rivals prototype impressions

Rivals Prototype Impressions: New Indie Football Game Showing Promise

One of the perks of being a writer here at Operation Sports is being able to try games you otherwise might not know about. Over the last 365 days, I’ve been fortunate enough to play or review every football game that has come on the market. So, when I was asked to give my impressions on the prototype for Rivals, I was excited because it’s a new indie football game and Ryan Kamins, one of the developers on the game, has this goal:

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“My goal for Rivals is to build a game that eventually plays like the legendary football games of the 8/16 bit era, improved with some modern touches that we couldn’t yet imagine back then.”

Please keep in mind that these impressions are made with a very early build of Rivals. The developers went as far as saying this was only in the works for a few short months, so it’s just an early taste of what we can expect when the game is finished and ready for release. When that final release will be is anyone’s guess, but this game will most likely start as an early access title on Steam at some point.

Nevertheless, here are my Rivals prototype impressions.

What I Like


I need to reiterate how hard It is to pass judgement on a game that has been in development for only a few months. But I can say with 100 percent confidence that based on the time I spent with the game, there’s a lot to like about Rivals.

Not only does it feel different than other games on the market, but the animations are a breath of fresh air. Yes, it’s simplistic and not overly complicated. It’s the perfect game for casual fans. But it also feels more refined than games I’ve previously played. I’m not sure I can explain it, but it takes me back to my childhood while staying true to modern video games.

The playbook is also rather in-depth for an indie game and something that could continue to expand throughout development. This is definitely something to keep a watchful eye on as they continue to tweak the game.


Maybe, it’s just the old-school gamer in me, but I thoroughly enjoy the way Rivals looks and feels. Players don’t feel too fast or “arcade-like” and there’s plenty of realism to go around. For me, besides the promising gameplay, I find myself getting lost in the retro graphics. Sure, players don’t differentiate much from one another, but it truly feels like an updated version of the early Nintendo games.


Two things I continue to reiterate throughout this article are this.

  1. The game is in extremely early development.
  2. There’s a ton of potential, and I’m excited about future updates.

There’s a ton of potential with Rivals, and I think with the right time and development, this could be one of the most anticipated sports games later in the year. Of course, that depends mostly on how far along we are in development. Either way, I have a tangible amount of excitement for this title, and that’s rare for me these days.

What I Don’t Like


One of the hardest things in sports gaming is finding a way to make players look and feel like their real-life counterparts. And although Rivals isn’t a realistic representation of the NFL, there are still some things that are expected. Running animations can feel a bit clunky, and watching receivers run routes is a bit of a letdown. This is also without mentioning the trenches and how flawed this can feel at times. But again, it’s hard to sit here and critique a game that hasn’t had an adequate amount of time. I do like the player models, which tend to look more like Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots than football players.

rivals prototype impressions

More, More, More

I’m not sure you can fault Rivals for not having a finished game with 32 teams, a fully functional playbook and a 17-game season — and yet here I am longing for those things. My biggest gripe with Rivals is that there’s not more for me to play. That, to me, says a lot about the direction of the game and where it’s headed. With more time and the right vision, Rivals could be one of the better sports games on the market. I do look forward to the next update and every update that follows.

Bottom Line

In the end, the Rivals prototype is a bare-bones version of what the final installment might look like, which I suppose is exactly what a prototype should be. And although that might not seem like a good thing to some people, it is. Out of all the football games I’ve played over the last year, not many have given me a reason to believe. Rivals has, and I look forward to the finished product and every update in between.

It might not be the same 16-bit football video game you grew up with, but for a modern-day version, Rivals does a lot right so far.

Josh Houtz
Josh Houtz has been playing sports video games since before he could walk. He joined Operation Sports as a writer in 2016. During this time, he has covered various sports games, but the franchises he remains the most passionate about are Madden, Skate., and WWE 2K. Houtz is a husband and father of three little girls. He’s also a diehard Miami Dolphins fan. Follow houtz on X @houtz.