Mutant League Football 2018 Xbox One Review
Humorous and twisted take on the football sim
Revives the cult classic in a way fans and newcomers should appreciate
No tutorial so hard to understand how the critical “dirty tricks” element works
High difficulty AI is unfair and frustrating
Giving New Meaning to a Shotgun Offense
Originally released on the Sega Genesis in 1993 and published by EA, Mutant League Football became a fan favorite thanks to the ridiculous premise of skeletons and ghouls literally killing each other during a game of football. Now, revived thanks to a successful kickstarter campaign, Mutant League Football 2018 has been remade on new gen consoles and PC with a budget price of $20.
Fans will be pleased to know that the original creator worked on this resurrection and it shows. The gameplay elements and stand-out flare of the original have been implemented while updated to modern gameplay standards. Mutant League Football 2018 is essentially a brand new NFL Blitz only with more violence and quirky roster of players as opposed to hosting the official NFL license. Not that simulation football fans won’t enjoy MLF but non-sports players should still get a kick from playing an occasional exhibition match over a more serious game of Madden.
Even though this is not an officially licensed NFL game, MLF parodies the league and is humorously self-aware. Both teams and player names are recognizable callouts to real world, current players and locations. Unfortunately, player stats do not seem to have any major influence on gameplay as players will catch, fumble, and intercept the ball no better or worse than anyone else. However, it is important to highlight the high level, and often unfair, level of difficulty contained by the computer AI. Originally playing on the medium difficulty, I ruthlessly got my destroyed, both literally and through the computer’s high score. It wasn’t until I played on the lowest setting did I start to win some games, make some big plays, and actually put points on the board.
One gimmick with MLF is the ability to pull off “dirty tricks.” These limited maneuvers allow the player to gain a tremendous boost of speed, pull out a shotgun and kill players on the field, and bribe the ref. Bribing the ref is the most unfair as the ref will call stupid penalties, like picking boogers out your nose, to purposely pull back a touchdown. The only way to remove this bribe is to kill the ref during a play or bribe him yourself. While this is humorous and adds a layer of strategy to the gameplay, the game never informs the player how (or even why) to perform any of these actions. Because these are specific and unique actions, the game ultimately suffers from a lack of tutorial or even a decent Help menu. In this case, trial and error is rather frustrating and will most likely cost the player a few games.
Besides outscoring the opponent, there is another way to win in MFL – kill the opposing players until they cannot fill a full roster. If a player takes too much damage, or steps on a trap like a buzz saw, spikes, land mines, or gets eaten by man-eating worms, they will literally die. If too many players die, especially the quarterbacks, the dead team will be forced to forfeit and will walk away with an “L” even if they were carrying the higher score. Remember the late hits in NFL Blitz? Well are more important than ever and pretty much required as each hit drains a portion of health from the opponent. Each player has a health bar, like in most RPGs, and can visually see it drain with each passing hit. Some attacks even result in one-hit kills like the shotgun dirty trick or jumping into a bed of spikes so care must be taken to ensure survival. It is an interesting mechanic that really separates this game from the rest.
All the expected features are here such as local and online multiplayer, exhibition and season modes, and with options to adjust such as turning on/off the dirty tricks technique. The original NBA Jam, NFL Blitz, and NHL Hitz commentator Tim Kitzrow (“he’s on fire!”) has provided his legendary commentary to this reboot and does add to the overall personality of the gameplay. However, Kitzrow’s counterpart sounds like a whiny Italian mobster who comes across as more annoying than entertaining. You can’t even understand what he is saying half the time.
Mutant League Football lacks polish in comparison to a full retail release but still offers entertainment value especially considering the budget friendly cost. The brutal carnage, adult humor, and overall gore is more suited to the young audience that played the original and is now in their 30s or 40s. The unfortunate learning curve of the dirty tricks mechanic takes time to fully understand, holding this title back from being an easy pick-up-and-play arcadey sports-sim. But once the frustrating trial games are under your belt, this is probably the new Blitz you have been patiently waiting to play.
Not As Good As: playing 4-player Blitz in the Arcade your friends
Not To Be Confused With: Bloodbowl
Also Try: Tecmo Bowl Throwback