Like all beautiful things (Sheryl Cole, anyone?) Football Superstars is dead simple. Everyone loves football, right? And MMOs are an increasingly compelling alternative to the humdrum of real world considerations such as the price of a pint and the question: 'will my wife mind if I turn the lounge into a Pro Evo gaming shrine'? So why not combine the two?
Football Superstars is the result of just such a 'it's so obvious it has to be done' meeting of ideas down the pub. The game casts you as a fledgling footy star, good enough at 16 to be a professional with all the potential to become a global icon. You play all your matches, hooking up with team-mates for real-time footy games that will help you develop your skills, gain notoriety and - above all, perhaps - wealth.
Yup, money makes Football Superstars' world go round. Dosh you acquire can be offloaded on luxury items and all manner of other goodies in the 'lifestyle world', a sprawling series of cities where you can live the life of a football icon. Hang on, was that a greased pole we spotted in the basement nightclub they just showed us?...
The First Half
If it sounds a bit schizophrenic, we have to admit that FS did strike us as being a bit mental -in a good way. The challenge of creating both a compelling football action game and a satisfying second life environment where you can forge relationships with other players (and NPC barmaids, by the looks of it) is, well.. Monumental.
We suspect that during the course of development Monumental will have to prioritise one aspect of the game over the other, but for now we're absolutely hooked on the possibilities this fully fledged alternative football universe presents. As we discovered when we visited Monumental's new Nottingham HQ, the football side of things is at the moment the less developed area of the game, but as CEO Rik Alexander points out there's a lot less to do here than in a traditional action game such as FIFA or PES.
For starters your opponents are all human, so there's no need for complex AI programming. What's more, because all players are individuals, it's up to gamers, formed into squads of our own, to make the action on the pitch realistic.Ultimately the better players, according Rik, will be those who work with their team-mates that will enjoy big wins.
Right now the dev team is in the throes of motion capture, so the small sided match they showed us required the use of our not inconsiderable imaginations. Stiff sliding tackles and ballooned shots did little to distract us from the potentially enengaging prospect of human-controlled teams going full tilt in pretty stadia. At the moment, all controls are mapped onto a single button, which will be totally alien to modern day football action gamers
The Monumental guys are confident that the controls will work, however, with on-screen prompts designed to give you a sense of the movement of the ball. The developers are also promising that the system will be intuitive, yet deep enough to offer more experienced players a challenge of improving. Just as soon as we get our hands on them, we'll let you know if the controls live up to the billing.