In my 36 years on this planet I have come to a very simple realization: I’m absolutely horrific at sports. I’m big and gangly and my arms and legs never do what I want them to. So when you can’t play sports physically, it makes sense to have a go in the wonderful world we call video games. Which has brought me to another realization: I’m not very good at video game sports, either. All this to say that the review you’re about to read on my time in the Mutant Football League is going to be as hilarious for you to read as it was painful for me to write. Did this ruined my enjoyment of the game? No it bloody hasn’t and I’m about to tell you why.
Mutant Football League is a semi-reboot of a classic Genesis title. It was actually one of the only sport games I had in my collection back then, being one of the few sports video games that I played a lot and actually didn’t completely suck at (after an absolute age of practice). So I obviously had to get my mitts on this 2018 iteration and see if it was worth a punt. Not to mention one of my favorite games of the past few years, Bloodbowl, is essentially MFL except it involves dice rolls instead of real time play. I thought it might be interesting to see how the two compared as they’re both a lot of violent fun and…oh, they’re both spoofs on the same sport: American football.
The first thing I need to tell you is that I know absolutely sod all about American football, other than it’s kinda like our rugby just with more armor. Showing me screen after screen of little colored blobs, crosses and lines isn’t very helpful. I’d much prefer the approach of “pick up the ball and run that way, dummy!” I know where I stand with that.
Between every turn there’s a round of playmaking. This will determine what the rest of your team does and is broken into several types of plays, which differ depending on your team. For a sports fan, this is brilliant as it allows for planning and a certain amount of strategy. For someone like me, it’s a case of push-something-that-looks-clever-and-roll-with-it. I know this isn’t the best way to play, but this kind of tactical thinking requires a different kind of brain power than what I’m used to. I’m playing for the action, so it’s not as important to me personally.
You choose from a bunch of starter teams – with more unlockable ones to come for winning matches – comprised of a mix of mutants, aliens, skeletons, robots and the like. Then you go out in an attempt to play football. As you’re playing a team of psychopaths, it’s sort of a massacre-waiting-to-happen first, sport second. From here, American football rules apply. However, while trying to win the match, you’re also trying not to get killed off by your opponent or obliterated by one of the booby traps on the pitch. Excuse me, field. If any players get offed mid-game (and believe me, they will), they will need resurrecting between matches.
To enhance my chances of winning, I’ve been playing Mutant Football League in season mode. I’ve chosen a team called the Croakland Invaders, which is mostly made up of skeletons. I have to admit I’m not faring very well, but I’m having fun being useless so I’m happy to be left to my own devices. You can also choose to go to the playoffs or jump straight into the Mayhem Bowl dependent on what takes your fancy. There is also the option for online play. I haven’t touched this personally yet. I don’t mind being crap, but I don’t want the rest of the world seeing the train wreck that is my play style.
The last person you want to be in the middle of this mess is the ref.
I have to say, the matches are fast and furious; you really need to be on your toes at all times. Not only do you have to worry about what you’re doing – you know, the running, catching, scoring bit – but also about what your opponent might be up to. And by this I mean not just what plays they might be considering but also whether they’ve smuggled any weaponry onto the field or decided to bribe/kill the ref.
You too have the chance to cause a bit of bloodshed. Some of the dirty tricks at your disposal include the use of a chainsaw, making one of your players really hard to grab by setting them on fire, and running shotgun … with a fully loaded shotgun. You only get so many dirty tricks to employ in each half of the game and when they’re gone they’re gone, so you have to use them sparingly and smartly.
The players have character … when they’re alive.
Different stadiums also offer different obstacles. Once you finally get used to the controls, there’s nothing more entertaining than kicking the ball so the receiver catching it doesn’t see the landmine underneath them. Another favorite was watching a very good run by the other team abruptly ending when the runner didn’t see an incoming buzzsaw. One half of him kept running and the other, not so much. This is obviously a lot more hilarious when it’s not happening to you. But still, really entertaining stuff.
So, let’s get down to the proverbial nuts and bolts shall we? Starting with the controls, you absolutely need a gamepad to play MFL. This isn’t a game that gives you a lot of thinking time, so you need to be on your toes. Considering that you need quick response times, it’s absolutely best for the controls to be at the end of a quick button tap. I still managed to get finger-tied using a pad, so I’d hate to see someone trying to play comfortably using keyboard controls. When you finally get used to the manic pace of the game, the control system feels more intuitive, but it’s hard going at the start.
The graphics in MFL are gorgeous. They have a cartoon feel to them but use a 3D style. This makes everything a bit more grown up, which makes sense as this isn’t a game for kids. It’s all about gore, violence and foul language, and depicting this in the right way is really important. Every stadium looks very different, too; there aren’t any copy + paste levels happening here, which is a total plus.
I don’t usually go too deep into sound design on games. I know some of you absolutely love your soundtracks and music is really important but for me, it either gets on my nerves or it doesn’t. Generally, if I’m noticing things like music and sound effects it’s because they’re annoying me. In this case, I have to say I loved the music; some really good rock bands are playing as part of the score. The sound effects largely come down to the commentary, apart from the basic grunts and thumps. The commentators are hilarious. When you break concentration enough to hear what they’re saying, they’re really witty and thankfully aren’t just repeating the same four of five lines over and over.
Nothing about this game is fair.
All in all, I’m really glad I picked up Mutant Football League. I loved my time with the game even if I did spend a certain amount of it chewing holes in my gamepad with frustration. I can’t and won’t blame the game for this – I’m honestly atrocious. I think I you love sports, especially American football, you’ll love this and can probably add a bit to my score. If you’re like me just give it a go; it’s a massively fun experience no matter your stance on the real life game.
This review is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.
Gameplay - 8/10
Look and Style - 9/10
Sound and effects - 8/10
Replayability - 7/10
Whether you’re a sports fan or sports failure, (like me,) there is so much to like here. For the laughs, the guts and the gore alone this is well worth getting. American Football fans will just see the sports side of it all as a bonus.