FRONT PAGE SPORTS FOOTBALL PRO 95 / Sierra / PC
 
 
This series had a yearly release from 1992 to 1998, but I decided to make '95 my first foray into it as a friend claimed it has the best overall gameplay of the series, plus it was the first to add an NFL and NFLPA license (thus the switch to the "pro" designation in the title). This was also the first entry to put the rotating camera fully under your control (rather than a few prefab angles to choose from), and it was also the first to implement a rudimentary AI adjustment to the plays you tend to call.
 


Alas, it's also particularly hard to get running on modern systems. This was the last MS-DOS-only entry in the series, which means unless you have an ancient rig sitting around that you play old games on, you're stuck with DOSBox to get it going. And (at least for me) it doesn't want to play entirely nice with DOSBox. Connecting a gamepad seems to cause the cursor to constantly drift even if the stick is calibrated correctly, and I couldn't find a manual online for any of the DOS versions listing all the keys, so that meant a lot of trial and error just to figure out all the basic commands. The play selection highlight outline also seems to go missing sometimes when using the arrow keys, and it uses one of those old-school "look up a word on page X" copy protection schemes so you're virtually forced to use a cracked version as I can't even find manuals for sale anywhere let alone for download.

All this difficulty makes it kinda not worth the effort as compared to just playing a more modern game, unless you're on a major nostalgia trip for it. That's a shame, though, as this series was ahead of its time and still actually plays a solid game of 2D football with tons of customization if you can manage to get it running and set up properly.



The series had two primary selling points. The first was the then-unprecedented level of customization, which even most modern games still don't completely match. You can create whole teams and leagues from scratch, and even pit teams from different leagues against each other. Each league is its own database file from which you can pull individual teams when setting up an exhibition or quickplay match. You can also create custom files to load in for each coach's play style, along with a custom playbook that draws from 3,000 total plays in the floppy version and 10,000 in the CD-ROM release.

The other big selling point was pairing all this depth with a pretty solid gameplay engine that's fairly easy to get into, roughly comparable to the engine of the Madden console games of the 90s but with way, way better camera options and a neat "VCR mode" that makes it easy to save highlights and stitch them together into a reel. The league mode is the most robust of the time, with an ongoing career option that includes yearly drafts, a free agency period, player trading and players that age and see their stats decay over time.



Dynamix really tried to create the football fan's ultimate dream game here, and the only major shortcoming is that it wasn't forward-thinking enough to be preserved for future generations of hardware. If you can manage to get it going it might just be the best overall choice of the '90s football games, however, at least for those seeking as much depth and customization as possible. Along that line, Panthers and Jags fans should note that this came out just before that expansion season, so they'll need to create or download a custom league to work them into the mix ... however, funnily enough time has wrapped around and brought the Rams back to L.A. (and maybe the Raiders too next year), cutting down on some editing work if you want to modernize things!
 
 
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