When the Ed heard Virgin's FA. Cup Football was the first Football Association endorsed soccer game and that Tony Williams, editor of the F.A. League Club Directory was writing it, he knew experts were needed to review it. Tough, you got me instead. Off he sent me to find 'added realism'. The Royal Box at Wembley, I dreamed. Oh no, he poured iced water down me wellies, gave me half a can of flat Skol and made me watch this game over the shoulder of a six foot seven Arsenal fan through a Rediffusion window. The glamour just never stops.
In many respects this text based simulation with a touch of strategy is the most accurate of football games on the market. It attempts to recreate the splendours of a complete F.A. Cup campaign. With an up to eight player facility it's a full family game. Each player can choose ten teams to manage, picked from the 92 league teams plus 32 non-leaguers. or you can program in a personal favourite.
At each round a draw is made but there are no rattling balls in a black bag, just a scrolling screen. If you want to leap (as all but the most manic Runcorn fans will) to the third round where top division clubs enter, then you can. Before each game in the first three rounds you can choose your basic tactic - defensive, balanced or attacking. In round four you can modify this at half time.
From round five you'll be asked an increasing number of managerial questions. Some are silly and rude (do you let your Nigerian winger see his witch doctor!!) to the crucial and practical (how do you re-motivate your penalty taker?). You also have the option to look at news flashes that might affect the morale of your team. At this stage you also get extra chances to change your strategy depending on the state of play.
The glory of the F.A. Cup though is unpredictability. And this simulation tries so hard to be accurate it ends up with the anonymous appeal of watching the pools panel sit. The F.A. Cup, thank God, is not programmed to the dictats of Don Howe. True there are little ripples of shock - Runcorn beat Wimbledon, Liverpool and Arsenal get involved in an unlikely eight goal shoot out - but nothing that's gonna make Saint And Greavsie take up tiddlywinks. This game's statistical background - who's done best in the last ten years - is severely weighted toward the big four - Everton, Spurs, Liverpool and (spit) Manchester Utd. I'd have relished a little more managerial control to make me feel thoroughly involved as the minutes ticked by - the only action ever seen on the screen.
For sheer variety the Rothman's World Cup is a better bet, but this walks all over Bryan Robson's Football Manager (which is something I'd like to do). I refuse to knock this game. As someone who flew half way round the world to watch the Cup Final last year I've taken great joy in managing Everton to three successive Cup victories. Eat yer heart out Big Ron.