Thursday, February 1, 2018

Mutant Football League Review (XONE)

Take one part NFL Blitz-style football gameplay but make the teams out of skeletons and monsters and mutants, add in tons of blood and gore and violence, toss in famed arcade sports announcer Tim Kitzrow, and you pretty much have Mutant Football League – the spiritual successor to the beloved Mutant League sports games on SEGA Genesis. I’m not going to beat around the bush – Mutant Football League is ridiculously fun. It is so over the top and crazy, but the core football gameplay –with fields covered in land mines and traps and playbooks full of Dirty Tricks that let you kill the ref, drug your opponents, and use weapons – is really genuinely solid and surprisingly strategic. If you’ve grown tired of Madden getting too realistic and boring over the years like I have, Mutant Football League is right up there as one of the best and most fun football games since NFL 2K5. Yeah, I went there. See all of the details in our full Xbox One review of Mutant Football League.

Game Details

  • Publisher: Digital Dreams Entertainment  
  • Developer: Digital Dreams Entertainment
  • ESRB Rating: “M” for Mature
  • Genre: Football
  • Pros: Awesomely fun gameplay; dirty tricks add a ton of strategy; nice presentation; mostly clever puns
  • Cons: A “lot” of forced humor that falls flat
  • MSRP: $20

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I was never a SEGA kid but the siren song of the Mutant League sports games trying to lure me over to the dark side was ever-present throughout my school days. Mutants and monsters and skeletons playing ultra-violent football always definitely sounded like a fun idea yet, somehow, I always resisted. The purpose of this backstory is just to show that I approached the modern re-birth of the franchise, Mutant Football League, with no expectations of what it “should” be based on the past games, but an eagerness to find out what all of the fuss was about and how it has translated from 1993 to 2018.

I’m happy to say that I couldn’t be more pleased with how Mutant Football League has turned out. The teams are made up of parodies and puns based on real NFL teams and players, most of which are actually pretty clever and close enough to be recognizable. For example, the Patriots are now the Nuked London Hatriots and feature players like Bomb Shady and Throb Bronkowski and the Seahawks are the Microhard Mutilators starring Hustle Killsome and Mouthy Sherminator. There are currently 18 (19 counting the Killadelphia Evils being added just in time for the Super Bowl) teams that are all parodies of real teams and players and the developers hope to keep adding more teams so it is only going to keep getting better.

While I like the “extreme” makeover of team and player names, the style of humor doesn’t always work as well in other aspects of the game. The announcing team of Tim Kitzrow and his color commentators rely on sex jokes and innuendo, profanity, and general nonsense (that is repeated way too often) and it just mostly falls flat and isn’t funny. I could also do without the frequent text-only player quotes when someone makes a big play that are similarly full of unfunny puns and nonsense. The game tries so hard to be funny but never really gets past 14-year old potty humor.

Thankfully, the gameplay more than makes up for the annoying attempts at humor. At its core, MFL is exactly like the last NFL Blitz game on PS3 / X360. The same chunky player models, the same simple playbooks, the same simple gameplay, and the same dire defenses. Fun, but undeniably simple. What sets Mutant Football League apart, however, are the teams of monsters and skeletons (obviously), but other things like hazards in the field, dirty plays, and ability to keep pounding on opposing players long after the whistle blows.

You see, Mutant Football League is about more than just playing bog standard football with funny team names. By utilizing dirty plays that let you kill the ref, jump the snap and kill the QB, turn your players gigantic, electrify your players, set your players on fire, and much more – most of which have counter plays the opposing team can do as well –the game has an unexpected level of strategy you won’t find in a normal football game. You can kill players in MFL and they stay dead, so you can actually win games even if you’re getting blown out on the scoreboard by eliminating all of the other team’s key players. That’s awesome and a totally valid way to approach the game. Likewise, you can lose just as easily by not paying close enough attention and losing your players as well. There is a bit of a learning curve to figure out how and when to use particular dirty tricks and other things in the game, but once you do MFL is incredibly fun.

As far as options and modes go, MFL has pretty much everything you’d expect. You can turn off player deaths if you want (and, honestly, the game is still plenty strategic even without also worrying about losing all of your players), set quarter lengths, change difficulty, and all of the other expected arcade sports game options. Modes include standard single game, season, and local and online multiplayer. I also think the 19 teams, with more coming (and other modes potentially being added as well) is plenty for the $20 MSRP.

Presentation-wise, MFL is very solid all around. With decent player models for all of the different types of mutants and monsters, interesting stadium designs, good special effects, and clear and consistent U.I., it is a nice looking game overall. The sound is also good with mostly excellent sound effects and decent music and while I don’t always love what Tim Kitzrow says on commentary, I do love the way he says it.

All in all, Mutant Football League is exactly the sort of over the top arcade-style sports game we’ve been waiting for. (Along with Bush Hockey League but only for multiplayer) The gameplay is very well done arcade-style American football that I have no complaints about, but it is the extra violence and gore and dirty tricks and craziness and extra strategy that comes from being “Mutant Football” that pushes it over the top and makes it something special. Even if you’re not a sports fan you’ll still have a ton of fun with it, too, so I have no qualms about recommending it to just about anyone and everyone (though some folks may not appreciate the humor). It's also plenty fun both solo and in multiplayer. Mutant Football League is awesome. Buy it. 
Disclosure: A review code was provided by the publisher.