“Sign up now for the biggest multiplayer, PvP football game ever. Go head-to-head with players and teams from around the world, competing in friendly matches, leagues and cash prize tournaments.
Take your player from Sunday League unknown to International Superstar by training hard, winning games and being interviewed by journalists to advance your celebrity status.”
So screams the blurb of Football Superstars, the latest online Fantasy Football game set to take the world by storm. It is quite a boast, and one which offers a rather unique appeal to online gamers. After all, isn’t football superstardom all kids dream about these days?
Well, if it is, then this is the game for you. As an idea, Football Superstars (henceforth to be known affectionately as FS) may have a slightly adolescent feel to it, but as a game it plays like David Villa. On a good day.
Ok, first, the bad news. FS takes a while to get into. Literally. The software needed to run the game, whilst free and relatively easy to download, takes a while to arrive. Obviously this issue is dependent on your PC speed, but for me it took around 35 minutes to download. Not a problem if you have the time, but still something of a pain in the “need it now” modern age.
Additionally, although the game is ostensibly free to play, there is ‘premium’ content which can be accessed only through paying a monthly subscription fee. Again, this is fine if you intend to get stuck into your career as a superstar, but a bit less appealing to the casual gamer, bred on a diet of FIFA and PES.
Nonetheless, once the game is downloaded and installed – and I would also recommend a thorough browse through the ‘Game Guide’ section on the game’s homepage (see below) – it is immensely rewarding.
The game’s intriguing feature – its ‘hook’, if you like – is that it comes closer than most to merging fantasy with reality. Of course the basis of FS is that it is a fictional game, but the options available to players mean it is possible to immerse oneself in the idea of being a genuine footballer, a genuine star. The fact that you play your own matches, using your PC/laptop’s keyboard as controls – which, in truth, are way too complex to go too deeply into here – adds to the experience, and means that you cannot afford to go at the game half-heartedly. Just like in real-life, I guess.
Basically, after setting up a player profile, and then downloading a further load of information, players enter into an FS ‘world’ – Pele for experts, Cruyff for beginners (though perhaps Babel would have been more appropriate). In this world, your aim is to develop your footballer from eager beaver beginner to seasoned superstar. Simple? Well, not quite.
Setting Up a Profile
Much like the career of a modern footballer, with off-field issues now as prevalent as anything else in the game, there is incredible complexity to the game. And at times in FS, this complexity can border on being plain baffling.
You start off at the ‘Puma Academy’, where you will (hopefully) learn the basics of FS. There are many types of games in which you can involve yourself – ranging from simple training exercises (designed to help players master the game’s controls and nuances), to full-blown PMC (Player Managed Clubs) matches. Confused? I was.
These games are played out in glorious – if slightly clunky – 3D (see below), and you control your own individual ‘superstar’ amid a team of other players. Experience, and money, is gained through performing well, scoring goals, making tackles, and winning matches. This is then used to help upgrade skills (which can be done in the FS Gym as well as on the training field), purchase equipment (boots for example) and boost fame.
It is painstaking stuff, though the fact that the game is fully interactive – there are chat/messaging features which help players converse with their peers across the network, and give the game a less insular feel than, say, Championship Manager. And, with the off-field activities, the game opens up a whole new world.
Fancied attending awards ceremonies? Living it large in the bars of LA and Monte Carlo? Dating a model? You can (kind of) do all that here. Fame is the new sibling of football success, and FS is prepared to use it to good effect here. Boot deals are negotiated, FS ‘Bonds’ (which can then be transferred into FS ‘Dollars’) can be used for off-field ventures, so users can follow in the footsteps of Steven Gerrard and launch a restaurant, or have their own range of aftershave like David Beckham. Glitz, and indeed, glamour.
Of course this does not really have much to do with football, when all is said and done. And for those angry at the modern game’s desire to move as far away from the working-class roots from which it sprung, the morals of FS can stick in the craw. Yes it encourages hard work, but for material rewards only. Glory is not something that feels real in this game.
Which is a terrible shame, as the game has gone to great lengths. It is undoubtedly layered in a way that it would be almost impossible to see the full benefits from just a couple of days’ (or even weeks’) play. The game engine itself, whilst hardly FIFA or PES, is passable, and the system is well presented, and pretty easy to navigate. The FS site also provides in-depth coverage in other areas; their forum is extensive and well-managed, and there are enough statistics there to sink a battleship.
The trouble with the game is two-fold; firstly, the time it takes to play, and the level of knowledge required to do so. This will undoubtedly deter those who like their Fantasy Football fixes short and sweet. Secondly, the idealisms for which it stands. Become a ‘superstar’ it tells you, live life fast and get your face on the telly. The problem is, a lot of football supporters are sick of seeing footballers’ faces on their screens, on billboards, on front pages.
The age of the ‘Superstar’ may be upon us, but not everyone is ready to embrace it. Not yet, anyway.