Mutant Football League - XB1 Review

Mutant Football League is crass, silly and stupid fun - but the emphasis there is on fun. More often than not, I enjoyed my time with the game, even though it is light years behind the Madden series on a technical level. So if you are strictly here for the football gameplay, you will probably be disappointed. However, if are more interested in announcers who swear and players who explode, Mutant Football League should be just what you're looking for.

This title is a spiritual successor to the old Mutant League Football, a game that I played a lot on the Sega Genesis when I was younger. That game was built on a pretty current Madden engine, and as a result, it was actually both a pretty proficient game of football but also an irrelevant hoot that made fun of an already violent sport by turning the carnage up to an 11 out of 10 as players regularly killed one another and played in a variety of ridiculous stadiums.

Aesthetically, Mutant Football League really reminds me of Blood Bowl. Chris came in while I was playing a couple of matches and asked me if that was in fact what I was playing. But while the Warhammer themed Blood Bowl titles are based on an old board game and very tactical titles, Mutant Football League is an action arcade sports title through and through. They have a lot of fun with the teams, most of which are based on actual NFL teams. The Hatriots are obviously thinly veiled references to the Patriots - right down to their star QB Bomb Shady and their coach who is willing to cheat to win. Given how thin the references are, I'm almost surprised they could get away with it, but it's hilarious to an NFL fan such as myself. The stadiums are equally silly, with worms that erupt from the ground to eat players, and other obstacles such as landmines and buzz saws flying back and forth to assist in the carnage.

This is evidenced in a variety of ways. The playbook is incredibly simple. There's more plays in a single formation subset in the current version of Madden than perhaps all of the playbook of Mutant Football League. If you obsess over X's and O's and really want to out strategize your opponent, MFL is probably going to leave you wanting. Pass plays are pretty basic, with only a few receivers running about (there are fewer players on the field than a traditional game of football as well). Blocking is pretty trivial as well. Players kind of bump into one another and lock up, but a basic spin move and sprint are your primary techniques to get by the offensive line. I found myself frequently trying to pull off hit sticks and rip techniques from years of Madden muscle memory (say that ten times fast), only to realize that... well, those moves just aren't here.

What is here is a fast-paced title that is more interested in dealing out punishment to players (you can win a game by outscoring your opponent, but at least half of my matches ended due to forfeit because I killed so many players on the other squad that they were incapable of fielding a full team and continuing). To that end, big hits and trick / dirty plays (more on those in a moment) can have a big impact on the game, because if you can wear out a player's health bar - yup, they die right then and there. The graphics are pretty basic, but to its credit the actual visual design is pretty interesting. There is a lot of movement on the field, and the animations are often pretty hilarious. I never felt as though MFL was taxing the Xbox Hardware in any meaningful way, but it looks good enough and gameplay never stuttered and slowed down.

There are quite a few options you can toggle, from the usual items like length of quarter and AI difficulty, to whether you want swearing in your audio, blood and guts and the use of the aforementioned dirty plays. Those are one shot (per half) deals that might make it so you throw an exploding football (so in that case you hope your opponent is ready to intercept it) to a kill the quarterback play (which is exactly what it sounds like - you incur a penalty but your players rush offsides to try and kill the other team's QB before he can panic and run out of bounds to save himself), bribing the referee (who might call back a big play by the other time citing a BS penalty like booger flicking) and more that basically 'breaks' the regular gameplay. They are hilarious, but pretty badly balanced and Chris and I usually left them off for our games. It sucks if one team has a great QB and you decide on play 1 to kill him and take him out. These are funny, and good for AI, but unbalanced as all hell as well.

The audio is generally solid. Chris and I both agreed that the hard rock music was a fantastic fit and just fun to listen to. The announcers are pretty repetitive and sometimes get things on the field wrong (which let's be real - that happens on 'serious sports games' as well). For example I ran out of bounds on a kickoff to spare my poor returner's health, and though he went across the bridge (because there was molten lava there I'd have died in otherwise) untouched, the announcers went on about the hard hit my player had taken.

That being said, the announcers are crass and their commentary is often ridiculous - and both Chris and I found ourselves laughing more often than not. At one point one of the commenters goes on a total rant about Montezuma's Revenge. It goes on for a good thirty nonsensical seconds and we were both laughing and looking at each other like: what is going on? When the announcer is done with his babbling, his partner in the booth simply states: What the f---- are you talking about? The commentary is rude, crude, repetitive, but often hilarious.

In many ways, that last sentence really does summarize the entire Mutant Football League experience. It is shallow (with only a handful of modes, the deepest of which and the one most of the title's achievements are tied to being Season mode), just a few unlockables and gameplay depth that pales compared to most modern sports games. Many sports games suck me in for hours at a time because of their progression elements and variety of gameplay elements. This is a fun, quick pickup and play experience however, and one that works really well with a friend as well. I'd love to see a future iteration that offers more simulation aspects - right down to perhaps running a 'franchise', but that might just be my inner sports geek speaking out of turn. Admittedly that might be a difficult balance to find with everything else MFL currently has to offer. In the meantime, I am enjoying the time I do spend with this title, even if it doesn't glue me to my screen for hours at a time the way a true sports simulation like Madden tends to.

Game Information

Xbox One
Digital Dreams Entertainment LLC
Digital Dreams Entertainment LLC
Single Player
Online Multiplayer
Other Platform(s):
PlayStation 4

Provided by Publisher

Article by Nick


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