Frozen Cortex is a futuristic turn based strategy sports game heavily based on American Football. Two teams of five robots on a colorful high technology playing field attempt to run a ball to the enemies’ endzone. To keep it interesting, Cortext allows you to break all the rules and engage in no holds bar violence with the enemy to the point of purposefully causing injuries to give you a temporary advantage.
The graphics and overall style stays interesting in its futuristic premise, as well as offering some great effects to really make those hard hits count. Lots of bright colors highlight all the important bits of the game as you’ll be planning your plays from its top down perspective. The game features a decent electronic soundtrack to go with its future-sports theme.
Unlike most turn-based games where players alternate turns, Cortex turns are executed simultaneously. A turn ends when a ball is caught, intercepted, or in the middle of a long pass. Each game features randomly generated terrain for the stadium that can block movement as well as passes. While the terrain is often not symmetrical, team positions are swapped after every goal is scored to keep it fair, which can allow for plenty of interesting opportunities to make meaningful choices to score a quick goal or stall a match.
While the rules of Cortex are very simple to learn, even without advance knowledge of American football, the tactics involved run incredibly deep. You can simulate the movements of your players as well as your opponent’s before finalizing your turn for submission, but you may not be able to prepare for every contingency. For added depth, you can even set a delay time for each movement point you plot. For example, a player running the ball instead of passing it will not end the turn until a tackle or goal. An open field can cost a match if you attempt an interception instead of anticipating a run for the goal. In addition, since an asymmetrical playing field can offer one team an advantage, a successful goal for the disadvantaged team would give them a strong position.
Running tests on your players’ and opponents’ future actions is extremely simple with Cortex’s interface when played from a top-down perspective. Movement nodes and passes can be plotted and edited with just your mouse. Any chain of orders for a robot can be removed from newest to oldest order with the “delete” button. Players that find it easier to learn from example can find a very succinct tutorial available from the main menu. In short, the lack of hotkeys makes this strategy title very easy to pick up.
The AI opponents in single player are definitely competent. While I can’t speak for most players, I don’t reliably win every game against them just yet. In one instance, an opponent’s robot passed the ball through an extremely narrow gap in the terrain to set up an easy goal. I missed this opening because my simulation of the enemy turn was very cursory. It is very apparent that the AI had calculated many passing vectors. In some cases, the AI will spend a lot of time generating its moves in the background while you make your own. Sometimes, it is still crunching numbers even after you have finalized your turn. Either way, it generally finishes its turn in one or two minutes. The game makes sure to give you a challenge no matter with who you are playing.
Cortex features three commentators with whimsical dialogue and plenty of snarky comments. For example, “this game is closer than an egg and another egg in an egg carton.” Also thankfully there was enough variety to last quite a few hours of continued play before I thought I heard most of it. In single player mode, AI opponents will also speak. The most impressive part of the dialogue is that it will reflect how well a team is performing. Your AI opponent may lament their poor outlook or gloat in anticipation of victory.
On the multiplayer side, multiple modes offer match play with a friend or random opponent. It also features league play that you can set up with several other people. Playing with friends can be very fun as you can customize your team’s name, color, and logo. You can even change the names of each individual robot player.
All in all, while Cortex is certainly a sports game, it is also very much a strategy game. I think the traditionally opposing demographics of sports fans and video gamers will find Frozen Cortex a game they can both agree on. Frozen Cortex is currently available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.