At the recent ECTS trade show, Cambridgeshire based Just Play showed us a number of their forthcoming titles, and we got to see that the company's growing range really does have something to interest everyone.


Just Football were showing off their new Club Manager titles, of which there's one for each of 18 officially licensed teams ranging from the likes of Chelsea and Arsenal to smaller clubs like Reading and Ipswich Town. Each club has the full 03/04 squad in place, and the use of official photographs similar to those in football sticker books means that you get to see the player instead of just a name on the screen.

Mid-season updates over the internet will help keep the player details up to date, which is fairly vital for a sport which seems to constantly have players and managers changing allegiances more often than the wind! Another novel touch is that the developer Smoking Gun asked football fans if they wanted to be in the game, and so there's 10,000 real supporters who have been photographed, and are either featured as an apprentice player in the team and work up through the ranks of real players, or are depicted as a fan reporter for their club.

Club Manager screen

Matches are played out in a text based format, with a good quality audio commentary which as far as we could tell under the noise of other games at ECTS was that of Sky Sports Andy Gray, which helps to add that extra touch of realism for football fans. This, coupled with the in-depth management features such as picking your team formation, training rosters, and match fitness all adds up to what appears to be a very good football game which can easily rival the other big names, and has the added benefit of being personalised to your favourite club, which makes it a must have for real fans.

Australian developer Auran were showing the upcoming Trainz Railway Simulator 2004 on the Just Trains section of the stand, and revealed how the latest version of Trainz will feature interactive industries, such as a coalmine, container port, forest, lumber mill, and even stations with passengers who board your train when it arrives.

Having these interactive industries means you can drive a loaded tanker train from the oil field to the refinery, where you can unload the oil and then load diesel and petrol before driving to the coal mine where the diesel provides fuel for the machinery to mine coal. Hop in to the coal train and load it up before driving to the powerstation and dropping the load from your wagons at the discharge point.

Trainz Railway Simulator 2004 screen

This realism gives TRS2004 an almost strategy game edge to it, which should help widen the appeal to a greater number of gamers - instead of simply driving a train from A to B, you've now got a real reason to be carrying out the operations which have been set down. What's more if you feel creative you can make your own schedules and even design complete routes in the surveyor tool by placing scenic objects and track in to the fully customisable world.

An increased number of third party objects, trains and routes made by the Trainz community will be included with the simulator, as will support for steam trains including Mallard and Flying Scotsman. Trainz Railway Simulator 2004 will be published by Just Trains in the UK and is expected to go on sale during October.

Search and Rescue 4 screen

Another area of gaming which Just Play are well known for is their Just Flight range, and their newest Search and Rescue title SAR4 was being demonstrated, which revealed improved visuals over the previous title, and appears to have a lot more on offer for both gamers who are simply interested in strategic flight games, and flight simulation fans who fancy testing their skill at piloting a range of helicopters such as the Sea King and HH-5A Dauphin in a range of tricky conditions.

The large amount of keyboard based shortcut commands might appear off-putting at first to new gamers to the SAR series, and there really is a huge number of them which control things like the winchman and searchlight. Thankfully there's a choice of easy or realistic flight modes, making the actual flying of the helicopter much easier for novices, and this allows you to concentrate easier on carrying out your rescue operations, of which there's some 100 single player missions on offer.

Just Play also had a demonstration of the popular Play By Email game Laser Squad Nemesis, which sees you taking part in a two player email-based strategy game, and mixes turn-based control with real-time action - we'll have a full review of Laser Squad Nemesis soon, along with the other Just Trains/Flight titles over the coming months, and in the meantime you can find out more about the latest releases on the Just Play website.