In a world full of massive AAA budget sports titles and bloated card modes, I will always embrace the efforts of independent developers trying to deliver something unique. We have seen multiple developers take this route, and even more so recently. Indie developers seem to gravitate to the sport of football quite often, as evidenced by games like Sunday Rivals, Legend Bowl, Maximum Football, and now Football Simulator.
Refactor Games are entering the fray with a new IP titled Football Simulator and are looking to deliver an experience full of options and modes. There are some solid choices right now, but the football scene still has room for a new kid on the block, assuming it offers something different than what is currently being offered. So does Football Simulator offer something the community can get excited about and behind? It’s early, but let’s take a look.
What Is Football Simulator?
According to the developers, it is a game that will look to deliver a full-fledged football simulation that includes the following:
“Football Simulator is a unique physics-based football game where you can struggle through and break tackles for first downs, juggle tipped passes, and make diving interceptions. You can also be the cinematographer and create your own videos using the replay system.
In the RPG Season Mode, you play as the coach of your team. Explore a vast sports complex. Collect new playbooks. Build your dream team with editable rosters and Fantasy Draft. Play RPG Season Mode with up to 3 friends in local co-op (online coming soon).
Play local multiplayer or online through Steam Input / Steam Home Streaming (TBD). Online multiplayer is in development. In-depth modding system for rosters, jerseys, teams, players, and more.”
That is just the basics of what they hope to accomplish, but the breakdown of the game on Steam is much more detailed and gets into the secondary details of the title, which includes things like an online H2H mode where you can share mods, online leagues, and an “enhanced” RPG mode.
What I Like – Football Simulator
In previous indie football games, the player models were either created in a unique form that mimicked player models from the past or struggled to come close to models we are used to seeing in bigger budget games. As soon as the action on the field presented itself, it was easy to see the quality of the player models in Football Simulator. The title is in very early access, and improvements will be made as the developers move toward the final retail release, but what’s here is impressive.
Some of the better looking aspects of the player models include each player’s helmet design and physiques. While limited in design, the helmets look realistic in size and design, which is essential for model-specific realism. On the player design side of things, although there is only a slight variation in the models right now, they are well done as a whole and will continue to improve as the game continues through the early access phase.
I hope to see more significant player, weight, and size differentials for the final retail version, but the foundation is strong with different skin tones, face designs, facial hair, and tattoos.
Physics are a tricky thing to put here as the game physics are in the early stages of development, as stated by the developers themselves. So, looking at the game with that mindset, I could see past the quirks and issues with the utilization of “ragdoll” physics and see the possibilities for the future. In my short time with the game, it feels on the same level as what Backbreaker delivered, and while that game also had its own set of issues, Football Simulator is in the genesis of its development.
The community will also have access to the physics to help reshape it as the game continues through development — and even after the final release. There were times during play when things worked adequately and played out exactly as one would visually expect. It wasn’t consistent, but the game moved well and was fluid in both motion and collision detection when things worked correctly.
As I mentioned, there is still plenty of weirdness with the game physics, but this is an area that still is under development. We will dive deeper into how the game physics have transformed over the early access stage during our final review.
The developers place Football Simulator in the category of easy to mod. That is one of the “back of the box” selling points. This is extremely important for a non-licensed title and helps create a community regarding creative teams that will design and distribute graphic mods for the game. What’s extremely exciting is that Football Simulator is ahead of the curve in stadium design. Every stadium in the game closely resembles its licensed NFL counterpart and comes as a blank canvas created with the Unity Engine.
This is a brilliant move by the developers and tells me they are all in on the community modding their game in many ways. This decision gives the modding community the instant ability to “paint” the canvas as close as possible to the real-life stadium, including banners, flags, flagship station boards, and national coverage boards, like NFL Network, ABC, CBS, Fox, and ESPN.
Also, the fields can be designed to match the actual NFL fields to help add to the overall level of authenticity and immersion. Such a simple choice to deliver a product in such a way will significantly impact the world of design and modding. Again, the developers made an excellent choice to embrace this aspect instead of shying away from it.
A bit of a side note here, while most stadiums look almost identical to their NFL counterparts, a few have more considerable variations and aren’t exact replicas. Hopefully, these models can be modded from the base up in the final game, and those that differ significantly can be altered.
What’s Next – Football Simulator
For those looking for a replacement or alternative to Madden in a more realistic realm, there is some hope here with Football Simulator. The game doesn’t have the budget or workforce that a large AAA development team can provide, but that doesn’t mean it can’t offer at least a secondary option for those interested.
It is essential to look at the core of the game and the roadmap at this stage. If the core is good and the roadmap aligns with what the community is hoping for, then that offers the opportunity for the game to find its footing and continue to develop well past the retail release. I will say that after multiple exhibition games and spending hours watching replay after replay to see how players interact and move, there is enough here for me to be excited about and monitor the progress of the game.
Many of us have been down this path before, but Football Simulator seems to be a little more advanced and refined than what we have been offered back in terms of realistic gridiron action. If you are interested in seeing how the game progresses or want to participate in the early access opportunity, Football Simulator can be found on Steam right now.