There’s a quote from The Wire that came to mind when I was playing this game. And that was Omar’s line… “You come at the king, you better not miss”. That thought kept running through my mind. And while DDS:PF16 doesn’t quite miss, it doesn’t land a knockout blow either on its competition. Find out what I thought below. (An8Bitmind note: I was provided a review copy of this game in return for an honest review — DY)
Wolverine Studios has had a history of releasing successful sports sim games in the past, with the praise-worthy Draft Day Sports: Pro and College basketball games, as well as forays into Hockey (Faceoff Hockey) and even a Golf simulation (Total Pro Golf series), so I was rather interested when the announcement that they were pairing with Barcode Games to bring their Pro Football Simulator game under the Draft Day Sports series with a new release. The football sports sim arena has one big dog (Front Office Football), one graphical, now abandoned series (NFL Head Coach), and a couple bargain area games (Football Mogul), so it was interesting to see what DDS: Pro Football 2016 would bring to the table that other games have not.
And there’s three things that DDS:PF16 brings that other games cannot match at this time. First, is fully customizable leagues. One of FOF7’s major issues is that you are locked into a NFL-based league. 32 teams, 8 divisions of 4 teams, etcetera. DDS:PF16 supports varying league sizes (down to 12 teams, and up to 72 teams), which is a good thing if you just want to do a small league, especially with online play. (FOF 7 is not exactly multiplayer newbie friendly, so being able to pit your skills against your friends via the Internet is good). The second thing is in the game engine, as the game offers a 2d game field showing the results of plays as they happened, something I don’t think ANY of the games on the market can do. The third thing is full historical setup, as the game comes with the equivalent of a football encyclopedia installed, allowing seasons to be created from the 1960’s to today (In my first test run, I of course put myself in charge of the 2015 Patriots, just because A) I’m a lifetime New Englander, and B) Because I always wanted to say “Now witness the firepower of this fully ARMED and OPERATIONAL battle station!” with a straight face.)
Ok, I giggled a little as I said that)
There are things it does well (as I said, being able to see the plays as they unfold give you more of a sense of what’s going on in the game, and assures you that it’s not JUST random die rolls that determines your team’s fate), but there are some niggles here, that I have to mention. The user interface is key to the sports sim genre, as they cannot rely on eye-catching graphics or intensively detailed motion capture to make you feel like you’re watching a game. The UI for DDS:PF 16 is.. functional. It does what it needs to and no more. This is a melding of a previous game (updated from Pro Football Simulator) with a new UI, and it shows. The game play graphics are a bit cluttered and could use some delineation (right now, all players stats are put together in one big group. Ideally, it would be broken down into sections (Passing, rushing, receiving, defense, etcetera).
The 2D screen is useful, but it also has some limitations. One of the key things that drags us into watching football every weekend is seeing how key matchups change the game. In a flat 2D screen, It’s hard to tell whether that 20 yard run your running back just made was due to the fact he slipped through a tiny hole and got through with a burst of speed, or if your lineman did a perfect seal block to give the running back a gaping hole and forced the second line to make the tackle. Hopefully, future versions of this game will offer some insights that folks may miss while playing (something like Key Block made by TE Gronkowski, or Missed tackle by DB Revis)
The game stats are not wildly out of line with NFL reality, although some tweaks will be necessary down the road to keep the game in line with reality. There is signing players to either your main roster, or the practice squad, trades, and the NFL Draft and Free Agency (otherwise known as the Silly Season). If you’re looking for a coach simulator, you’re PROBABLY going to want to keep looking, the game calls all the plays, (you just watch a replay of the game), but the plays seem fairly close to what happens every Sunday. One feature that I would love is a “DDS:PF Red Zone” feature, where you watch one game in the main window, and it runs the other games in the background showing when teams are in the Red Zone or when big plays happen, just like the Red Zone package does for the real NFL.
The game is frequently updated, but these are manual updates, you will have to check the Wolverine Studios forums to make sure you’re running the most recent version. I asked if there were plans to sell the game on Steam (to get the game more attention, as well as to make keeping the games updated), and was told that they were looking into options, but nothing is finalized for now.
As I said, this is a first version, matching up an existing game with a new Graphic User Interface, so, it’s not quite seamless the fit, as of yet. But I have good hopes for the future, that as this game grows, and more iterations are released, that the interface will live up to the core that is there, and when it clicks, it can be a very good thing. It’s good to have competition to spur development in this field of games, and DDS:PF 16 definitely brings the competition.
So.. let’s get to the nitty gritty.
The Good: DDS: PF16 has a very impressive core system, and offers things that other games dare not touch. Flexibility, the 2D interface, historical season play from the get-go. As this game goes along, the core will need tweaking, but it won’t need a quantum leap to be very good at what it does, offering a football simmers dream.
The Bad: The UI and the game don’t quite mesh as well as they should.. it’s sometimes easy to have your eyes glaze over as you suffer from statistic overflow. No coach mode.
Should you buy it? DDS:PF16 brings competition to the football sim genre. It came at the king, and it didn’t miss, but it didn’t land a knockout blow either. Hopefully this is the beginning of another long running Draft Day Sports franchise, and as this game gets better, it spurs its competitors to innovate as well.
David "SirFozzie" Yellope is the operator of the "An 8 bit mind in an 8 Gigabyte World". (an8bitmind.com) While not QUITE yet at the stage of waving his cane and telling the kids to "get off his lawn", he does admit he owns three canes.