.

Rik: Yes, I was going to say, we’d tried other football games. I guess this one is easy to pick up and play.

Stoo: Right – it’s very accessible.

Rik: And knowledge of real football isn’t an advantage.

Stoo: And if it’s unrealistically easy to keep control of the ball, that just helps idiots like me.

Rik: It’s very unlikely that you’d go through a game without having a few shots at goal. Whereas that’s a possibility in other footy games.

Stoo: And shots mean encouragement to go and try again.

Rik: Otherwise it’s just demoralising. There’s definitely a lot of action in every game, it can be very end-to-end. It’s almost like table football or air hockey, or similar. You don’t find yourself sighing and thinking ‘not a lot happening in this game’.

Stoo: Do you find it too easy overall? I’m just wondering, if I can do okay, what it’s like for someone who actually knows what they’re doing.

Rik: There’s a challenge, if you crank the difficulty up. It’s not the most difficult, but you don’t end up winning every game 6-0 or anything like that.

Stoo: Bastard Panathinaikos just equalised…extra time.

Rik: I have to say that playing it today did make me want to clear my afternoon for an extended go.

Stoo: I can see myself losing a few hours to it again.

Rik: I suppose I thought that multiplayer nostalgia was the most significant factor in remembering this one. But I was the only one [of our group of friends] who really liked football, and it’s not like we played loads of other games multiplayer.

Stoo: Yeah, there were about four of us playing at one point. Even Ross, I think, and he was always somewhat aloof from videogames.

Rik: Yep, not everyone liked football or games, but it somehow seemed to appeal anyway.

Stoo: And yet the game apparently sank without trace, I guess either down to lack of promotion, or it was just completely ignored in the face of the rise of 3D.

Rik: It’s a really solid game though. I’m glad we’ve got it on FFG.

Stoo: Likewise. We might not be specifically focused on rare stuff, but I do like having some lesser-known titles, especially if there might not be so much discussion of them elsewhere on the net.

Rik: Anything else you want to mention? I’d forgotten about the naff menu music before today. And now it’s playing on loop in my head.

Stoo: Do I remember wrongly or is it possible for players to get injured, and limp around in a painful manner?

Rik: I’m not sure they do get injured…it wasn’t a common occurrence anyway. I do like the way they lie prostrate after being fouled though.

Stoo: I like it when the game pauses to load mid-kick, it’s like I’m doing some sort of karate move on a defender.

pumaprostrate

“I do like the way players lie prostrate after being fouled.”

Rik: It’s to load the ‘gasp’ crowd effect I think.

Stoo: I feel the game might have benefited from installing its sound clips to hard disk!

Rik: Perhaps GOG could resurrect it, and fix the problem. I’d pay $5.99 to get it working on my new PC. Anything else?

Stoo: I think I’m done.

Rik: I get the impression you want to focus on playing the game.

Stoo: Ha ha – end of extra time, incidentally – 3-3. [Victory on penalties was ultimately achieved]

Rik: Proof that the game’s still worth playing. A good note to end on, I think.

Footnote (23/10/13): I had a couple of requests to upload some of the other music featured in the game. The main menu music is included in the piece above, but there are three other bits of music, as follows:

Other naff menu music (or “Naff Menu Music 2”, if you prefer);
Mildly trumphant “you’ve probably just won something” guitar;
Mildly depressing “you’ve probably just lost” guitar.