Review – Mutant Football League
Since 2005 when the NFL sold their exclusive licensing to EA Sports, there has been a steady decline in quality and quantity for the sport. 2K tried to keep up with their NCAA College Football games, but eventually stopped trying to compete. Even EA Sports themselves cut out their college football game 4 years ago do to a lawsuit for using college players likeness without compensating them. With the Football market in EA’s death grip it’s so refreshing to see Mutant Football League making a comeback. It ushers back in the frantic and over the top action of Midway’s NFL Blitz (which itself took inspiration from the original Mutant League Football in ’93). Accompanied by the amazing voice actor/announcer Tim Kitzrow from NBA Jam, Mutant Football League is not only a massive shot of nostalgia, but is also exactly the game we need right now for the sport of Football.
Mutant Football League is a reboot of the original Mutant League Football back in ’93 created by Michael Mendheim and now he wants to bring it back for a newer generation of gamers who are starved for a good arcade Football game. The original Mutant League Football, published by Sega, actually used Madden ’93s engine and wanted to showcase a different take on Football that resembled more of a war then a sporting competition. Mutant Football League holds true to that different take, and in many ways, delivers in more ways than the original ever could due to hardware limitations. Sporting a fresh coat of paint and adopting an engine and play style that more resembles NFL Blitz; Mutant Football League delivers over the top football action, amazing puns, gore, one liners, and the amazing voice talent of Tim Kitzrow.
Like I mentioned above, Mutant Football League’s (MFL) gameplay resembles NFL Blitz, but obviously has its own style and features. Not only can you do late hits and power bombs, but you can also kill players and even referees if they keep calling bull crap penalties on you. Kill all the players QB’s and they are forced to forfeit the match. MFL also has ‘Dirty Tricks’ to use on either offense or defense and they range from letting your running back carry a pistol to shoot oncoming defenders to the Defense having the ability to go into rage mode or to go offsides and rough up the QB before he can hike the ball. Like mentioned above, yes the refs can call bogus calls against you to help out the losing team, but you can use your ‘Dirty Trick’ and kill the ref and get a new one in there. It’ll cost you a 15 yard penalty, but it’s so worth it.
Besides the ‘Dirty Tricks’ there are also environmental hazards to avoid like spikes, mines, and crazy worm creatures that will pop out of the ground and munch any player near it. Getting hit with one of these as a ball carrier will kill you, which will cause a fumble, so be aware of your surroundings or even use them to bait defenders into them. Of course you can turn off all of this, no deaths, no ‘Dirty Tricks’, no bad ref calls, no traps and the game still holds up as a fun arcade football game. At that point though it feels much more like NFL Blitz with monster and robot skins, which, isn’t entirely terrible. The game modes aren’t vast, but there is enough to keep you hooked. You have the standard ‘Play Now’ mode, ‘Season Mode’ and an online mode to get bloodied up in and all modes are playable with up to 4 players local and online.
Now not everything is perfect as far as gameplay goes; there are some weird instances when a receiver will catch the ball, but he will stop and then run, instead of continuing to run after the catch. There have been times where I’ve caught and ran without the hang-up, but I have been unsuccessful in figuring out the reason as to why it happens sometimes and doesn’t others. Also the hit detection for some of the stiff arms seem weird and sometimes hard to judge since the character models vary in sizes. It seems even a small skeleton has the hitbox of a larger orc character, which makes timing the stiff arms a little wonky. There is also a lack of teams and arenas. While the teams that are there are hilarious puns and spin off’s of a handful of real NFL teams, I wish they included the entire 32 teams along with a few of their own unique teams. Yes, I am sad that the 49ers didn’t make the cut, but I’m not entirely shocked. . .
The graphics aren’t really anything to gawk at, MFL could have easily been a last generation game. The environments and characters in the stands are low quality when you get a closer shot of them. The animations seem a bit stiff and the clipping is major during tackles and when an Ogre is doing the Charleston, but honestly it’s so easily overlooked by the fantastic gameplay. When you catch the ball for a first down and get tackled into a landmine which causes everyone in the area to blow up in a gloriously bloody fashion, you aren’t worried about the pixel count. Luckily this means that the framerate is solid, even during the carnage.
The sound design is absolutely brutal, with heavy crunches and explosions and slimy gore splatters. There’s also a decent rock track that plays behind all of this which sets up the hardcore tone of the game. My main attraction, however, is Tim Kitzrow as the announcer. If you don’t remember his announcing skills from NBA Jam that means you either never played it or weren’t alive when it was released, because no one could forget “BOOMSHAKALAKA!” “Is it the shoes!?” “He just got his degree from dunkin on U” and the classic “He’s on fire!” And yes he is just as brilliant in MFL, but noticeably more mature with his one liners due to the game being rated ‘M’ and not being tied to the actual NFL. For example I was forced to fumble and the lovely Tim Kitzrow exclaimed that “He looked like he was trying to f*@& a greased up monkey!” He also has a couple of silly co-announcers that he often banters with and in one case a dialogue went on for so long and way off topic he ended with “What the f*@& are you talking about?” which had me cracking up and caused me a sack.
MFL is a love letter to a time when sports games could just be fun arcade games instead of trying to be realistic sims with modes that try to nickle and dime you with buying card packs. It’s easy to pick up, no complicated play lists or tackle sticks or wonky physics, just fun gameplay. Whether you’re a football fan or not, MFL is a fantastically fun game that doesn’t require you to have a lot of gaming skill or NFL knowledge to succeed. MFL is exactly the sports game I have been wanting as I’ve been getting tired of the standard EA Sports yearly releases. I highly recommend this game for anyone that is looking for a fun arcade sports game
Reviewed on Xbox One.
Mutant Football League is available now on PC, Xbox One and PS4.
A copy of Mutant Football League was provided by the publisher.