I didn't really want to put this in the other post, because it's not related to my game. Much.
Since the last post, I've played some new football games, and I figure I ought to give some impressions. So, let's get down to it.
Euro 2008 and FIFA 09
EA really pulled something out of the bag with these ones. I've actually enjoyed the FIFA series since 2005, but it wasn't until 08 that I saw it get better than Konami's efforts. The game now is an excellent tactical football game, tremendous multiplayer fodder, and with a solid single player experience to help it along.
Euro 2008's major draw was the international minnows, so it's a huge shame to yet again see EA ditch the work that's already been done and go back to having about 40 national sides from around the world. Every year I cry for more to be done with the FIFA license, especially following games that back up major tournaments, and every year they fail to deliver.
Still, Euro 2008 had another trick up its sleeve with the Captain Your Country mode. A fleshed out version of 08's Be A Pro, it gave you a new way to play the game and a 20-odd match campaign in which to do it. It had its problems and oddities - player stats decreasing over the two year period like they've just been shot in the legs, and the bizarre need to select three other players whether you've got that many friends or not, but it took over my football gaming time. Sod the team game, I wanted to be me.
FIFA 09 topped it. A better game all round, but the Be A Pro Seasons mode is terrific. It's an arcadey bent in terms of presentation, and as such suffers from some of the same flaws that beset the Career mode in the game, but has a tremendous sense of playing through four years of a player's on-pitch life. Scoring a goal in FIFA has been satisfying for some time. Scoring it thanks to your off the ball movements and link up play is even better.
However, FIFA fell by the wayside when something else arrived...
New Star Soccer 4
Hooray, it arrived!
Now, I'm not suggesting NSS4 is better than FIFA. It's an unfair comparison for a start, like comparing Mario Kart to Gran Turismo, as both have different takes on how football should be played. FIFA is a pure simulation, whilst NSS4 harks back to the arcadey football games of old, where your skill as a player is all that really matters.
No, what made me drop FIFA for NSS4 (in addition to not having to wait for the telly to be free) was the prospect of playing an entire career, across a host of real life leagues. The game lets you start as a 15 year old in any position on the pitch, and play out over 20 or more years as you try to take the world by storm, which provides an interesting comparison - FIFA's the football simulation that takes an arcade approach to playing a career, and NSS4 is almost a polar opposite. It does have arcade-like systems for relationship management and skill improvement through mini-game training sessions, but basing it in a world of real competitions gives it a strong appeal.
I loved NSS3, so was always looking forward to this. Then one day it was revealed that NSS4 would be in 3D, and I think I probably bit my tongue hard. The previous game's 2D mode had only just been introduced and made for an excellent game, and I was skeptical that the same gameplay could be carried over to an extra dimension.
It managed it. In fact, it more than managed it, as I rate the new game even higher than its predecessor. The fully analogue controls certainly help matters, and everything here feels right. Players have a very satisfying weight, which is very evident in-game with stronger players pushing others off the ball and using their bodies to hold possession. After sufficient training, I was able to dribble between gaps in the defence and rely on my player being able to hold off the jostles.
Graphically, it's an interesting one. Up close, the angular players look robotic and blank, and you pine for the pixel art of NSS3. Yet at a playable distance, the bold colours and minimal textures give the game an almost stylised look.
It's not without its faults. Although you can play as a goalkeeper, it's a virtual afterthought with the CPU taking control of everything bar your own positioning, and no training challenges are available. Thankfully, this is already being looked at for a future update. If the controls are as simple and effective as the outfield play, this could be a tremendous feature.
Regardless, it has me hooked, with the same addictive feel that saw me pump so many hours into the last game. And, I guess, it's nice to see FryGUI holding up well in an actual release!