Just imagine: you can barely hear the tens of thousands of supporters chanting your name – the sound your heart beating makes, like the loudest drum in the world, that sound is everything you hear. You are so tired that you can barely stand up, your legs are aching, you have a swollen joint and the ball is all wet and the pitch slippery. You can read the hate in the goalkeeper’s eyes – if you score this penalty, your team wins the World Championship. Your last game as a football player. And you start running towards the ball. Flashbacks start filling your mind: when you first started your career at Ruchdale, when you scored the first goal, won your first award, always kept your chin up, kept training, kept improving your stats, kept dreaming to become a champion. And you strike the ball, and time freezes for a second. Then, pandemonium begins in the stand: the ball hits the net and your team wins the World Cup. You are a champion! Your dream came true!

The story above can be your story. You can write it, live it and alter it as you see fit since New Star Soccer 4 was created and your career as a football player can start now. Forget about PES’ “Be a legend”, forget about FIFA’s “Be a pro” – this game is the real deal when it comes to fully developing your own successful career – from your first steps onto the pitch to the utmost glory. An indie game. A game that you should definitely pay attention to.

Developed by Simon Read, this football (as in soccer) simulation game already reached the fourth iteration and, most likely, you have never heard about it. And that’s quite sad, because this here is a little hidden gem. Not at all perfect, but highly enjoyable, highly addictive and incredibly complex. Here’s the deal: you start as a young football player (or old one if you really want to) that’s going to sign his first pro contract. You create your player first by selecting you appearance and distributing a few attribute points and you’re all set. The rest is up to you. And that’s the most pleasant part.

In NSS4 you can and must do virtually everything a real football player can. For starters, in order to improve your attributes (like shooting, passing, pace, acceleration and so on) you have to train. Buy yourself a treadmill and improve your pace or go to the court and score a few goals to improve your shooting. Play well in the league games and improve your stats even further, have a poor run in the next few matches and the subs bench becomes your friend. Just like in real life: your performance and overall quality are the most important factors and they practically decide your future. However, unlike in real life (I assume), your stats tend to improve a bit too fast. Or I’m just a too damn good player!

Because, after all, everything is not at all as easy as it might sound: you also have a personal life in NSS4! You have to go out with friends, keep things running smoothly with your family, make the fans love you and keep your girlfriend happy. Depending on the status of your personal life, your overall confidence level rises or falls down like a hammer in the swimming pool (and you can also purchase the latter in the game, by the way!). Have a low confidence level and your performance will suffer. Drink too much alcohol to boost up that confidence and you’ll become Maradona’s best friend (or just a regular junkie). You decide which path to follow, but the general rule of thumb is: do a bit of everything and it will all be great.

But building up your attributes and taking care of your personal life are not enough! You also have to impress on court. New Star Soccer 4 comes with a 3D match engine that can be compared with Sensible World of Soccer, but with improved functionality and, of course, visuals. You can only control your player, but there’s a button to call the ball and team mates generally pass the ball towards you, if that’s possible. Although you have no special moves to perform, like dribbles or one-twos, the game still offers a pleasant and fun experience because of a very natural and well done match engine.

Unlike bigger competitors like FIFA and PES where the AI controlled players seem to follow some predefined paths (which in Be a Legend/Pro modes are complete annoyances), in New Star Soccer the match seems to have a more natural flow – there are tons of passes during the match and they appear to have a natural, unpredictable distribution (but not as in random) and players move naturally up and down the pitch and they even become more error prone or they simply play a bit worse if they get really tired. There are also a few problems, since nothing is perfect anyway, like players who refuse to pass back even when they are surrounded by four players or the classic “goalkeepers are kind of stupid” rule in football simulations which means that your long shots will generally have a higher success rate. But none of these are deal breakers and the game really has a nice flow.

Another thing that makes the simulation great is the behavior of the manager, which is very lifelike: if your team is 2 goals behind after 20 minutes of play, the AI manager will change the formation into a more offensive one or, on the contrary, if you only have a one goal lead in the 77th minute, the formation will be changed to a more defensive one. Except for that, managers have their own stats like motivating and tactical knowledge, which influences the flow of things on the court. I can say that the whole game, especially the match simulation feels like a 3D rendered Football Manager match – I have no solid reason to say that, it’s just a strong feeling I have. And since I’m a Football Manager fan myself, I consider this as a great achievement for New Star Soccer 4.

As I said, NSS 4 also brings a “personal life” aspect. Most of it, however, is optional – stuff I generally ignored but others might consider an added source of fun, an easier way to gain more money or just extra bonuses. However, there’s a part that’s not so optional, and I talked about it earlier: your relationships, which should be kept as high as possible.

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