Sensible World of Soccer (SWOS). Although for some it will just be seen as just nostalgia when compared to games like FIFA and Pro Evo, for me it is the best sports game ever made.
Made by Jon Hare of Sensible Software, it was released in 1994 on the Amiga as the successor to the original Sensible Soccer, which I also was a massive fan of. Up to the release of Sensible Soccer, there were a number of rival football games on the Amiga, such as Kick-Off 2, which I was a fan of until I played Sensible Soccer! For me Sensible Soccer destroyed all the competition. The game play and use of real players names made it incredibly engaging and the game play was difficult enough to keep you returning time and again to try to win competitions!
When SWOS was released, I’m sure what I would have been expecting was to get a game which was basically Sensible Soccer but with more international teams judging by the name of it. But what Sensible World Of Soccer actually was, was so so much more than that!
Teams, teams, teams!
First off, they included all the International teams. And I mean ALL of them! There are countries in SWOS that I didn’t even know existed! And also countries which I didn’t think would have a football team! And each country had actual players names and ratings. Obviously since 1994, lots more countries have been established and it’s a bit outdated but for the time it was spot on.
Then, there is the club teams. They are all there! Including lower divisions! Incredibly England has the Premier League AND 3 lower divisions! And each player in all those teams has individual characteristics to make them as close to reality as possible, from the way they look to the skill level they had.
You could literally have a game between any two club sides that existed in the world at that time! Being from Ireland, I loved the fact that there was all the League of Ireland teams, including my own local team Galway United with all the real players there!
Then there was the Career mode. This is where SWOS sets itself apart from all other football games ever made. You could start off with a team from Division 3 (now League Two) of the English league and develop your team by selling and buying players and gradually getting promoted until you’re in the Premier League!
Where Premier Manager used to lose out was the fact that you had no actual control over how players played, only how you selected and instructed them to play.
But with SWOS, you had total control and responsibility for the teams performance. And if you started out as a lower league minnow, you relied on gate receipts from cup games to allow you to buy new players or to pay off whatever debt you had! That meant that when you played in the FA or League Cup, the big games against a Premier League team were proper giant killing opportunities which you’d look forward to and get nervous about! A good cup run could be the difference between upgrading players and sticking with what you have!
The fact the there was almost every pro player in the world at the time, it meant that in the Career mode, you could literally scout across the whole world. There was a transfer list where you could look at available players using broad search options such as speed, passing, tackling, shooting, ball control, but you really didn’t know how good a player would really be until you actually controlled them in a game.
And so that meant that scouting for players involved proper scouting! I would play friendlies involving club teams from leagues all over the world looking look for gems, especially in leagues where players were cheap to buy from. So that meant lots of friendlies involving teams from Japan, South Korea, Russia, Uruguay, Czech Republic, Croatia etc! I would also keep my eyes peeled when playing other teams in the league. If a particular player stood as been lightning fast, I’d take note of his position and play a friendly using that team and judge how good he was. If he was worth it, I’d make a cheeky bid!
Literally hours would be spent painstakingly going through club teams from countries, team by team looking for players who stand out. A player with speed or good ball control or a with a foot like a traction engine would stand out. The painstaking work made buying unknown players all the more satisfying! Especially if you happened to spot them in real life at some stage on TV!
A great feature in the transfer aspect of the game was that you could use up to 2 players as a make weight to buy a player you wanted. It meant you could get rid of dead wood squad players and reduce the amount of money you have to pay for a player! It’s a feature I haven’t seen in any other games!
Time Saver in the Game!
As you go through the season you also have the brilliant option of choosing to either play the game or just to set the team up as the coach and view the result. It was a great time saver! Instead of having to play every single game, you could choose to take a risk against the lower league teams and hope your team is set up well enough, and then play against your title rivals and of course in the cup games!
It meant that when you start the season, the first thing you do is check for the fixtures to see who you’ll be playing in the cup and you’d get genuinely excited at the prospect of playing a Premier League team, which would not only be a challenge but would also mean extra revenue from gate receipts!
If you didn’t bring in enough revenue you’d get the dreaded memo from the chairman!
Areas for Improvement
The game play in SWOS was brilliant, very few things I’d change, but one thing which really got on my nerves was that computer teams never had a player sent off! Literally, in over 20 years of playing it, the computer has never had a player sent off! And let me tell you, the computer can be a Vinny Jones hatchet man when it wants to be!
Injuries were a bit of a nightmare in Career mode. Some injuries were for just a game, some were for a run of games and some were for an extended period of time. Seeing a big red cross beside your players name meant they were out for the season, and if that was a £9mil player you had just bought you were goosed! But, it also reflects the reality of the game really. Some players are injury prone and legs do get broken!
player value depreciation
One aspect of the Career mode which was difficult was the player valuations. It was very hard to buy a player and keep their value, especially if they were a defender or a midfielder. With some midfielders, they could be creating and scoring goals for you every game, yet their valuation would inevitably go down. In career mode you rely on being able to buy players and sell them on to buy better players and so holding their value was really important!
It would have been nice to have some sort of way of tracking your players values to know who has gone up and who has gone down.
Also it would have been nice to have a wish list of players, so that you wouldn’t need to be keeping post-its beside the Amiga of players you want!
Competitions & Tournaments
Another great feature of SWOS was the ability to play in preset International competitions like the World Cup and European Championships, and you could also choose to play domestic challenges like the Premier League an individual FA Cup, or any recognized competition in world football really! The mind boggles with the amount of info contained in those two floppy discs!
The Premier League was a real test because unlike in Career mode, you did not have the option of transfers and so your team really is a bare bones skeleton crew!
On top of playing recognized tournaments and league, you could also design your own tournament. That meant you could hand pick the teams you found the hardest to beat and make an almost impossible cup or league or a tournament made up of group and knock out stages!
I’ve been playing Sensible Soccer in some form from 1992 up to today and can honestly say it has never lost its magic! No matter how many times I play it, I’m always surprised at how brilliant the game play is in it. I still get the same buzz from scoring goals that I did as a kid and still find myself searching for new ways to build up play to score the perfect goal!
I’ve never been a fan of FIFA, but have nearly all of the Pro Evo games, and while I think that game is great, there is something special about playing with a joystick where there is just the stick for direction and one simple fire button! None of this faffing about trying to do step overs and special moves, just plain old fashioned gaming! The joy stick I use is the classic black and yellow Zipstick, which is my pride and joy!
A few of the microswitches got a bit worn over the years which made the joystick a bit loose at some angles, but I bought some replacements and once I replaced the old ones, the joystick was literally as good as new! If you have a joystick which is a bit loose, I highly recommend opening it up and seeing if there’s anything you can do to fix it up a bit. And if you want any advice get in touch, I’ve done many an operation!
For anyone who loves the game as much as I do, you can also play the game online now! There’s a whole community of SWOS players at Sensible Soccer.de, where you can chat about it or arrange games and take part in tournaments. You can find out how to play online by visiting this site, there’s a step by step guide and programs to download there which show how it’s done. But I must warn you, I consider myself quite a good player, but when I played online, I got my ass handed to me over and over! It was a real eye opener, but playing online was something I really enjoyed and plan to do more of!
I played in an Irish tournament this January at the annual Amiga Users meetup in Athlone. The meet up was great craic with loadsa Amiga people there and some great games. You can see my recap of it here. I won the SWOS tournament and also happened to have won it last year also! This years final was an epic game, filled with goals, comebacks and drama! Check out the video here!
Anyways, thanks for reading, if you have any thoughts on SWOS, I’d love to hear them, or anything about the game that I missed, send ’em on! 🙂