In The Common room of Monumental Games is a well-used table football kit that we use to pass the time while Football Superstars is booting up. Just five minutes of hectic plastic player flicking, ball hitting and guttural swearing is enough to demonstrate how passionate these Nottingham developers are for the beautiful game. Football Superstars is an MMO in which fantasy elves and magic swords are replaced by fantasy football and magic on the pitch, giving you the potential to be the next Rooney or Ronaldo - complete with glamorous lifestyles, fame and swimming pools shaped like flamingos.
The idea is simple - you create your own footballer (complete with stylish Keegan '80s perm if you like) and then join in three, five, seven or 11-a-side matches, with thousands of other online players around the world, either as just a friendly virtual kick about or as part of the club league system containing 14 fictitious teams with names such as Cleevepool FC.
This is where you begin to hone your skills as a star striker, a silky midfielder or a lumpen defender, with RPG-style experience points given as rewards during matches that you can spend on character stats, money, better equipment or fame points to increase your HELLO! magazine wedding feature potential. Fergie won't be happy...
Sim You're Winning
Football Superstars is about player skill and performance in matches, with stats created using an Elo system that assesses everything from the time you have on the ball to the amount of passes you've completed.
You can also buy your own football club - known in the game as PMCs, player-managed clubs - which are Football Superstars equivalent of guilds. You'll be able to name your team (no real-world teams are allowed), design your badge, hang around in your lounge and recruit other players to your team. You can even become a coach or scout - so long as you pay. While the game is free to download and play, you need to subscribe to get access to all of the features and options on offer.
Fortunately, you don't need to pay to get in the game's other major element -the lifestyle world. Here, clean, neatly designed virtual towns are packed with shops, bars, gyms and nightclubs, where you can shop for a new pair of boots to increase your speed (in-game items can be bought with real cash), chat about a recent match using the in-game voice feature, or tap up a journalist to increase your celebrity status - like Second Life for footie nuts.
But all this will be as useless as Darren Bent if the matches aren't any fun.
Given the short amount of time I had to get to grips with the FPS-style controls, and the fact that the game is still in beta. Football Superstars shows a lot of promise. Using mouse look and WASD to move your player in third-person, the space bar to pass and the left mouse button to shoot/tackle. the half-a-dozen Monumental developers and myself had an enjoyable kickabout with only a few angry shouts of "Dirty Leeds!"
Witfr mouse look, you can pick out teammates to pass to with ease, aiming high for headers or low for grasscutter passes, while the football icon, which points to where the ball is when it's offscreen, is intuitive and easy to grasp.
Witfiin minutes I'm making intelligent runs, calling for passes on the wing (helped by surround sound positioning), drifting past defenders, causing horrific fouls and trying desperately to hold onto the ball - the game's decent physics doing a good job of showing up my lack of goal-scoring abilities. In a game like PES you control the whole team, but in Football Superstars the focus is on you - any glaring mistake or enforced error is met with howls of derision from teammates, so you really feel pressure in matches.
Doubts still remain: can it honestly compete for football gamers’ play time with the dominant Football Manager and PES! Will the lifestyle element put off real footie fans from playing? Will the gameplay deliver entertaining football matches that will keep you coming back? Time will tell, but the fact that Football Superstars will be free to download and play - albeit with limited in-game options - means you don’t have any excuse to ignore this game when it launches later this summer.
Download Football SuperStars
Systems: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game features:Single game mode
Football SuperStars Screenshots and Media
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