Mutant Football League Review: A Hollow Halloween Fumble

The Nintendo Switch is coming up on its two-year anniversary in March 2019. That's a long time for a console to exist without a single American football game. The iconic football series Madden has skipped Switch ports in both its 2018 and 2019 iterations. This is most likely due to the Switch's processing power and graphics being on the lower end for current generation consoles.

Running counter to that theory is the fact that popular soccer (football) game FIFA released FIFA 18 and FIFA 19 on the handheld/home console, giving fans the ability to bring their favorite team on the go. The Switch's versions graphics are noticeably less impressive than the PS4 and Xbox One equivalent, but if the trade-off is portability, then the game is worth noticing. So while football fans may be able to get their kicks on the Switch, where do football fans go for some NFL-inspired action?

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The short answer is Mutant Football League. The slightly longer and more disappointing answer is that fans should continue to wait for a Madden port, or if they're truly desperate, lower their expectations and splurge for a game filled with half-baked ideas and monstrous puns.

Mutant League Football is exactly what it sounds like: a version of football replacing human players with mutants. In addition to the mutants, players on the team's rosters are also werewolves, skeletons, vampires, and other ghastly creatures. It's largely an appearance-based effect, though some stats appear to be affected by "type." The games are faster paced than your typical NFL game with quarters lasting as short as a minute upwards to five. Players will be thankful for the short game time; somehow the gameplay is both monotonous and impossible to follow, and the end couldn't come quickly enough.

Mutant Football League is a port of the Xbox One, PS4, and PC release earlier this year. The game comes from developers Digital Dreams Entertainment, the creators of Mutant League Football, a 1993 Sega Genesis title. After an unsuccessful Kickstarter campaign for $750,000, designer Michael Mendheim funded a second campaign with a less substantial goal of $60,000. The game was made with less content than originally planned, but a recent DLC, the "Dynasty Edition" adds that content back in spades.

Perhaps the game's most positive quality is that it has a surprising amount of replayability. The single-player "Dynasty" mode is complex and layered, there are plenty of customization options for local quick play matches, and online works without a hitch. There are 25 teams, each with a full roster of players; those searching for a horror-themed version of their favorite current player will rejoice.

Mutant Football League follows in the footsteps of its predecessor, adding an element of carnage and mayhem to an otherwise civilized sport. Players face off against enemy teams of AI or their friends in local or online versus and co-op on the football field of battle. Instead of the traditional 11 players, each team has 7 players on the field at a time. The original game was built using the Madden '93 engine, and this release is in that same mold. Simple button presses allow players to switch control of teammates, and to block, tackle, and evade their opponents. The goal is the same in a game of regular, human football: score touchdowns and field goals and end the four quarters with more points than the other team. And that's where the similarities end.

Following a mantra of "just kill it," Mutant Football League takes the rules of the sport and throws them out completely. Here, players can play dirty tricks on their rivals, doing things like bribing or killing the referee, starting a play before the clock, throwing a torpedo ball, and more. It's chaotic, but generally fair. Both teams have equal access to these abilities, so while it may be frustrating, players can always return the evil deeds.

In addition to these plays, the game also allows the players to continue to tackle the opponent after the end of a play (similar to NFL Blitz), resulting in serious injuries and even death. Once a teammate dies, they have to be replaced, and often times games will end with both teams using third string quarterbacks and receivers. And if the players don't kill you, as the game's mantra states, "the field will." The playing field is littered with obstacles from mines to lava. It adds to the chaos and unpredictability.

While the core concept of Mutant Football League is a gory good time, it falls apart in execution. The developers seem to have spent much more time coming up with pun-y names for players like Wham Neutron (Cam Newton) and Bomb Shady (Tom Brady) than they did improving controls and graphics. The game is hard to look at and follow and players move about the screen, lagging behind inputs. The AI is idiotic and difficult, teleporting across the field to get a tackle or running towards nothing in particular. There was a lot of thought put in, just not where it should have been. Developers might have made a good football game first and then built on that foundation. Instead, Mutant Football League gets tiring after a few rounds except to the most devoted of horror-loving football fanatics.

More: Madden 19 is (Mostly) The Best Football Game Yet

Mutant Football League is available now on Nintendo Switch for $30 and Screen Rant was provided a copy for review. It was previously released on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC earlier this year.

Our Rating:

2.5 out of 5 (Fairly Good)
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