The lights are on
I plunge hundreds of hours into hardcore sports sims every
year, but looking back at my past I realized I spent nearly as much time
jamming away at buttons in charming arcade titles like Baseball Stars and Blitz
as I did racking up wins in NHL or Madden. But as the sports genre has consolidated
over the decades, these lighthearted affairs have all but disappeared. Football
Heroes resuscitates this moribund sub-genre.
Created by a small team of former Pandemic Studios vets
called Run Games, this arcade sports game coming out on the iOS and Android
platforms later this year blends the cartoon violence of games like Arch Rivals
with the side-scrolling play style of Tecmo Bowl.
Before taking the gridiron, you can fully customize
your team by naming it, renaming players, choosing the jersey colors, and
even selecting the logo that appears on your helmets (which can be chosen from
your camera roll or selected from a logo library). Your team retains its
identity whether you are playing online or off. Once you outfit your team, you
can either jump into a series of tiered divisions against the computer AI or
head online for versus matches.
Given that football is a game of strategy, before each team sets up at the line of scrimmage you must
select which play you want to call for either offense or defense. Like arcade football games of old, the defense must select to play against the pass or run, and then
choose from several different traditional strategies like cover two, cover
three, a blitz, etc. If you select a defense that matches up perfectly to
the play the offense called, you can stymie their execution right off the snap
of the ball like in Tecmo Bowl.
On the field, you use a virtual gamepad to control your
player. Before the snap on defense, tapping on any player gives you control of him.
Placing your left thumb anywhere on the lower-lefthand portion of the screen
gives you control of your selected player, and you can navigate him by sliding your finger in the appropriate direction. When you approach a ball carrier, you can either dive to make a
tackle by swiping with your right finger or run into him to engage in fisticuffs. By tapping repeatedly on the righthand-side of the screen, you can down the player with a fury of punches and kicks, but watch out – they fight back.
When in control of the offense, you pass by tapping the intended receiver. Running the football feels much like Tecmo Bowl, as you can navigate diagonally to avoid tackles and repeatedly tap on the righthand side of the screen to punch out of the grasp of defenders. Skill
players also have cooldown abilities they can employ in the appropriate
context. Quarterbacks can throw charge passes to squeeze the ball into tight
windows and running backs can activate speed bursts to fly past defenders.
Whether you win or lose a game, you earn currency that can
be used to upgrade individual player skills. Each position has a different skill
tree with several different branching paths. For instance, you could pour all your money into passive upgrades like a
running backs' speed or grip (to avoid fumbles), or purchase the previously
mentioned active abilities like spin moves, still arms, or speed bursts. Since
Football Heroes is free-to-play, impatient players can also purchase coin packs
to improve their teams overnight.
On the multiplayer front, Football Heroes features both
local and online versus play. To keep the playing field even, the game analyzes
the overall skill level of your team and matches you with an appropriate
opponent. Rage quitting gives you no XP or currency, which Run Games hopes will
convince the losing teams to stay engaged and take their medicine.
Given the shortage of twitch-based, arcade sports games on
mobile and tablet platforms, Football Heroes could be a breath of fresh air for those looking for more than simple, swipe experiences. To learn more about the game, check
out its Kickstarter page.
Email the author Matt Bertz, or follow on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and Game Informer.
This excites me.
This looks less like a Tecmo Bowl-type game and more like a Kunio Kun (River City Ransom, Super Dodge Ball, Crash N' Da Boyz: Street Challenge, Kunio Kun no Nekketsu Soccer League) version of American Football to me. Just with less charming art (but still pretty good). Makes me wish we actually GOT a Kunio Kun/Crash N' Da Boyz version of that back in the day :)
A shame this is going to be on smartphones though; virtual buttons are not what is ideal for this kind of thing. I'd love for it to hit PSN, Steam and XBLA, but really... if this is the kind of game the Ouya seeks to bring to the TV, than the Ouya seems like it's going to be just fine. This kind of stuff is broadly appealing, cheap, accessible, and not being served up on traditional consoles. Also, Android can dish out games like Infinity Blade, Real Racing 3, Shadowgun, Airmech and Chronoblade. That system is going to have some super fun games; ones that are MUCH IMPROVED over their dumb smartphone versions thanks to BUTTONS.
This needs to be on something with buttons...