I’m no Bill Belichick. That much should be obvious. But how many of us out there who are fans of other teams think “Geez, those morons in the front office.. I could do better then them given half a chance”
Well, here’s your half a chance folks. Wolverine Studios has released its latest Pro Football Sim, Draft Day Sports Pro Football 2020, and for the price of $34.99, you too can become a master of wheeling, dealing and coaching. ( The cut-off sleeve’d hoodie and headset, however, you’ll have to supply for yourself)
What does DDF:PSFB20 bring to the table? It brings something that other sims don’t have, a 2D engine, and it definitely makes a big difference on how you coach the games. Building custom playbooks and setting up matchups is great, and it’s in the key matchups that small details matter. You can see your guards pulling out in front of the running back in the sweep.. if they’re lagging behind, you know that it’s time to start searching the draft for someone who has better speed than an overstuffed snail.
But the best 2d Engine won’t mean a thing, unless the underlying code is solid. Does it put out stats that would seem believable? To test this out, I created a fictional league, and simmed a number of seasons (something the game makes easy to do, I just pressed “simulate multiple seasons” and within 15 or 20 minutes, I was ten years in the future.
The numbers actually looked pretty good. Everything seemed to be about normal. And then I discovered something that made my inner stat geek stand up and take notice.
Do you see that? (click if you can’t). It breaks the quarterback’s passing attempts down into nine zones (Short/Medium/Long for distance and Left/Middle/Right for part of the field). Maybe because I’m sensitive to the accusation that our local QB is a “System Quarterback”, but this kinda stuff is great in judging a QB’s value. Do you have a mad bomber who will be loading up for low completion percentage bombs (but when he hits will move the ball down the field in bunches?), or do you dink and dunk your way down the field, where you need more accuracy and drives take longer.
That’s what goes into Football these days. It’s all matchups. And I’m including the coaches in that, possibly THE most important matchup in football. The best coach they say is one who “Can beat yours with his, then turn around, give you his players and beat them with yours”
That’s what makes DDS:PF20 fun to play.
You know what else is fun to play about DDS:PF20? That they do a pretty good job of making the universe feel “real”, instead of just a collection of names and player grades. For example, they provide a game of the week and break it down, like you would on your pregame show. Here’s an example:
Game of the Week: Orange Sailors at Jacksonville Fighting Lions
Our Expert Predictions:
Jeremy Piper : Jacksonville Fighting Lions I do not think you get very far against their offense. They will put up a lot of points.
Mary Moore : Orange Sailors For this game, my opinion is that Eloy Metz – DE will be a key figure in this game. Do not sleep on this guy’s ability. A single digit win.
Jim Nox : Jacksonville Fighting Lions This defense is likely to step up this week. The way they win this game will tell a lot about what they are as a team.
Darren Francis : Jacksonville Fighting Lions With leaders like Dean Grubb – RB and Joshua Carrington – G in the locker room it is easy to see why the Fighting Lions win this game. Replace the batteries in your remote. You do not want to miss this game.
See what I mean? I can see this getting upgraded with play by play in the 2D engine going forward where there’s a play by play announcer giving the bare bones “Handoff to Justice up the middle, gets five yards and moves the chains”, and then a color commentator spitting out key information “Thomas made a great block to open that hole long enough for Justice to get through”.
Coaching is the lifeblood of every sports sim, and this game has plenty of it. Scouting, Drafting, signing free agents and contracts are all key issues. Screw up one of them and the the whole thing can break down. And again, the game does a good job of presenting the information you need to know.
There are niggles.. there are sometimes some issues with timing of plays, especially in the last two minute drives, and I would like some more options for automation. The 2D engine could use a bit more spit and polish too (for example, it’s sometimes hard to tell whether a short pass was caught or not, until you go back to the call play screen. That keeps the game at good instead of great.. but if you’re good, you’ll be hanging around the league for years to come.
But the folks at Wolverine Studios have shown time and time again that they’re willing to work at making their game better. If you’re ready for some football, DDS:PF20 will definitely feed your need for pigskin.
Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s a hidden gem in the third round that I’ve kept my eye on, and I’m going to grab him now.
The Verdict: Wolverine Studios lays out a challenge to the other football games on the market, and says “You’d better bring your A-Game and a lunch pail if you’re going to beat us”. They’ve done the Revolutionary work. Now it’s time for the Evolutionary upgrades. 82/100
(courtesy notice: I was provided a review copy of this game)
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.