While Mode 7 seems to be going out of its way to convince people that Frozen Cortex (formerly Frozen Endzone) isn't a sports game, I can confirm that, as we suspected, the game does contain traces of sports. It should come with a sports warning. May contain sports. Yes, it has robots in it, but those robots are playing sports. I'm no expert in the (aheh) field, but I recognize sport when I see it.
Now, it is a good sports game, if that's your marmalade. It essentially takes the concept of American Football (with a twist of Rugby) and cuts out all the boring bits, leaving only the adrenalin-soaked high points that fill up highlight reels. It's also a great strategy game, streamlining and improving the simultaneous-turn system introduced in (the excellent) Frozen Synapse.
But while Frozen Synapse grabbed me immediately, I'm struggling to get into Cortex. Why? All the sports.
See, for all its UI problems, Synapse spoke a design language I understood perfectly. The interaction between shotguns, assault rifles, sniper rifles and rocket launchers was easy to grasp, because its the same interaction games have been using for years. Football, on the other hand, is a language I don't speak. Synapse was all about lines of potential influence crisscrossing the map (it was rather chess-like when you think about it) which is a very clear, easily understood system. Cortex on the other hand, is all about zones of control and pressure, which feels much muddier and difficult to grasp at a glance. The same goes for the unit design. In Synapse, each unit was clearly designed with a single purpose in mind (those purposes tying into the design language I mentioned earlier), but in Cortex, every robot has half a dozen statistics that govern the effectiveness of its various abilities. This fits into the sports setting perfectly - sports fans are nothing if not obsessed with statistics - but overall, it just feels a lot less elegant.
This isn't a comprehensive review or anything, just a rushed first impression. My time with the game has been limited thanks to my work load, and maybe it'll click after a few more hours, but my initial impression is this: If you like strategy games, then yeah, it's a must buy. If you're looking for more Frozen Synapse, I'd downgrade that to a "maybe."
Note: I dunno' if you guys need the dreaded "disclosure" for some rambling bullshit below a shitty webcomic, but I was given a free copy of the game by the developer after I made a few tweets about the sports angle. At least this proves, at last, that whining on Twitter is an effective use of one's time.