|Platform(s)||MS-DOS, PlayStation, Sega Saturn, Microsoft Windows, Nintendo DS|
|First release||Actua Soccer|
|Latest release||Actua Golf 3|
Actua Sports is a sports video game series published by Gremlin Interactive which competed with Electronic Arts EA Sports label during the second half of the 1990s, until Gremlin was acquired by Infogrames. The term "Actua" is a (seemingly marketing-related) play on Sega's line of "Virtua" titled games, which included Virtua Fighter, Virtua Racing and Virtua Striker.
The first game in the series was the 1995 milestone title, Actua Soccer, which quickly became one of the most important titles for the company. It was later joined by the rebirth of the Premier Manager franchise and the club version of Actua Soccer. In 1996, the first non-football game was released, Actua Golf, followed by the sequels Actua Soccer 2 in 1997, now endorsed by English international Alan Shearer and Premier Manager 98. The third installment in the Actua Soccer series and the Ninety-Nine edition of Premier Manager followed in 1998, the year a new title debuted in the series: Actua Ice Hockey, the official video game of the Nagano Olympic Games ice hockey tournament, followed by Actua Tennis in the same year.
While the series died shortly after Gremlin was acquired by Infogrames, some of the games had further titles developed: PGA European Tour Golf and UEFA Challenge, both developed by the now Sheffield House, were published in 1999 and 2002 respectively, and the rights of the Premier Manager franchise were acquired by Zoo Digital Publishing.
Actua Soccer (1995)
The first title's biggest claim to fame was its full 3D graphics engine, used for the first time in a home console football game (the first full-3D football game being Sega arcade Virtua Striker); although other console games had used a 3D field, players were commonly still 2D sprites but in Actua Soccer players were polygonal. The game was developed with close ties to a local football club Sheffield Wednesday: their players provided hints to the programmers, and three players, Chris Woods, Graham Hyde and Andy Sinton, also served as motion capture models.
Actua Soccer featured only national teams, with squads of 22 players from each of 44 national sides, However a follow up version with English Premier League teams named Actua Soccer: Club Edition was released in 1997 using 20 players from the 20 Premier League teams from 1996/97. The Actua Soccer match engine was also used to display matches in Premier Manager 64.
The first game was a bestseller in the UK, where it was backed by what journalists called "the most expensive advertising campaign ever mounted for a console game." Tommy Glide of GamePro, while criticising the game's lack of flashy special moves and mild sound effects, deemed it the most well-rounded PlayStation soccer game to date, saying it offered a good combination of FIFA's deep strategy and Goal Storm's sharp visuals and accessibility.
Actua Golf (1996)
Actua Golf (known as VR Golf '97 in North America) is a sports video game developed by Gremlin Interactive for the PlayStation and Sega Saturn. It was released in October 1996. A version for the Nintendo 64 was announced for release in 1997, but it was cancelled. The two sports reviewers of Electronic Gaming Monthly gave the PlayStation version an 8.95 out 10, hailing its accessibility, addictiveness, and running commentary. GamePro's Air Hendrix said it falls second to PGA Tour 97, which held the advantage in licensing and comprehensiveness of features, but is a strong title "with respectable gameplay and standout graphics." In contrast, Jeff Kitts of GameSpot said Actua Golf excels in terms of gameplay and "covers all the basic play possibilities without being overwhelming, even for novices", but is graphically dull, "barely scratch[ing] the surface of what the Playstation game machine can do." He scored it a 5.7 out of 10. Rob Allsetter gave the Saturn version a 90% in Sega Saturn Magazine, calling it "just about faultless." He praised the attention to detail, handicap system, selection of camera angles, graphics, and running commentary. Air Hendrix said that it "does run a bit choppier than its PlayStation counterpart, but it makes the Saturn PGA '97 look like it's moving in slo mo."
Actua Golf 2 (1997)
Actua Golf 2 (known as Fox Sports Golf '99 in North America), also developed by Gremlin Interactive for the PlayStation and Microsoft Windows, was released in September 1997 for the PlayStation and May 1998 for Windows. A Saturn version was also planned. Commentary was provided by Peter Allis and Alex Hay. Actua Golf 2 received mixed reviews. Aggregating review website GameRankings gave the PC version 70.50% and the PlayStation version 38.75%.
Actua Soccer 2 (1997)
Actua Soccer 2 (known as Fox Sports Soccer '99 in North America), once again included national teams, but a more polished engine (optimised in the PC version for 3D graphics cards), (in some versions) the full Italian Serie A league, and a new "scenario" mode assured good sales and mostly positive reviews. It also included a team creator mode, which enabled the player to make up to 128 custom teams. Barry Davies was joined by Trevor Brooking on the commentary, and the game featured England football team captain and striker Alan Shearer not only on the cover, but also providing interviews about the game in the press. Michael Owen and Simon Tracey provided motion capture for the players. The game also featured menu music and a cameo appearance from Welsh rockers, Super Furry Animals, which could only can be unlocked after entering a cheat code. Actua Soccer 2 was also bundled with Creative Technology's Voodoo 2 graphic cards, which helped to achieve widespread distribution and popularity.
Actua Ice Hockey (1998)
Actua Ice Hockey was developed by Gremlin Interactive for the PlayStation and Windows in 1998 and was the official video game for the Nagano Winter Olympics 1998 ice hockey tournament.
Actua Tennis (1998)
Actua Tennis was developed by Gremlin and released on PlayStation in 1998 and Windows PC in 1999. A Saturn version was also announced, but never released. The game featured players which were motion captured from real tennis players and commentary by Sue Barker and Barry Davies.
Actua Soccer 3 (1998)
Actua Soccer 3 arrived in late 1998. For the first time, both club and national teams were present, plus other teams (such as Arsenal LFC) and various joke teams. While its predecessor had been criticised for the absence of club teams, Actua Soccer 3 featured a total of 25 leagues with 450 national and international teams, more than any game of the time except the earlier Sensible World of Soccer as well as over 10000 players. The graphics used a slightly improved version of the Actua Soccer 2 engine with much improved weather effects. Trevor Brooking was replaced by Martin O'Neill as Barry Davies' commentary partner. "Let Me Entertain You" by Robbie Williams was the only ingame soundtrack, while the classical operatic theme Cavalleria Rusticana (Rustic Chivalry) by Pietro Mascagni was played during the game's introduction video.
Pool Shark (1999)
Pool Shark was developed by Gremlin for PlayStation and Windows in 1999. The game was also released under the name Actua Pool. A sequel was developed in Europe in 2004 for the PlayStation 2 and Windows under the name Pool Shark 2 by Blade Interactive It was not a part of the Actua series as the series had ended years prior, and Gremlin had closed. In 2007, a port of Actua Pool was released for the Nintendo DS, named Underground Pool in North America.
Actua Ice Hockey 2 (1999)
Actua Ice Hockey 2 was developed by Gremlin Interactive for the PlayStation and Windows in 1999. It featured fictional counterparts to the National Hockey League teams.
Actua Golf 3 (1999)
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Both games went on to become massive sellers, with FIFA storming the Christmas charts and Actua going on to become the third fastest-selling CD game in history...
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