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Review by: Adam Swiderski
Published: October 30, 1999
Hello, my name is Adam, and I’m a football-aholic. I can’t remember exactly when the realization of my addiction struck me, but I know that it has me firmly in its pigskin-covered grip. The months between August and January are pretty much sports heaven for me, as it’s incredibly easy to immerse one’s self in the developments in both the college and pro games.
Of course, this also means that I sink into a deep depression for six months out of the year, but that’s to be expected. Don’t get me wrong: I love baseball, and basketball, and can even sit through an entire hockey game from time to time. I follow the scores and standings of all these sports. But there’s nothing quite like that first hint of fall, because then I know that it won’t be long before the pads are smacking together, the beautiful oblong ball is sailing through the autumn air, and the big, fat guys down in the trenches are coming home to roost. This being mid-October and all, I’m pretty much in a state of sports euphoria five days out of the week, keeping up with the developments in and around the various college conferences, and especially in the NFL. And even though my beloved New York Jets are going down the toilet, I still find that I can enjoy the heck out of myself on any given Sunday by sitting in front of the tube and immersing myself in gridiron goodness.
That said, I also have to admit that it’s been awfully hard for me to find a PC-based football game that could really grab my interest. I’ve pretty much played them all, dating back to the earliest days of Madden and beyond (anyone remember TV Sports: Football?), and there hasn’t been much to satiate both the salivating, big-hit-loving steakhead and the more cerebral, stat-loving wonk in me. The closest so far was the original Front Page Sports: Football Pro, but we all know what happened to that series (in case you don’t, it was discontinued after a disastrous final effort). Since then, I’ve found plenty of opportunities to embrace the real adrenaline-fueled aspect of football — the big runs, the crushing tackles, the long bombs, etc. — but very little to feed my need for numbers. Let’s face it: I certainly enjoy watching hours of play on Sundays, but another big part of the attraction of the NFL for me is poring over the vast collection of statistics that are generated each week. I love keeping track of this stuff, and with my recent introduction to fantasy football, it’s only gotten worse. So you can understand why I was a little upset that, with the demise of the Front Page Sports franchise, it seemed as if my grognard side would be forever ignored.
Then, late last year, I stumbled upon mention of a game called Front Office Football (FOF) somewhere out there on the ‘Net. It seemed that one man, Jim Gindin, had taken it upon himself to create a sim that would do for football management what Baseball Mogul had done for its subject matter. I read of how it allowed players to take control of any NFL franchise and guide them through decades of consecutive seasons, wheeling and dealing for the right personnel while trying to fit under the league’s restrictive salary cap. I read about multi-player trades, an amateur draft between seasons, and the management of stadium construction. Most of all, I heard about a really fun game that offered a lot of depth, and I had to try it. I ordered FOF directly from the website of Gindin’s company, Solecismic, and loaded it up. It would be an immense understatement to say that I was hooked from the very start. The large number of options and features, coupled with an open-endedness that kept the title fresh for almost a year, drew me in and wouldn’t let go. I found myself playing through seasons of FOF on an daily basis, and even thinking about possible trades and signings when I was away from the computer. It had its flaws, but FOF’s ability to cause severe addiction was enough for me to rank it as one of my favorite all-time PC games.
So you can imagine I was excited when it was announced that Gindin would be producing a sequel to FOF (FOF2). And while many people saw the involvement of EA Sports — who agreed to publish the title in cooperation with Solecismic — as a danger sign, I actually thought it would be a positive move. After all, with EA Sports’ backing, Jim Gindin would be able to fully pursue his creation of a great football experience rather than worrying about as many logistical issues. When the list of new features that would be making their way into FOF2 appeared, I was even more excited. As I kept up with developments in the game’s design, I continued to be impressed by Gindin’s commitment to his consumers and his ambition for his project. Now, FOF2 has been released, and I’ve been playing it non-stop in an effort to achieve a full understanding of just how it’s turned out. It’s often difficult to draw a bead on an offering as wide-ranging and open as FOF2, but I think locking myself in a room for three straight days with nothing but my PC and a stash of Doritos may have done the trick.
For those who may never have heard of this series, FOF puts you in the role of owner, general manager, and coach of a professional football franchise. You are then tasked with all of the different things for which these people are responsible. You manage your team’s finances and hire and fire coaches and scouts as an owner. As a GM, it’s your job to trade, sign, re-sign, and draft your way to success, all the while staying under the league’s hard salary cap. As a coach, you determine your starting lineup and decide on how you want your team to play. What you may notice is that “player” isn’t listed in that roll call of roles. That’s because, unlike many sports games, FOF2 doesn’t allow you to directly control the action on the field. In fact, the only real graphical representation you’ll get of play between two teams is a scrolling text field under a scoreboard. There are no polygonal players, no fully-rendered stadiums, and no gamepad-crunching maneuvers to be executed. If Madden-style play is what you’re looking for, then you’ll probably want to steer clear of FOF2. This is football from a completely different angle, and with its text-based interface and decision-based play model, it’s a lot more like a strategy game than the majority of sports titles on the market today.
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