Pro Strategy Football 2014 Review (iPhone)
Though there are a number of arcade titles available in the iOS app store, I tend to gravitate toward the more “thinky” style of game when playing on my phone/iPad. Perhaps it’s the small screen size, the ambiguity of touch controls, or my increasingly slow reflexes.
The same is true of sports games. There are a lot of action-oriented sports titles, but the ones I like most exchange action for strategy: iOOTP Baseball or Blood Bowl, for instance. Pro Strategy Football 2014 falls perfectly into this category, and is one of the best “thinking man’s” football titles available, though it's not without its issues.
PSF 2014 is primarily an in-game football text-sim, meaning (for now) your primary -- and only -- responsibility is to call plays. To that end, PSF 2014 excels at what it does, as the playcalling system is probably one of the deepest in any available sports game. New for 2014 are some options to make this complex system a bit more manageable.
If you played the game at all last year, you’ll recognize the “Hard Core” mode. Hard Core is what PSF used in 2013. You start with any one of a number of formations. From there, you assign a specific play, set individual assignments, designate blitzers or ball carriers, set players in motion, etc. Every play is like painting a picture — you start with the basic structure, fill in the details, and end with a unique design.
For instance, let’s say you need to pick up a long third down. Perhaps you start with the shotgun, 4-WR formation. You decide to line the running back up on the right side and have your weak-side flanker go in motion. You then call for a medium pass, with the intended target your number one receiver, who is running a slant route. You give route instructions to the other receivers, and tell your running back to stay in to block. After all of this is set, you hit “done” and hopefully something good happens.
I wish there was some way to save your best plays, or at least modify a playbook with those you use most often. As it, you'll be "painting" that picture from scratch each time you call a play.
If this sounds too complex or overly-detailed, you can scale things back to the new “casual” mode. Casual mode allows you to call the basic play (medium pass, for instance) and let your coach do the rest. Casual mode is an outstanding addition, which makes the game at once more accessible and more mobile friendly. While I love the detailed approach of hard core mode, I don’t mind Casual’s quicker pace, especially when I’m limited on time. Better yet, you can switch between the two in-game.
Both modes allow a coach to suggest a play entirely, or, provide detailed advice if you’d still like to manage the details.
PSF 2014 uses a Tecmo-like graphical engine to simulate plays. It’s certainly functional, if not beautiful in its retro simplicity. It can be occasionally hard to tell where the ball is, but otherwise the graphics do a good job of communicating turnovers, penalties, etc. Weather effects are particularly nice, considering the style PSF is after. Even the sounds are reminiscent of those classic console games.
Another big improvement for 2014 is a reworked playcalling menu system. It’s still not as streamlined as it could be, but it’s a major upgrade from last year. There’s far less “clicking” and digging into menus to perfect that play. Again, if only you could save your favorite plays for quick access later.
The biggest knock against PSF 2014 is that it still feels somewhat limited. There’s very little roster management, and players — while based on real-life NFL athletes — aren’t editable. You can play a quick exhibition or one season, with again, relatively few options when not in-game.
There is promise of a career mode, with more roster control, but as of this review it’s limited to a quick demo.
Thankfully, you can save mid-game; and asynchronous multiplayer is an option (though I did not find anyone to play against). Both are valuable assets for mobile games.
Pro Strategy Football 2014 is an outstanding, if limited, game. If you view it as primarily a play-calling simulation, it’s outstanding. If you are looking for a full featured NFL text-sim, you’ll be disappointed with its limitations. Should the career mode release in an update and be as good as the play-calling is now, this game instantly becomes a must buy.
Learning Curve: Casual Mode makes things easier; knowledge of football helps
Control Scheme: Menus are much better than last year, but are still a little clunky
Visuals: Great retro look. Except for the aforementioned menus, everything has a very polished feel.
Sound: Good music that’s a bit repetitive supports some classic retro sounds.
Score: 7 (Good)