Ever dreamt of becoming a professional soccer player? Well perhaps you do not have the physique or the proper genes to become one in reality but with New Star Soccer 4 (NSS4), you can be one, digitally. It is just like the current Fifa 09 Be a Pro with a pinch of better simulation and much more depth into it. The major drawback of the game is the graphics. Well, sometimes graphics can be bad but the gameplay is so badass that it doesn’t even matter. That applies NSS4. Graphics are way backwards and is nothing compared to Fifa 09 but the way it focuses on your daily life and how your player develops, fabulous. If you read my Fifa 09 review before, you ought to know how much I whined about the Be a Pro being a Be a Legend. It lets you start of at the youngest age of 18 and only allow you to play up to around 4 or 5 seasons? You stick with the same team forever, no interaction with people etc etc. That’s bullshit. Still, it is a stepping stone and is indeed heading towards the correct direction. Enough about Fifa 09 and let us go onto why NSS4 is indeed a good game.
I know of New Star games since the release of New Star Soccer 3 (NSS3). NSS3 is also like NSS4, slowly growing from being a little kid and unknown figure in the world of soccer to a superstar like Michael Jackson in the music industry back then. To tell you frankly I loved NSS3. It was one hell of a game as I loved the concept of playing as just one individual in a team and improving your own skills from amateur to world class. Since then I always wished that Fifa or perhaps Pro Evolution Soccer would develop on such a beautiful piece of concept. This also tells why I was so hyped up over Fifa 08 when they finally said that such a mode would be available. NSS4 brings the simulation to greater heights. Everything feels much better. Graphics are greatly improved compared to NSS3 and gameplay is much more refine and diverse.
NSS4 is about developing your career as a soccer player. It also focuses on your personal life for example your relationship with your family and friends. A soccer legend would know when it is time to juggle and when it is time to put down the ball and have a dinner with the whole family.
In your soccer career, there are two major components that make it: skills and money. Skills as in how well you dribble the ball, shoot, run, fly whatever. In NSS4, there are 4 categories of skills (sub dividing themselves further into different parts) you can improve in. They are mainly Skills, Tac/Tec (Tactical/Technique), Physical, Mental. In skills you have Tackling, Shooting, Passing etc, Tac/Tec you have Positiong, Vision, Physical you have strength, pace and in Mental you have Aggression, Determination. See all the different categories and sub-categories in detail in the screenshot below:
Skills are developed in the training ground as well as during matches. You shoot well in a match, your shooting increases. You dribble like Cristiano Ronaldo your dribbling skill increases. Almost everything you do in a match affects how you grow. That is something that is commendable as it is just as it is in real life. The more you play, the better you become (usually). This ongoing progression/growth system gets you to give your best in every single match so as to ensure you make the most out of it. However, if your manager is making you warm the bench, you still have a chance to improve your skills on the training ground. At the training ground, you can choose whether you want to improve the skills manually (which usually benefits more in the earlier stages) or automatically where you will increase the skill you are training by 1 point. If you choose to increase it manually, you have to take part in different challenges (depending on the skill you are training in) and how much you excel in it determines how much skill points you are going to get. For example to increase your shooting you have to score goals. Goals give you a score and the score determines how much skill point you are going to get. The further you score your goal, the higher the score will be. It is as simple as that.
Abilities such as positioning, aggressiveness are all improved when you meet certain requirements. For positioning, it increases whenever you receive a pass from a teammate and you are in space. Aggressiveness increases as you slide your opponents down whether with the ball or without it. Flair increases if you do last minute passes or shots. The rest of the different skills can be read up at their official forums on how to improve them. The way the game allows players to train their skills is definitely what Fifa’s Be a Pro should follow as it is the most realistic method. You actually train your own shooting skill as a gamer while your digitalized player improves as well. Kudos for such skill progression and nay for rpg style of upgrading skills. It is not as if players would LEVEL UP after playing a couple of matches.
Moving on would be the contracts and the teams you play in. This is definitely what a soccer simulator should have. Unlike Fifa 09’s Be a Pro, you can change teams throughout your whole career. It is simply realistic to say that one player would often move from team to team in search for either better money or reputation. To say that one player would stick to a club for their whole career wouldn’t be something wrong, just seldom. And if you are looking to start small and go big, you can definitely achieve that in NSS4. As you become more skillful and professional, bigger clubs would be willing to offer money to bring you to their teams. Of course as you become closer to the legend that you want to be, the contract provides money that a legend ought to have. It is fun really to see clubs offer the different amounts of money for you and you negotiating with the board for that extra penny and so on.
