Actua Sports was 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: UEFA Challenge, developed by the now Sheffield House, was published in 2002 and the rights of the Premier Manager franchise were acquired by Zoo Digital Publishing.
|Title||Year||Also known as||Platform|
||MS-DOS, PlayStation, Sega Saturn|
||PlayStation, Sega Saturn|
|Actua Soccer Club Edition||1997||MS-DOS, PlayStation, Sega Saturn|
|Actua Golf 2||1997||
||PlayStation, Microsoft Windows|
|Actua Soccer 2||1997||PlayStation, Microsoft Windows|
|Premier Manager 98||1997||PlayStation, Microsoft Windows|
|Actua Ice Hockey||1998||PlayStation, Microsoft Windows|
|Actua Tennis||1998||PlayStation, Microsoft Windows|
|Actua Soccer 3||1998||PlayStation, Microsoft Windows|
|Actua Pool / Pool Shark||1999||
||PlayStation, Microsoft Windows, Nintendo DS|
|Actua Ice Hockey 2||1999||PlayStation, Microsoft Windows|
|Actua Golf 3||1999||PlayStation|
|Premier Manager Ninety Nine||1999||PlayStation, Microsoft Windows, Nintendo 64|
Actua Soccer series
Actua Soccer 3 UK cover, featuring Alan Shearer.
|Platforms||PlayStation, MS-DOS, Windows, Sega Saturn, Macintosh|
|First release||Actua Soccer
|Latest release||Actua Soccer 3
- Actua Soccer and Actua Soccer Club Edition
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; 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 Soccer 2
Actua Soccer 2 or sometimes Actua Soccer 98 due to its capitalisation on the 1998 FIFA World Cup was one of the many football titles released to capitalise on the 1998 World Cup, and 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 be activated 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 Soccer 3
The last of the series, 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.
Actua Golf series
It was followed by Actua Golf 2 (known as Fox Sports Golf '99 in North America), also developed by Gremlin Interactive for the PlayStation and Microsoft Windows. It was released in September 1997 for the PlayStation and May 1998 for Windows. Actua Golf 2 received mixed reviews. Aggregating review website GameRankings gave the PC version 70.50% and the PlayStation version 38.75%.
The third and final game, Actua Golf 3, was developed by Gremlin and released on the PlayStation on 1 June 1998. The game received an average score of 70.50% at GameRankings, based on an aggregate of 2 reviews.
Actua Ice Hockey series
Like Actua Golf, the Actua Ice Hockey series was developed by Gremlin Interactive. Two games were released in the series: Actua Ice Hockey for the PlayStation and Windows in 1998, and Actua Ice Hockey 2 on the same systems in 1999. Actua Ice Hockey was the official video game for the Nagano Winter Olympics 1998 ice hockey tournament.
Actua Tennis was developed by Gremlin and released on PlayStation in 1998 and Windows PC in 1999. It received mixed reviews. Aggregating review website GameRankings gave the PC version 84.00% and the PlayStation version 53.00%.
Actual Pool was developed by Gremlin for PlayStation and Windows in 1999. The game was also released under the name Pool Shark. A sequel was developed in North America 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.
- The Essential 50 Part 35: Virtua Fighter
- Thomas, Aarud (2005-01-01). "Actua Soccer History" Actua Soccer History". Thomas, Aarud. Archived from the original on 2007-08-20. Retrieved 2009-01-28.
- Hiranand, Ravi (1999-07-07). "Premier Manager 64 IGN preview". IGN. Archived from the original on 2006-04-23. Retrieved 2008-03-17.
- Gallup UK Playstation sales chart, May 1996, published in Official UK PlayStation Magazine issue 6
- "Adidas Power Soccer: Extended Play". Maximum: The Video Game Magazine. Emap International Limited (6): 25. May 1996.
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...
- "Actua Soccer: Fantastic Football Action with Next-Gen Graphics!!". Maximum: The Video Game Magazine. Emap International Limited (2): 134. November 1995.
- "Newest Soccer Contender Fields a Strong Team". GamePro. No. 92. IDG. May 1996. p. 76.
- "Actua Golf 2 for PC". GameRankings. Retrieved 8 December 2013.
- "Actua Golf 2 for PlayStation". GameRankings. Retrieved 8 December 2013.
- "Actua Golf 3 - PlayStation - IGN". IGN. Retrieved 15 April 2016.
- "Actua Golf 3 for PlayStation". GameRankings. Retrieved 8 December 2013.
- "Actua Tennis for PC". GameRankings. Retrieved 8 December 2013.
- "Actua Tennis for PlayStation". GameRankings. Retrieved 8 December 2013.