Wrong. Football isn't just a sport, but also (or, perhaps, especially) a business. Video games, to date, have focused on these two aspects with either sport or management games, or with titles able to combine both aspects.
But there is a third aspect in football, something so far ignored by the gaming idustry. I'm talking about that aspect that brings football to the tabloids or onto the covers of lifestyle magazines. Gossip, in one word.
Lords of Football, a title developed by Geniaware, is the first game that tries to combine sport, gossip and coaching in one single product. In the game, the player can choose a country and take control of a team. The goal is to lead his club to success, playing the role of coach.
Who controls a football team, however, has nothing to do with the "machines" able to comply with the orders of the coach. The players, in fact, are first and foremost human beings with their own needs, problems and defects.
The adventure begins, of course, on the football field. The coach interacts with his players through an interface that, in some ways, reminds us of the most popular god game. Football players, in fact, may be "taken by the scruff" and thrown (literally) in the gym or on the pitch, to accomplish different tasks.
This is a training system that we've seen in most games dedicated to football management, but here it's staged in a 3D environment. There are the usual interfaces with statistics, numbers and bars, but everything is animated and very, very easygoing.
Apparently, in fact, Lords of Football is a game full of irony, an aspect that transpires predominantly when night falls. When the day ends, for example, the players on our team stop being players and start to be "human beings". They go to a restaurant, to a disco or a pub, they eat, drink and have sex.
In this way the developers have staged the worldly aspect of football that, interestingly, have some major impacts in the gameplay. In addition to the usual statistics (strength, endurance, ability to make shooting and passing, etc.), every man in the field presents the "stats" of a human being: needs and psychology.
At this time the game stops being a football management game and resembles something very similar to The Sims. This aspect is particularly evident in the needs bars, similar to those seen in the popular game by Maxis.
Needs, football attributes and psychological aspects must be balanced: a stressed player wouldn't perform well in the field. Someone too relaxed and devoted to nightlife, however, may become disobedient. A workaholic may have a nervous breakdown, etcetera.
There are various ways to balance these aspects: we can force our players to relax, or force a too relaxed player to train all night, or even punish a rebellious and spoiled player by making him clean the shoes of the whole team.
Lords of Football, of course, is also involved in the sporting aspect of football. Once you have finished your training you can start a match in which the game takes a further transformation.
The developers, in fact, have introduced the possibility to control the players through a system that closely resembles real-time strategy titles. During the course of the match you can pause the game and give some orders to the players. With few mouse clicks and some drag and drops you can literally draw tactics on the field and see your players perform them in real time. You can tell the player in possession of the ball to pass, and you can even tell your forward to aim at a precise point of the goal.
Each of these actions, however, empties an energy bar that can be charged by passively following the game. In this way the player is forced to use this feature wisely and - sometimes - is forced to trust his players, as every good coach would do.
I was genuinely surprised by Lords of Football. Light years away from the solemn management titles in which you also control the economic aspects of your team, Lords of Football is a game that seems to rely on irony, without neglecting the depth of a good, fun simulation.
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