Author’s Note: This one is a little lengthy folks. If you lack the constitution necessary, just scroll on down for a quick wrap-up and the numbers.
Basketball Pro Management 2014 will hit Steam tomorrow (December 12th), and I was able to snag a review copy from Victor Da Costa and his development studio, Umix Studios. The game began as a school project and eventually blossomed into the full release of Basketball Pro Management 2012 in January of 2012. This marks the third installment in the series, and the first to be released to a wide audience via Steam. Victor tells me that he is partnering with his fellow Frenchmen at Cyanide (Blood Bowl, Game of Thrones) to help out with the release.
If this is your first time reading one of my reviews, then hi. My name is Rory, and sports games are my absolute favorite. I also really appreciate the talent and hard work that goes into ALL games. Developers have more talent than I ever will, and I really do hate to say negative things about games. I think it is absolute bullshit (it is just a word, it won’t hurt you) when reviewers say “I always review objectively” or something like that. It is not possible, and even if it were, a completely objective review would be horrible. You wouldn’t be able to compare the game to other games, and you wouldn’t be able to speculate on how it fits or doesn’t fit within its genre. I am certainly taking my love of sports games and basketball in particular with me for this review, but I have to say this very clearly: DO NOT BUY THIS GAME.
Direct enough? I will elaborate.
You may have noticed that I didn’t give you a price point yet, which is game reviewing 101. That’s because I don’t know it. I asked Victor, and he didn’t know it either. He was able to tell me that it will sell for 19.99 € on the official site, and that the price would very likely be $19.99 in America.
THIS GAME IS ABSOLUTELY NOT WORTH THAT PRICE.
The game does have a few strengths, but I can’t in good conscience recommend that anyone, even a major sports fan like myself, shell out more than 10$ for it.
To start us off, here is a gameplay video posted by Umix’s official youtube:
The red and blue numbers represent the players. Like most management games, you don’t actually play the games. You assemble the roster, control substitutions and can change the strategy, but the outcome of the game is largely reliant on a lot of math based on each player’s attributes. Did you guys see Moneyball? You are like Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill. You crank all the numbers and hope for success. This gameplay video is actually one of the stronger parts of the game. The games do flow pretty well. I feel as if my strategy changes make a meaningful impact on the result, and I really like that you can create your own offensive systems.
But there is no getting around the fact that you are not watching a basketball game. You are watching numbers move around. I don’t really mind this that much, but I noticed that most people slammed that aspect of World Basketball Tycoon, a similar title. The main beef I have is with the actual management screen.
Each of the top 4 categories (Manager, Team, League, World) has a drop-down menu. These allow you to tweak all kinds of options related to your players, staff, stadium, budget, etc. There is only one caveat: you will have absolutely no idea how to do any of this. None. There is no tutorial to introduce and familiarize the players with the many features of the game. The tutorial section of the main menu is only for explaining the rules of basketball. There are a lot of little hints that can offer some helpful information, but they can only be seen while playing the game– and you won’t be able to do that until you know how to play. See the problem?
I chose the American College Championship and selected my Fresno State Bulldogs. The game warns you that if you allow all of the championships (35 total) to exist, that loading times would suffer. I figured that I would just let them all exist so that I had a lot of options if I wanted to quit Fresno State.
That was a mistake. I decided to re-create the experience in this video, which also serves the purpose of showcasing the game’s original soundtrack. Open Broadcaster was not getting along with the game at first, but just skip ahead in chunks to get the gist of just how long it takes to create your game.
That has to be a record. The mind-boggling time is no doubt due to the massive scale of the game’s rosters. There are 330 total teams and over 10,000 players in the game. The stadiums for all 330 teams are also correctly identified, and Umix even entered in the proper league presidents. That is very impressive and probably took a lot of work, but at some point (and that point was WAY before a 20+ minute loading time), a developer has to balance out the thorough and extensive database with maximizing load times and game speeds. I am sure that is hard to do on a tight budget, but this is just unacceptable.
Needless to say, I re-created my career and selected only the American championship, which cut the loading time to 4 or 5 minutes. I was greeted with an email to attend a meeting with my board of directors to discuss my club’s budget and goals, but I couldn’t figure out how to do that. I also couldn’t figure out how to sign new players. I could search for them, but I didn’t have any scouts to observe them. I couldn’t figure out how to tweak my staff or budget either. Come to find out, when you select the American University Championship, those features are apparently disabled. I guess this is meant to emulate college basketball’s lack of free agency, but there was no recruitment features either. When I created a pro championship career, I was able to find all of those features after an hour of searching around. This is where a tutorial would have been nice.
I figured it would be important to set my lineup, but the roster screen doesn’t show your players’ attributes. They are all given a star rating of 1-5, but 11 of my 12 players were all 1 star players. How am I supposed to know which 1 star is better? Well, after some trial and error, I found out if you click a player’s name in just the right spot (slightly left of the text) then you can go to his player card and see his statistics. You can also compare him with another player, but it doesn’t show that player’s position, so you basically have to memorize which of your players is a shooting guard, small forward, etc.
Once I finally got that all sorted, I noticed there was a fitness button. I clicked it, and it told me that my players were at 25% fitness (in red) and 100% tiredness (in green). Since green usually means good, I figured it meant “not tiredness” as in “this player is 100% not tired.” I set up individual and group training regiments, which took about 30 minutes, and simulated to the next day. My players then had an 18% fitness rating and 100% tiredness. There was an option to have my assistant coach do the training, so I click that and simulate another day. Now they are at 15% fitness and 100% tiredness. So I say some 4 letter words and just simulate up to my next game (which takes a solid 20 minutes, even with only 1 league selected). Their fitness is now at like -75% (in VERY red). I play the game, and afterwards the players’ fitness and tiredness are both at green 100%. I have no idea how this happened.
These are just some of the adventures I had with the game. Once it is released and the fan base can generate some guides and tutorials, it should get a bit easier to weave your way through it.
To sum it all up for all those TL;DR gamers, the game just isn’t ready to be released. It needs a lengthy tutorial added in, a serious overhaul to reduce the loading times, some visual and sound upgrades, and it even crashed on me a few times while I was simulating in between games. The likely price point of $20 is simply outrageous for what is at best a complicated simulator and at worst a confusing browser game. My suggestion would be to wait a month or two at least before checking up on the game. The die-hard fans will buy it and utilize the forums to report bugs, make suggestions and craft guides. Give Umix a chance to take that money and information and update the game a little. It certainly has potential, but right now it is in pretty bad shape.