New Star Soccer 5 – Game Review

New Star Soccer 5

developed by New Star Games

*Fun Fact:  The Vuvuzela is a plastic horn, about 2 feet long, which produces a loud monotone note; mostly found today being used by fans at World Cup Soccer games.  Using one within 20 miles of me will result in me ripping off your lips, breaking the vuvuzela in half, and shoving the pieces of it up your *** sideways

**Disclaimer:  No Vuvuzelas were destroyed, shoved, or otherwise placed within any person or persons bodies during the writing of this review.  (fortunately, it wasn’t necessary!)

Sports Video Games over the past half-decade have been in a serious lull.  Mainstream game developers have been all but tapped out in terms of game design and innovation.  Die hard sports games fans might disagree, but as an avid gamer there’s no denying that when you buy a new sports game made and published by mainstream game studios and publishers, you’re getting the same game as last year, for the same price that it was selling for last year.  Sure, some new features or slight enhancements might be thrown in for filler if you’re lucky.  A slight graphical upgrade might be implemented, where instead of each individual player in said sports game consisting of up to 200 3D-polygons, they now consist of 201.  It’s a sad cycle, and unfortunately, gamers haven’t been smart enough to break it yet.

Thankfully, the fine folks at New Star Games are making games that set things right (for PC and Mac gamers anyway – sorry console owners… you’ll just have to smarten up, or start buying sports games made in 2004 – you know they’re just as good, and besides,    they’ll only cost you a buck or two on eBay!).

Enter New Star Soccer 5.  It’s a soccer simulation game that is part sports game, part life-of-a-soccer-player-sim, part Role-Playing, part mini-puzzle game, and all awesome!  A refreshing take, not only on how a soccer game should feel and play, but how all sports games should be made to play.  There are no graphical gimmicks, no fully rendered 3D player faces, no complicated control schemes involving over two dozen confusing configurations, and no smegging vuvuzelas!  NSS5 is all killer, no filler.

You start off by creating your player character and then setting off on a career in pursuit of becoming a soccer legend.  The player can choose which country they want their character to play for, the league and team of their preference, and finally which position they want to play.  Once that’s decided, being the relatively young soccer runt that your character starts off as, you’ll be given a number of other lifestyle choices and life-like options to choose from.

The player will start with a little bit of cash, few friends, a low-level skill set, and maybe a few of the bare necessities.  Slowly through training, participation in matches and tournaments, a good performance on the field, impressing management, spending time socializing with and meeting new friends or gaining more fans, will your character then start to develop into a skilled, famous, and flamboyant all-star.

You can track your personal stats and the stats of yours and other teams or leagues by simply checking out the status sheet when not playing a soccer match.  Other things you might do outside a match could be things like going shopping, gambling at the casino with your friends, training and upgrading your characters various skills, and negotiating new contracts with other prospective teams.  In order to participate in most of these activities it will cost you time, energy, and money.  Keeping your character financially sound, happy, healthy, and injury free are just a handful of the things you’ll be focusing on when not on the field.  Provided you spend your time and energy wisely, your escapades on the field will be fast paced, exciting, and fun.

In between the more serious aspects of the soccer-player-sim are a dozen or so different mini games that evolve, enhance, or have some affect on your character and his life.  The casino is a fun place to hit up because you can gamble and actually play a hand of blackjack, roulette, or slots – provided you have enough funds to do so.  Among other things, you might find yourself having to do an interview with the local sports news network where you’ll have to answer tough questions properly by selecting the correct answer.  This leads to a funny little rhythm / observational mini-game that plays much like the classic board game “Simon“.  NSS5 is chock-full of these activities and mini-games, and you’ll be surprised at just how much content has been packed into such seemingly simple things as attempting to meet and make new friends.

The better you perform while training and participating in social activities, the more your skills, status, and attributes will be affected in an increasingly positive way.  However, poor performance and poor choices in lifestyle can also lead to negative impacts over all of those character elements as well.  Just ask the first prototype character I tried creating who turned out to be a penniless, alcoholic, pain-killer addicted, tramp of a 16 year old…  and he had so much potential!

