For the first few hours, it stands out as a novel football game with wacky violence you won’t find in many sports titles. After playing several games though, it loses some of that luster.
Type: Single-Player, Co-op
Developer: Digital Dreams Ent
Publisher: Digital Dreams Ent
Release date: 31 Oct, 2017
Mutant Football League (MFL) comes as a late successor to a couple of mutant-based sports games released on the Sega Genesis back in the early 90’s. I grew up a Nintendo kid so I never played them, but the idea always seemed interesting to me, as you’d purposely aim to tear your opponents limb from limb. These games were so popular that a cartoon was made, which lasted for 40 episodes, so seeing it return doesn’t seem out of place. Plus, I now get a chance to experience a sports game of such a violent nature, so that’s a win for me. Will the mutants fare as well though?
In spite of coming out decades after the original game, MFL maintains its roots. True, it does benefit from a better user interface, and the perspective has increased so you can see further down field, but they’ve kept the 7 players per team on field mechanic, instead of the usual 11. I’m not sure I understand the aversion to a full-sized team since modern hardware could handle it just fine, but I suppose it’s part of the branding. It wouldn’t be the Mutant league if the teams played by the books though, and I was surprised when I checked the original game and found much of what’s included in this game was available back then. For instance, being able to bribe and kill the ref, calling dirty tricks to kill opposing players, and winning by forfeit if all a teams’ quarterbacks die.
The different modes available in MFL include a Training Camp and Practice Mode so you can learn the basic controls and mechanics of football, which even I already knew about, though it didn’t go into as much detail about the specifics of MFL as I’d have wanted. You can play Exhibition or Online games, which are just one-offs. The Playoffs and Mayhem Bowl have the flair of being the big game, but since there’s not much preamble, it comes off as just another Exhibition match to me. If you have only the normal game, Season Mode would be your chance to select a team to play through several matches, the playoffs, and the Mayhem Bowl, assuming you don’t blow it. This greater sense of investment does have a stronger payoff though, and you can change the settings in-between games. As I was provided with the Dynasty version to review, I had the opportunity to develop a team of my own, building up players who improved with every successful 1st down, touchdown, and quarterback sack. With the budget allotted to me, I had to buy and trade my players, spend money to upgrade their stats, and resurrect them if they died in play. All while staying profitable by winning games, lest I’d be fired.
It isn’t necessary to use a controller, although it is the recommended way to play MFL. With the controls changing between kicking and playing offense vs defense, I won’t break down all of the inputs in the game. Between the Training Camp and being able to check this information from the Pause Menu, it’s not necessary anyways. Either way, aside from some initial confusion, the controls are straightforward enough and work properly.
Although each team riffs on a real-life counterpart, and tends to have some kind of theme, such as Galaxy Chaos being made up of aliens, there’s no story elements to the game. I thought there might have been some in Dynasty Mode, but that isn’t the case either.
MFL has a cartoony art style, which isn’t surprising with the violent antics that take place. Most of the time you’re pulled away from the action, and don’t see the player models or their interactions with one another very closely. However, when you zoom in to watch their celebrations and taunts, the animations look smooth, and the models aren’t too bad. Other parts of the game don’t have as much polish though, such as the audience that you barely see at all, and the field hazards, which look pretty flat.
For the majority of the game, there isn’t any music to listen to. Instead, you’d be listening to the commentary made by the announcers, who do create the feeling of watching the game on Sunday night. However, if you decide to turn it off, there isn’t accompanying background music to bolster your gameplay. The sound effects from tackles have impact to them, but some over the top screams during kills may have been nice. I wasn’t a fan of the crying child sound effect that comes up every so often.
- There’s a wide range of options available: AI difficulty, how quickly the game goes, time limit for each quarter, whether dirty plays are allowed, how brutal attacks are, if players can die permanently, etc.
- Most of the game modes allow you to play with 4 people, though a few, such as online matches, are for 2 people.
- I’m surprised there’s not a highlight reel at the end of games or to showcase the spectacle of killing players. It’s one thing to include such action in a game, but it really would benefit from more razzle dazzle. At most you might see a pile of blood and an arm drop off. Plus, the player who gets the kill doesn’t have blood splatters on his uniform.
- With how much you’d theoretically play this game, across multiple seasons, the announcers’ commentary runs out quickly. It doesn’t take long before they’re repeating the same bits, oftentimes within the same game. You’ll want to turn the volume down on this before long.
- You can’t earn all of the achievements, because they were broken by updates, with no intention of fixing them.
- Even if you get [b]Dynasty Mode[/b], it doesn’t include all of the DLC.
- Field hazards are always on the edges of the field, with a few exceptions, because it would otherwise impede the two teams lining up for the play. Depending on which ones they are, I’ll avoid kicking or returning along the edges, because my AI teammates will be injured or killed. The fire pits aren’t so bad, but landmines and the worms are much worse.
- Whenever the ref calls a bogus penalty against your team, go to the dirty plays and either bribe the ref or kill him. You’ll never be able to score a touchdown otherwise.
- If you reduce how long each quarter is, there will be far less kills in the game, because it takes time to chip away at their health.
Playing MFL has been fun, but it doesn’t take long for the gameplay to feel repetitive. Having only 7 players on the field limits the possible plays you’re able to pull off, so you’ll wind up using plays you have a successful track record with multiple times. Utilizing your dirty tricks for specific situations, clobbering defenseless players in the short duration available to you, and countering a bribed ref immediately as it comes up becomes a routine instead of feeling like the exciting edge otherwise unavailable in other football games. When something occurs every time, it becomes a new norm, and doesn’t have that sense of being exciting.
After dabbling with Dynasty Mode, I’d say it helps provide more motivation and novelty to maintain interest in the game. However, since you don’t create or customize the players design, working with pre-made teams and players, I don’t know that it measures up against other offerings. I recommend MFL, but think the experience would be better if you had someone else joining in.