GDC 2015: Mutant Football League Preview – Inhuman League
Return with me now, if you will (or can), to the year 1993. Madden NFL was only in its fifth iteration and had limited release across only a couple of platforms. Looking back now, in retrospect, developer EA made a pretty smart move when they decided to use that same game engine to create a more deadly and wacky football game called Mutant League Football.
The game was only released on the Sega Genesis (the PSP got it in 2006) and went on to win Electronic Gaming Monthly’s 1993 Sports Game of the Year and was the top seller for the Sega Genesis system for a month. Not a bad run for an over-the-top Madden-ish clone. It did well enough to warrant a Saturday morning cartoon show (back then all the good cartoons only came on on Saturday mornings), a comic book, a toy line, and a gaming spin-off for the NHL. Not too shabby in a world without social media or the internet as you now know it.
Fast forward to GDC 2015 where Dan and I met with Mutant Football League’s new creative director Michael Mendheim as he showed us the spiritual successor to the wacky and deadly series. The game’s release date is still in discussion, and a publisher hasn’t been tagged, but the new game is aiming for a release date that’s prior to the 2015 NFL Playoffs, which really isn’t that far off.
The first thing I noticed when Michael started playing their pre-alpha code was that it was very similar to the current Madden system of play calling. That’s not a bad thing and would make it very easy for Madden fans to pick up and play, with a similar interface for play calling and play execution. Wait, did I say execution? Ummm…. yeah, the game was different when it came to execution simply because Madden doesn’t have executions, and Mutant Football League gives you a three-second window at the end of a play to try to actually execute folks. Late hit? It wasn’t late, just well timed, and never mind the chainsaw, I was just trying to trim a little off his top.
Chainsaws and bombs are just a couple of useful tricks you’ll have up your sleeve, and you’ll have three of these trick plays to use per half. Just think, if a corner with the skills of say Deion Sanders is killing you with his coverage, call for the bomb trick play and you’ll let this guy intercept your next pass. He won’t be intercepting a football though, as what he does intercept will blow him to smithereens, negating him for the rest of the game and probably ending his MFL career.
It seems like every year a referee acts like he’s in the pocket of some team that is always on the positive side of his bad calls. In the MFL, you can be the guy putting him in your pocket, at least for a down or two until the other team decides to eliminate the problem. Bribing a ref can be done once a half, but so can killing a ref to equal out the situation. It doesn’t take a chainsaw to level the playing field, but that can be an option.
Homefield advantage is always a great thing in the NFL so the MFL decided to take that to a new level. Each of the home stadiums have their own benefits, such as an ice field or a mine field. As the home team, you’ll get to place mines anywhere you want, and can then call plays that will utilize those placed mines. The other team can see the little lights flashing of each mine, but it will be harder for them to call plays that use those well placed mines to their advantage. It’s much easier to run a post route when you know exactly where the mine is, and can cut right before you reach it. If a safety or a corner want to try and run up and bump your man on the route, they may end up bumping into a mine and you’ll have a wide open receiver.
One of the things missing from all Madden games has been the ability to create your own custom plays. While not intended to be a launch feature, MFL wants to give us that feature post launch, possibly as an update or as DLC. Michael walked us through their play creator and it was fairly simple to use for anyone with even a basic knowledge of the NFL. Passing, running, blocking, everything a play designer needs was right there at his fingertips and was as easy as dragging and dropping. Why Madden doesn’t have this feature has always been mind boggling to me, but it’s nice to know someone out there thinks gamers would want it.
Developer Digital Dreams Entertainment has come a long way from 1993’s Mutant League Football and have created what looks to be another worthy franchise for those of you that are looking for either an alternative to Madden, or just looking for a more wacky, inventive football game to play.
With a late 2015 targeted release for Mutant Football League, this is a game that should be on every sports fan’s radar.