A PC game last featured in APMFVGFH back in episode 4, with the legendary Championship Manager 01/02. We return to the platform now with a title from the same period that was similarly based around the world of football while not an actual football simulator, but not to quite the same universal acclaim as CM.
That’s right, here we have the iconic Hooligans: Storm Over Europe; another game that at one point was present in our very own POTP library but later loaned out to a DJ and never returned (we’re not angry, share and share alike). Released in January 2002 as the debut publication of Dutch developers DarXabre, it is as close to “Football Hooligan Manager” as the world has yet seen, or rather “Warcraft 2-meets-hooliganism”.
Unsurprisingly the game received push-back from the outraged football establishment at the time, with the likes of the Dutch KNVB and the English FA both demanding it be banned. As the player takes control of their own firm setting out on a European campaign of destruction, the inclusion of the group name “Tartan Army” as one of a set selection to chose from also drew ire from Scottish supporter quarters; our preference was the ironically inapt Ultra Boys.
Your firm is a diverse group consisting of several distinct types of hool, powered to varying degrees by the intake of booze and drugs, and participation in violence and looting. Without these, they will turn astray back to a peaceful lifestyle.
Types of member include: “the rat”, good at sneaking but with weak drug and alcohol tolerance; the boombox carrying “raver”, with a high drug tolerance but low alcohol tolerance; and “the hooligan”, an expert in demolition and crowd control. There is also “the bulch”, who is, to quote Wikipedia, “an overweight dumb man who functions as the muscle”, and the leader (unfortunately not “Top Boy”), who can carry a gun and rallies the troops like no other.
Threaded in between the various game stages that we will see below, are cheesy cut-scenes of a classic mish-mashed “Hollywood hooligan” group (with different accents), being interviewed under the premise of a Dutch documentary.
The hooligan flag hung high indeed.
Despite this, the game itself is an absolute graphic delight. Here we see the opening level, as riot police with two vans are prepared outside “Station Noord” in a quintessential Dutch city, awaiting the arrival of the firm via train:
Among the many great minor details, a highlight is the inclusion of an Andre the Giant “OBEY” poster adorning the half-pipe of an adjoining skate park.
Like the real hooligan scene of its day, the majority of gameplay takes place away from actual football stadia, but here we get a nice exterior shot of the local ground. A few groups of boys are already mooching about the courtyard, and you better believe that pile of debris cordoned off just outside will soon be repurposed for nefarious means:
Going back to the train station, it is clear that the traveling hooligans have already arrived. We seem to have just missed them, but the gruesome and bloody scene left in their wake leaves little doubt:
The police, meanwhile, have abandoned their line and are regrouping in a shocked pack. Two of their members also lay unconscious across the street, as to the north a firm can be seen rampaging through the high street (note the broken windows at almost every establishment):
Soon they two groups come face to face, with the authorities helplessly outnumbered:
Later, back at the ground, the firm have launched an expert attack outside using the debris and are now rushing in to take the home end:
Further on in the season, here we see what’s meant to be an English city. While a hooligan is entering the pub, we are really highlighting this for the billboard “SUN FUN HOOLIGANS”:
Extra marks for the bloke painting on a scaffold around the corner.
Some more nice architecture and examples of urban planning exist elsewhere in the city along with a beautifully rendered truck, while the thugs appear to go looking for a pray:
Back in the Netherlands, the grounds of a tulip company hilariously sets the scene for the next meet. The hooligans can be seen “tooling up” in a shed:
Again the painstakingly created tractors, greenhouses and pieces of machinery really set the ambience, as well as the beautiful flowers. But wouldn’t you only know it, those yobs have gone and ruined them:
The last stage is based in Germany, and finally we get a look inside a stadium. Some fans are already inside the ground, politely sitting in fetching yellow seats while police guard the pitch:
But unbeknownst to them (although they really should know), outside the hooligans pour from a local boozer:
With tension in the virtual air, the menacing mob make their way to the ground:
The gang swiftly break through the stadium gates (without paying for tickets!) and the riot squad engage with the violent invaders, while innocent civilians flee the chaos screaming for their lives:
While some firm members successfully make it inside, the narrow entrance causes a barbaric bottleneck. The miltarised, 21st century hooligans have brought sophisticated weaponry, as evident from the numerous explosions and resulting plumes of black smoke:
A few coppers stand gormlessly on the pitch, not really helping things at all as the carnage ensues. They are quickly punished for the lax attitude however, as in what really should have been a virtual edition of Pyro On The Pitch, someone accurately throws a deadly bomb in their midst:
Having defeated the first wave of police, the frenzied fans infiltrate the main stand before penetrating the advertisement hoardings and entering the field, while many seated supporters remain admirably calm. Incidentally, the retro dug-outs, though excellent, look slightly out of place compared to the relatively modern little stadium:
At the other end of the pitch, an end of season ceremony has clearly already been ruined as the blood splattered remnants of some unlucky dignitaries currently occupy the podium. An apparent lone survivor of this particular slaughter – perhaps experiencing survivor’s guilt – hangs around awkwardly, while a firm of the opposing team’s fans also stand idly by, not quite sure what to do in the face of these cold-hearted cop-killers:
At last the two firms come face to face for the final battle and given the number difference, combined with the meekness of the home fans, the brutal massacre that follows is not hard to predict. A small regiment of police, busy patrolling the end behind the goal, wisely turn a blind eye:
With their biggest rivals bloodied and beaten on the grass, many of the gang fittingly stand on the podium as the undefeated, champion army of Europe:
But you ‘re forgetting one thing: the biggest firm is the Old Bill. They are back and cordon-off the blood-soaked pitch that now resembles the Battle of the Somme, trapping a small mob near the corner flag:
Thankfully from the hooligan’s perspective, some poisonous gas perhaps left over from the battle of Verdun is on hand, which they use to cause another atrocity. Those officers left standing run for their lives, leaving the remains of their comrades to rot on the unholy battlefield of the pitch, which has been downgraded to a mere arena of mindless violence:
Satisfied with a hard season’s work, and with a collection of fresh skulls in the top left corner of the screen, the hooligans casually leave the ground and eagerly head back toward the Irish bar (we assume) for a well deserved pint, and maybe a few drugs:
With the storm finally over, the innocent peoples of Europe could now start to rebuild their lives. Well, for at least a few months, as in the distance new storm clouds were forming, symbolically representing an even more dreadful conflict than the great war the continent had just endured. That’s right, Hooligans: Storm Over Europe 2, or H:STOEII (release date still TBD).