Now NSS5 wouldn’t be a soccer game without the actual playing of soccer.  This is actually where NSS5 shines most brightly.  While the characters are somewhat small on the screen, it’s fairly easy to keep track of the ball and your player.  The impressive part here is you only control your character.  Fans of sports games might be a little put-off by this but the implementation is excellent.  It allows the player to focus solely on your characters performance and even though this might seem limiting, your character is not without help.
Your teammates are smart and will try their best to not only defend, but also to win.  As long as you are a team player and you don’t hog the ball too much, they’ll be more than happy to make a pass to you when you’re making that break down the field.  If that wasn’t enough, you can actually curve or get a nice slice on the ball making the ball bend after you’ve taken your shot.  It’s an extremely useful move, especially when the goalie has cut the angle between you and the net!

Control-wise, NSS5 is played using either the keyboard, or a gamepad.  My personal preference is the gamepad, but I found that all of the controls worked fluidly and were very responsive.  The control settings and amount of tweaking you can do with them are awesome.  You can change up almost every aspect of the game to a play style that is most comfortable to you.  Moving, tackling, shooting, and passing, are performed rather easily with a simple and straight-forward control method.  If you’re not exactly comfortable with a setting or find things a bit too simple then you can select an advanced set of controls and further tweak them.  Among these options, you even have some limited control over how the refs will respond and behave.

NSS5 is a great looking game.  We’re not talking FIFA 2011 by EA Games here.  Instead we’re talking highly detailed 2D sprites with excellent animation.  As a spectator it might be easy to mistake the graphics for simple, but upon closer inspection a player will soon notice the impressive effects behind the graphics.  When your player character doesn’t have the ball and is further away from it, the camera zooms out to a wide angled shot.  This shows off the current play wherever the ball may be on the field and your position relative to the action.  As the ball is passed around and gets closer to your character the camera zooms in, focusing on all the nitty-gritty action near and around you.  This effect makes the player feel almost like they’re watching a soccer match on TV, but one that they’re controlling as well (we all know that we’d love to be able to actually control what’s happening on the TV during a match of any sport we love).

The sound effects, music, and especially the ambient sounds are authentic.  This is soccer so you’ll have to be prepared for a ton of whistle blowing but that’s expected.  The thing I love the most about the audio though, are the sounds of the crowd and spectators.  Listening to the enthusiastic chants or raucous displeasure made by the fans is spectacular.  It adds an extra dimension to the 2D graphics, and gameplay.  Obviously there are no freakin’ vuvuzelas (at least not during any of my play time).  And let us hope that future updates will continue to omit this offensive novelty.

If you’re a gamer, and I know you are because you’ve read this far, then you may or may not appreciate sports games.  Some gamers might be intimidated by sports games because of their complexity, or may not understand the rules, or perhaps, simply dislike the style of gameplay.  If you’ve ever had an inkling toward buying a sports game though, then I highly suggest you make NSS5 your first one.  You’re getting the ultimate bang for your buck, especially when compared to other modern mainstream sports games out now.  Because, New Star Soccer 5 is easy to get into, fun to come back to, challenging to master, entertaining to simply watch, and as addictive as your favorite food. Hell, even if you’re not a sports game fan, or a soccer fan, you should try this game out.  You might find yourself pleasantly surprised.  Quite simply, if you’re a gamer and you love games, then you will more than likely find something about NSS5 you’ll enjoy or end up loving.

As for you veteran sports game fans, now’s the time to face facts and admit defeat.  Other sports games are tired and old rehashes of the same game, over and over, with every subsequent year of their release.  Other series of sports games follow tired formulas that do little to innovate or evolve past their long line of progenitors.  With NSS5 you’ll have a reason to start enjoying sports games again and can only hope that the big name developers and multi-million dollar publishers will take a long hard look at NSS5 to see what makes a good sports game, clean, simple, addictive, and fun.

You can purchase New Star Soccer 5 on PC or Mac by going to the New Star Games website over here!  Do it, do it now!