If there are two things that Americans love more than most, it would have to be football and extreme violence. The argument could probably be made that football in and of itself is brutal enough to satiate both of these desires, but sometimes you just want to take that action and turn it up to 11. With NFL Blitz long gone from the gaming landscape, there has been a significant hole left vacant. That’s where the newly released Dynasty Edition of Mutant Football League steps in. This is a title that manages to check both boxes, then proceeds to use the survey as toilet paper. This ain’t your Pappy’s gridiron gang, and that is a very good thing. Move over “Monsters of the Midway;” there is a new sheriff in town and he doesn’t take too kindly to strangers. Or friends. Or come to think of it, he pretty much just hates everyone. Luckily, a bad attitude is what helps set it apart from the competition.
It’s on Fire!
It’s been so long since we’ve had the chance to pitch around the pigskin in a way that wasn’t a Madden doppelganger, that playing Mutant Football League almost feels wrong. The last time I experienced the unadulterated bloodlust of arcade football, I was playing one of the Nintendo 64 incarnations of NFL Blitz. That title was the cornerstone of many a wasted weekend during my childhood and directly contributed to an unresolved hatred between my siblings that still simmers to this day. It was fun, it was brutal, and hot damn was it competitive. These are the same vibes that I received playing MFL last weekend.
Without question, one of the main reasons that the game struck such a nostalgic tone was thanks to Tim Kitzrow, triumphantly returning to the VO booth. Known for spewing countless enthusiastic catchphrases for arcade sports titles like NBA Jam or the aforementioned NFL Blitz, not only does he anchor the commentary team, he actually performs 3 separate characters! The primary announcer in MFL essentially takes the character that he played in prior games and performs a parody of himself, who at the time was performing a parody of actual play-by-play commentators. That’s right, Kitzrow managed to accomplish the rarely seen parody-ception. *Cue the loud “WAAAHHHH” tone*
Each of the three voices in the press box bring their own “unique” take on the action. There is a standard, more human-like character that leads the broadcast, along with two other decidedly less-human analysts. You can expect to hear obscenity and innuendo spewing from the speakers at any moment. The first time I heard an unfiltered F-bomb I nearly fell out of my chair. Shock value is real, but unfortunately it has diminishing returns over time. After my third or fourth game the vulgar commentary had become old hat.
The voice-over is easily the most entertaining aspect of MFL. Let that statement sink in for a second. The commentary is the best part of an arcade sports game. Without connecting the dots directly, I’m sure that you should be able to guess that this isn’t a good sign. It’s very obvious that Blitz was one of the development team’s primary inspirations, which is certainly a fantastic jumping off point. It plays like a game of backyard football, if your backyard was somewhere deep in the bowels of a post-apocalyptic hellscape. Random acid pools, hidden land mines, and even sawblades or spikes routinely pop up from underground are scattered all over the AstroTurf. These environmental hazards must be avoided at all costs, unless of course if you want your star player to get inadvertently killed.
Things are Heating Up!
Yes, you read that last sentence correctly. Players can get killed mid-game. Unless you are packing a few extra revives in your first aid kit, death keeps the victim out of action for the remainder of the game. And lord help you if you’re playing in a season or franchise mode, because deaths persist after the final whistle has blown. If your quarterback, “Wham Neutron” or “Nuke Dukem” (actual player names) are the unfortunate recipient of a disembowelment in week one, good luck keeping your season on the rails. Remember to use revives strategically, because they are critical to fielding a competitive squad.
Throughout a game, players will take physical damage, indicated by a power bar above their head. Originally, I thought this was used to indicate how much turbo energy the character had remaining. So, it somewhat goes without saying that my rookie running back had a VERY short career. May he rest in pieces. However, these points are never really explained for those dropping into a quickplay game, so it’s a brutal bit of trial and error before you get the hang of what’s actually going on.
Once again dipping into the design documents of NFL Blitz, MFL has an extremely limited playbook. Unfortunately, it’s rather cumbersome to navigate in the limited time between downs. Instead of paging thought plays three at a time, like most modern sports titles, it instead will only pull in one new play from the right, which shifts all of the other plays one spot to the left. When you are in a race against either the play, or worse yet, the game clock, only being able to page through one play at a time is a gigantic pain in the ass. Maybe this was done in an effort to obscure the limited size of the playbook? Regardless, it’s a time-wasting and seeming unnecessary hurdle that was already perfected over a decade ago.
One last aspect of the experience that wore on me rather quickly were the poor visuals. It’s hard to tell if everything was supposed to appear as muddy as an artistic choice or was simply a byproduct of poorly rendered field and character model textures. Granted, I was playing the game on a launch, non-Pro model PS4, but for things as simple as loading screens to look so pixelated and cut-rate is significantly off-putting.
Criticisms aside, the action on the field was pretty much in-line with what I would hope to find in an arcade football experience. It gives a great first impression that only begins to show rough edges over time. It’s a perfect pick-up-and-play quasi-sport that will certainly scratch the Blitz itch. I fully intend to whip this bad boy out over the holidays, once our children are well out of earshot, and rekindle the brotherly hatred between visiting siblings.
For all it aspires to deliver, Mutant Football League is a refreshingly vulgar, entertaining take on a tried and true football formula. While the gameplay leaves something to be desired as far a depth and mechanics are concerned, the commentary and exaggerated presentation helps sand off some of the rougher edges. Over time, however, the charm will begin to fade, as will its overall appeal. Your mileage may vary, depending upon your maturity level.
Mutant Football League Dynasty Edition review code provided by publisher. Version 1.05 reviewed on a standard PlayStation 4. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy here.