Text based simulator games have been around for over 20 years and counting. For years the genre was dominated by soccer and baseball simulators. There has not been much in terms of American Football simulators. Since Barcode Games joined the fold with Pro Football Simulator in 2009 there is a lack of competition. Sports Mogul does have their take with Football Mogul, but the real giant in the industry was Front Office Football by Solecismic which had been around since the late 90’s. PFS would need to show significant improvements over FOF football whose latest contribution was in 2007. But how does it stack up against the original American football simulators?
Barcode games initially developed PFS to be an online football manager. The problem is that the text based simulator genre is already a niche genre, so further limiting your focus group to online managers is going to limit your success. PFS soon realized this and with the addition of a single player career mode the game really takes off. At first start up PFS allows for you to play in one of three modes. First option being back to the games roots in an online league. Second and third options being career and sandbox mode. Career is what you think of when you play simulator games. You pick your team and manage all aspects for as many seasons as you wish. Sandbox mode allows you to manage the entire league, take control of who you want, move them where you want and really build the league how you want it to look.
Let’s jump right into the meat and potatoes and talk about what career mode offers. In just starting a game, in itself you’re faced with a tough decision. The game has amazing customization that it throws at you right from the get go. You first have the option of 29 different league formats ranging from NFL to UFL all the way up north to create your own CFL. While your league format options are great, if you’re looking for CFL or UFL rosters this time around you will be disappointed. Although, if you put in the time you can build any roster you want. While the CFL and UFL rosters are not found, the big time NFL rosters are there and you can play from any time period you want. Want to go back to the 90’s and actually win the Bills a Superbowl? Or if you are like me go back and erase the Detroit Lions – Matt Millen era it is all there for you to do.
So you started your game, now what? Well there is a lot to like about PFS, however there are also some flaws that could hold back the full potential of the game. One of the things you may notice is the game is a little bland on the eyes. There is a default background image (but can be changed) and after that that is the extent of your graphics. The menus can take a bit to get used to, being for the most part a white background and some black and blue text. Let us remember, it is a text based simulator so we should not get too hung up on graphics this go-around.
The simulation engine is fantastic and where many games fail, Pro Football Simulator shines. The biggest complaint you hear about these games are unrealistic statistics. Nobody wants to see every NFL record broken in the first 2 seasons. PFS does a great job keeping numbers on a realistic level.
The engine is great but in management terms some things may need to be improved in single player career to really take the game to the next level. First thing is the trading, if you like a player you can go out and acquire him, but what really takes away from the management experience is that the AI does not offer you trades, or trade amongst themselves. The only other flaw in the management aspect of the game is that when you re-sign players there is no negotiation, you either take what they ask for or not. The game really shines when drafting and in free agency. Contract offers are great, you are given a range that a player expects, and you pick the number of years. You submit the offer and the player takes in all offers and decides which is best. Ranges of the top end players can be pretty high and adds an element of strategy; Do you overpay and risk putting your team in cap trouble? Or do you go cheap and hope you do not get outbid? The draft is really fun because of the unpredictability of the engine. You have your attributes to gauge whether a guy is going to be good or not and you will get those can’t miss prospects but with the development engine you might be drafting a late round gem or a first round bust. The only thing that would make it better is a scouting system that helps give you some idea on the potential of a player. The ability to export and edit the draft class, or create your own is excellent and adds the ability to keep this game up to date for as far into the future as you want to go.
My name is SUH! How do you do?
Watching and managing the actual weekly games is a lot of fun. The game is equipped with custom playbooks, you can pick whatever plays you want in that playbook. Unfortunately you can not pick the play that is called when you watch the game, but you can set your tactics so your team does what you want in any situation you can think of. The ‘watch your game screen’ has a nice look to it, much like many simulators, you see both teams displayed as little dots. The playback is very fluid, and you have the option to skip ahead to the next play if you choose or if you have seen enough you can exit the playback and let it sim to the end. The only draw back is you are locked into the default speed, so if you want to speed it up or slow it down you are out of luck.
When the game gets back to its roots in online play it is a true treat to play. When you can find a group to play with that is. Interacting with a group of real managers really adds excitement and a challenge to the game. Drafting that late round steal is much more enjoyable knowing that you can rub it in your co-managers face when that player leads you to the Superbowl. The game uses the HTML export format allowing managers to join a league even without owning the title, although it makes it much more fun if you do. The HTML export is somewhat customizable, but does not really need it because the export is really nice to look at once you get it on a webpage.
I have left what could be considered the game’s best feature for the end. This could change as the game gets bigger, but the support of the game is second to none and updates come fast and are jammed packed with updated features. Where many games would have released a sequel requiring you to shell out another $25, PFS will release you an update. The only thing in terms of the community that could improve is the add-on and roster mod’s, but as the game grows so does this section. The game is always growing and Barcode game developers are always willing to listen to the customer on how to make the game better and this is why Barcode game’s Pro Football Simulator is a must have for any football fanatic.
At retail $25 USD you are looking at below to average for price range that you find for simulation games. You don’t really see games under the $25 price too often, and more often than not the ones that are aren’t very good games. PFS is very well priced and the almost monthly updates are jam packed with content upgrades.