Kicks Online is a new and quite different type of MMO coming out from gametribe.com. It is a football (American soccer) game focusing on the player controlling a single character in a 3 on 3, 4 on 4 or 5 on 5 pick-up match. The website is owned and operated by Game Media Networks and will function as a portal to the games they are offering.
The premise of Kicks Online is very unique. As of this day there have been no similar games released and only a handful of sports MMOs so far for English speaking audiences. When starting the game you get to create an avatar that is well generic. Most people will look alike when starting, but they designed it this way for a reason. Once you actually start playing you will earn experience and points that can be spent buying new skills, goal celebrations, clothing, and more. I also expect that there will be an item mall available for players to purchase unique clothing and celebrations to really stand out, but I have no confirmation of that yet.
The graphics of the game are pretty standard as far as free MMOs go. While not cutting edge, they are around late Playstation 2 quality. The players are smooth, but occasionally there is some choppiness and frame skipping when the player count goes up. To be honest, 4 on 4 matches are the best in terms of performance. There is a decent selection of fields that end up being the same since it tries to be a realistic football game. Along with a selection of fields, there are a variety of styles of balls to be chosen, though this has no effect on gameplay either.
The sound of the game was a bit of a let-down. At first the music going on the character selection screen and in-game is catchy, though it quickly gets annoying. I can appreciate the fact the developers chose to focus on the gameplay rather than the music, but a little bit more attention would have gone a long way into sucking players into the game. The sound effects in the game are all pretty much what you would expect from a football game, with whistles starting play and signaling the end of the match, grunts, and thuds as you kick the ball. There is nothing to write home about unfortunately.
One area Kicks Online shines at though is the gameplay. I think they were striving for a combination of a simulation-type and an arcade style game. While there are no crazy power-ups or patches of quicksand like you would expect in an arcade style game, they removed all penalties which allows players to be off-sides and tackle to their hearts content. Goalkeepers can be played either by players or by the computer which will give players the opportunity to play whatever position they want without worrying about having to go back and tend the goal if they do not want to. With their skill shop, you are able to be extra skills like the scissors kick, better known as a bicycle kick to American players. One thing I wish though was for instructions on how to pull off these moves.
Due to the fact that the game was in closed beta, I did not get the opportunity to play very many matches against players. However, they have a practice mode which is good for getting a feel for the game and focusing on shooting. Since this is an MMO, you can expect patches to come out and address many of the negative points I brought up, along with more good things that players will love. By the time this is out the game should be in open beta and I recommend it to anyone who likes sports games in general or am just looking for something a bit off the beaten trail.