Over two decades ago, Electronic Arts backed a controversial game, stepping away from their usual standard of simulation games, Mutant League Football released in ’93 packed with alien, monsters and robot’s who are more likely to pummel your team into forfeit than win the game by scoring more points, It was a fresh look on the sports genre and over the years titles like NFL Blitz, Red Card Soccer and even EA’s own ‘Street’ series have taken a more arcade approach on delivering those big plays.
Step-forward to 2017 and the Xbox Game preview program is the console starting point for Mutant Football League, the long awaited sequel to the 1993 cult hit, The original creator and lead-designer returns promising all the action from the original modernised and exaggerated for the new game.
Stepping into my first match, I went for the safe option and picked a strong team, using all my knowledge from the recent Madden games I had a solid gameplan, utilising a well balanced team to dispatch passes and runs that will split the defence in two. All went well for the first few down, bar a couple of over-the-top tackles that depleted large chunks of my player health, but then the realisation of how brutal MFL is hit me like a buzz-saw to the groin, after making a great 30 yard cross-field pass, I escaped the clutches of the defender and started on the long journey to the end zone, I could hear American commentary in my head, “He hits the 50, the 40, the 30”, in the euphoric sprint I misjudged the giant buzz-saw and my player was literally chopped to shreds….
Soon afterwards, I’d be attacking once again, sticking with the running game for a few downs, I was taking punishment left, right and centre. So there was little surprise I was informed that my running backs had all been killed and I’d be unable to use running plays, this wasn’t a game my opponents wanted to win, they wanted me to lose by dispatching all of my players one at a time.
As frustrating as it might sound, it was fun, not just making each play, but ensuring I did as much damage as possible to opposition players ensured that there was very little down time between plays.
The more you play Mutant Football League, you’ll get more used to the unique play style, Unlike most sports game, Defence is far more important than attack, because this will give you the opportunity to break apart your opponents team, sure it’s still plenty of fun attacking because that’s where the points are scored, but with most teams unable to survive the inevitable onslaught, It’s not a bad decision to throw away possession and concentrate limiting their players and not their score.
Dirty plays add another dimension, adding shotguns, chainsaws and bombs to your arsenal is sure to help take down your opponents, each team gets a limited selection so there’s an element of tactics choosing what you utilise but if you find yourself in trouble you could always bribe a ref to give you the upper hand.
While the MFL abbreviation, parody player & team names, even the entire general set-up will all point to an American football game, Mutant Football League is happy to be very different, while Blitz kept fairly on-track, the idea of killing enough players to make your opposition forfeit seems to be a much stronger centre of attention than a touchdown or field goal which at times leaves MFL feeling more like a fighting game than a sports title, there’s still American Football at heart but thankfully you won’t need to know every rule in the book to get enjoyment from MFL.
With practice mode giving you the chance to get to grips with things a little more, you’ll find plenty of challenge in online games either against a friend, random opponent or matchmade (with no resurrections). Offline you’ll find play now or Play-offs for a quick fix, or head into Season Mode for the full challenge, allowing you to carry one team through the 15 week season followed by the play-offs, there’s very little going off between games, but it’s great to have a mode with some depth, though I’d be hoping this would be expanded before full release.
Graphically, it’s a little rough around the edges, some of the animations seem limited, but considering it’s a preview program title, being able to run through the goal posts without any collision detection can be forgiven for now, there’s still plenty of detail for many of the players and the numerous deaths your team will suffer, but on certain arenas it can get a little tough to track down all of the action when your players aren’t standing out well against the background, this could have been partly due to the white outfit my team was wearing and the glare-filled lines on the field, so it could have just been my arena but considering this was one of the top teams I expect to be drawn to the action, not distracted from it.
There’s currently no known enhancements for Xbox One X, but I’m secretly hoping for a resolution bump with the full release because as it stands in it’s preview program state, it’s some way behind the screenshots you’ll find for the PC version.
Audio is hit and miss, between the ongoing chatter from the commentary team, and the various bumps and oomphs you’ll encounter on field with arcade inspired music that kicks in between each play everything is on track, unfortunately crowd noise sounds a little bland, especially when compared to the dynamic nature of crowd noise in many other sports titles, and while players and ref’s have lines of text for you to read whenever they want to say something, the rather annoying babble just feels a little cheap.
The overall presentation does feel more of a nod to the arcade era of the 90’s than next-generation modernisation which could certainly use some extra work, It’s quite possible for a game to be ground-breaking and new while still remaining true to it’s predecessor.