It would be easy to slap Commodore's real International Soccer in our first team selection of C64 classics. We could quite justifiably wax on about how important it was to the development of football games (and it really was), but, well, the truth is this 1988 Audiogenic effort was about ten times better, so it gets the nod. The old grizzled warhorse with the medals and the dodgy knees gets to sit in the dugout for now.
Enough with the football metaphors. Audiogenic knew full well what it was doing when it, ahem, borrowed the International Soccer moniker and slapped Emlyn Hughes' smiling mug on the box. To all intents and purposes, this was very much International Soccer, dusted off, buffed up and reinvigorated for an audience starved of a decent alternative (no, really).
In many ways it borrowed everything that was good (and bad) about Commodore's 1983 version, and with some excellent control additions it became the Pro Evolution Soccer of its day.
In terms of its good points, it had a ton of options that were unheard of back then - such as team stats, the ability to complete edit your team, customise the strip colour, and enter a full league and cup season with up to three friends. Being able to save all of this to tape or disk also added so much to the game's longevity, and it encouraged players to really master its intricacies once the competitive urge kicked in.
The controls were absolutely revelatory, too, featuring the unprecedented ability to pull off a full range of passes, crosses, backheels and even sliding tackles - though mastering all of these moves with just one fire button at your disposal was no mean feat. That said, in 1988 no other footy game in the home or in the arcade had even come close to offering this level of depth.
It was a real shame, then, that Audiogenic elected to ape International's hilariously blocky graphical style so precisely. Presumably a stylistic choice as a homage to the original, it looked crude and ugly then, and almost two decades on just looks comical, but loveable in an ironically retro kind of way. If you can see beyond the ludicrously chunky players, this was, along with Microprose Soccer, the best 8-bit football game around.
8 / 10