It would be good for players to start in the smaller clubs for example the Blue Square Conference (English League) teams such as Oxford United, Wrexham etc. The opponents you face then wouldn’t be too overwhelming such that every time you touch the ball you get muscled off and get tackled. Also you wouldn’t be facing situations that even when the ball is just 10 meters away from you, someone 100 meters away gets to the ball first. Starting at smaller clubs gives the advantage of you starting in the first eleven. Unlike big clubs such as any Premiere League teams, you will find yourself playing on the pitch often rather than warming the bench or worst still sweeping the floors. Always remember that small opportunities are often the beginning of great enterprises.
In most soccer player’s personal life, they usually have only one thing to face, relationship with the people around them. In NSS4, the personal life concept isn’t so detailed but is sufficient. You have to try maintaining a good relationship with your loved ones as well as your superiors. In NSS4, you can have a good and bad relationship with your boss, friends, teammates, fans, family, sponsors, girlfriend (Children eventually) and the media. To increase the relationship with either o the few listed is by spending free time with them and going through a process of a slot system whereby 2 or more matches would get you a plus in your relationship. You can also choose to praise or criticize people and then face the consequences.
Occasionally you would be presented with a situation whereby you can only do one but not the other. The different ways you react would result with different outcomes. For example would you rather stay on the training pitch for an hour more to please your boss or go out with your friends? Things like that happen in real life and is nice to see it happen in the game as well. Decisions are always hard to make, so make one that you would not regret.
Though the personal life aspect of the game is rather shallow, I believe it is sufficient enough for someone who would want to play a soccer simulator. This isn’t the game of life; this is the game of a soccer player. Perhaps in future editions of the game they would expand further into this component, but for now it is just right and enough for me.
In-game controls are best when using a controller. The controls are simple and neat. It is however hard to master but once familiarized, fun to play. At the start you would have difficulties receiving balls passed to you. It is like the ball would always seem to move away from your player unless you stay still upon receiving one. Still, once you get the hang of it, it isn’t much of a problem. The different camera views can be readjusted to suit your own liking. Overall, I haven’t got much of an issue with the camera or how the matches are presented. What I like was the feature to save replays and share them with other people. This is rather neat and fun to show your friends all your super goals. However due to the poor graphics, the feature is less effective as what it ought to be. Last notable feature is the ability to celebrate after you score a goal. Although the different celebration styles to choose from is limited, I guess it is alright as it doesn’t matter too much.
The only major problem is the AI of the players (both goalkeepers and defenders mainly). Defenders back off from approaching players and seem to like to make last ditch challenges rather than challenging opponents when they are further from the box. It is weird really to see how the defending is done in the game. Sometimes it might cause frustration for there are situations where the ball could have been easily won earlier but your defenders would just keep moving back and back. Another frustrating point to take note is how stupid the goalkeeper is. He positions himself such a way that goals are easily conceded. He also doesn’t seem to know what rushing out is unless the ball is within a radius of whatever they are programmed to see. After playing the game for awhile, you would often realize that to score goals from 40yards is extremely easy. Just aim to either one of the corner of the goal post and shoot. Viola, you scored a spectacular goal. The goal post seems too wide for the goalkeeper’s reach for their dives are often horribly short and useless. Add on their poor positioning and you get the reason why goals are easily scored/conceded.
Other stuff that they have
Gambling is present in the game. Alcohol and drugs as well. Very mild though. Gambling gives you money if you win, alcohol boosts your confidence for a short time, drugs make you feel high and almighty.
For a production that is of lower budget, it is wonderful to see the final product so posh and fine. Call it an indie game if you want but the quality it brings out is absolutely worthy of praise and admiration. I would say to buy it if you like being a soccer player or if you like playing soccer games. This is the best soccer career simulation in the market yet. Yes Fifa 09’s Be a Pro have awesome graphics, but seriously you call that being a pro? Come on man, all you have to do is press next match and play, next match and play, level up and that’s all. Bleh, that is more like Be a Player where you control just one player. Might as well play exhibition mode and just lock yourself to one player. NSS4 definitely provides an ideal gameplay concept for both EA Sports and Konami to follow should they want to go further into career simulation.