World (Cup) In Motion: Looking Back At WORLD CUP USA 94 - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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World (Cup) In Motion: Looking Back At WORLD CUP USA 94

Chris Morley misses from the penalty spot!
Something of a curiosity awaits now, as we revisit a World Cup that England never actually made it to. USA 94 featured a mascot designed by no less than Warner Brothers, whose animators came up with Striker the World Cup Pup as a fun figurehead for the first time “soccer”'s biggest occasion came to visit the United States!
Fittingly, or not if you remember the controversy around World Cup Carnival, US Gold were behind the tournament's official game, released for Genesis/Mega Drive, Sega CD, Super NES, Master System, DOS, Game Boy, and Game Gear in 1994, with the PC and Sega CD versions boasting digitized stadium photos. The Genesis version even carried the PolyGram Video logo across the stadium advertisement boards in the game.
You could choose from all the qualified teams and indeed set match times from one to 45 minute halves. On paper, at least, it seemed as if US Gold had got a few specifics right - perhaps learning from the critical backlash to their previous officially licensed released in 1986? And unlike World Cup Carnival, tactical tweaks were very much part of proceedings. Something that was front and centre in all the advertising...
Depending on the options set before the match, the gamer may opt to have less dribble control (resulting in the game ball sliding in the direction of the player movement); manual goalkeeper control which puts the player in control of all goalkeeper saves and kicks; ball-trapping, of which the player will not be able to shield the ball and allows opponents to snatch it away without necessitating a tackle; and no pass-back rule which was implemented during World Cup '94 where a keeper may not pick up the ball whenever an outfield player passes it back to him.
It would seem no amount of tinkering could have saved the late Graham Taylor's Three Lions, though. A qualifying loss against Holland in Rotterdam eventually leading to his resignation after failing to make it to the States.

The hosts, meanwhile, would make it to the last 16 before being beaten by Brazil on Independence Day. Their earlier opening Group A game against Switzerland also made history as the first World Cup match played indoors, the whole thing a last hurrah for the 24-team format before 32 became the norm from France 98 onwards.

A different type of notoriety came at Soldier Field, Chicago, the venue for the opening ceremony of the tournament. Steeped both in the ridiculousness of 1990’s culture and America’s attempt to add its own pageantry to the game, Oprah Winfrey emceed a ceremony which concluded with Diana Ross singing and dancing her way up the field to take a penalty... which she missed!

And World Cup USA 94's official game couldn't escape critical wrath either. Consider this from Amiga Reviews.......
“To get the idea of how World Cup USA really plays, simply imagine standing in a train toilet while going through a tunnel (for the sound effects), squinting to see only half the action and playing with a Space Hopper rather than a ball. “
All that tactical tweaking aside, US Gold had simply not made the gameplay enjoyable. Reviewing the Genesis version for Mean Machines Sega, Steve Merrett felt that the game is "completely outplayed by the likes of Sensi and FIFA", while Angus Swan criticized the game's presentation for "[m]inuscule sprites, minimal animation and zeroid atmosphere."

World Cup USA 94 turned out to be the last official FIFA World Cup franchise game released before Electronic Arts acquired the rights in 1996 for their FIFA Soccer series, starting with France '98. And that's where we'll head next time out...

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