Back in 1993, Mutant League Football served as EA’s repugnant and ultra-violent alternative to its Madden series, offering a game of football (and let’s not forget Mutant League Hockey) with a dash of homicidal mayhem in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. But then the series folded, leading fans (and the folks at 30 For Nerdy) to wonder where the Mutant League went. Now the team at Digital Dreams Entertainment have revived the series as Mutant Football League and stayed true to the franchise’s roots while ramping up the depravity in accordance with a more desensitized current culture.
What I Like
- All The Bloody Mayhem – It wouldn’t be the Mutant League without bodies being crushed and bones being pulverized, and Mutant Football League definitely delivers on that front. Offensive players aren’t so much tackled as they are thrown disdainfully to the ground (and forget about any forward progress in this league), leaving them vulnerable then to random kicks and blows after the whistle while lying on the ground. All stadiums present their own obstacles as well, complete with razor-sharp moving saws and pits of fire on the field.
- “Trick” Plays – Much of the heavier bloodshed, though, happens when employing dirty tactics whether on offense or defense. There are a large variety of these types of plays and many of them are pretty creative, from a shotgun formation resulting in the quarterback literally wielding a shotgun and mowing defenders down to super speed or strength to making a poor ball-carrier stumble around as if he were drunk. And of course, there’s the return of the old favorite play of bribing the ref, which inevitably leads to your opponent killing that ref and him having to be replaced by a new ref, allowing the cycle to repeat itself.
- The Humor – Admittedly, it’s not as if the original game showcased the most sophisticated sense of humor but it’s nice to see this new one at least relying on the same juvenile sensibilities. With all of the mutants’ names being some sort of morbid rearrangement of real players’ names, there are bound to be those that inherently lend themselves to this process better (Dion Lewis = Neon Spewis) than others (Nick Foles = Sick Souls), so mileage may vary depending on your own tastes. The commentary is a nice touch that the original was lacking, inserting some funny lines into the action at appropriate times.
- Arcade Gameplay – For anyone who’s accustomed to playing Madden (especially on Competitive or Simulation mode), it might take a little while to get used to the arcade style of Mutant Football League, especially at a default speed (which can be adjusted) that will often see any blitzing defenders on top of your quarterback in a heartbeat. It helps that many of the controls appear have been borrowed from Madden, making for a pretty lenient learning curve. Before long, the speed and simplicity begin to grow on you and create a refreshing alternative to the overwhelming complexities of Madden.
- Graphics – The best thing going for the game from a visual standpoint is that it looks really good when compared with the 16-bit version from the ’90s. It may not have the level of detail and breadth of animations as a modern Madden game, but it should hardly be expected to compete with such an established franchise. The player models showcase some nice variety across the mutant spectrum (teams include robots, orcs, aliens and skeletons) and are much bigger and bulkier than the ones from the original. In addition, the environments of the stadiums are designed with a lot of imagination and are quite convincing as the kinds of places you would expect mutant football games to be held.
What I Didn’t Like
- Online Play – The sad fact is that it was absolutely impossible to find an opponent online to play against. While it may be nice to go head-to-head against a friend, don’t expect the game’s matchmaking to yield any results, which is probably simply due to not enough players being online than any sort of limitations the game has in setting up these games.
- Defense – Unfortunately, the game is simply a lot more fun on the offensive side than it is on the defensive side of things, as the game too often becomes frustrating or boring when trying to stop the offense from scoring. This is partly due to a lack of nuance in the defensive controls, which is especially evident when you’re trying to break free from a block or defend a pass, where flinging your player into the air and hoping the ball hits you often seems to be the only option. Also, unless you call the right dirty tactic to combat the offense’s one, you can often be rendered awfully helpless against their overpowered trick play.
- Halftime Mini-Game – I suppose it could be construed as nitpicking to complain about a small mini-game that breaks up the football action at halftime, but it’s just not very enjoyable and doesn’t really seem to fit with the whole mutants and football aesthetic. The game sees you racing around trying to shoot and avoid zombies from an overhead view, though this doesn’t typically last too long, which is fine since you probably won’t really want it to anyway. To be honest, the whole thing seems as if it was an entirely different game that was then shoehorned in as the halftime entertainment to this one.
- Replay Value – Sure, it’s fun to engage in bloody combat for a little while, but once you’ve seen all of the different dirty tactics that can be used and straight-up murdered a bunch of players, there’s not really a whole lot to keep you coming back for more. While there’s a season mode that allows you to play through your team’s schedule and compete for the title of Mayhem Bowl champions, there’s also a good chance that you won’t be invested enough to see things all the way through to that point.
For anyone who enjoyed the original Mutant Football League, it’s safe to say they will have quite a bit of fun and experience a healthy amount of nostalgia while playing the revamped Mutant Football League. Newcomers to this crazy mutant-filled post-apocalyptic wasteland may find the whole thing a little but harder to get into, depending on their own particular taste for bloodshed and lowbrow humor. For either audience, the enjoyment will likely be rather short-lived as the game’s gruesome charms tend to produce diminishing returns.