With the NFL season now over and attention turning to the impending Draft, you may be forgiven for feeling like there’s a big American Football-sized hole in your life. The good news is that Mutant Football League, a tongue-in-cheek arcade-leaning reincarnation of the old irreverent SEGA Genesis game of a similar name, has touched down just in time to keep you occupied. But does this goofy take on gridiron go the distance like a ballsy Nick Foles trick play – or does it fumble in the fourth quarter like Tom Brady looking long?
For all intents and purposes, this is a stripped-back Madden NFL 18, with the control scheme almost identical to EA’s flagship football franchise. Each team has a unique playbook from which you can select a variety of offensive and defensive plays, and it’s down to you to execute them on the field. Much like the old NFL Blitz titles, aggression is the order of the day, as you’re more likely to find yourself blitzing on defensive plays and throwing the ball on fourth down. In fact, the comical commentary team will even have the cojones to poke fun at you if you opt to punt.
The game keeps its tongue firmly in its cheek throughout. Team names are parodies of their real-life counterparts, like the Killadelphia Evils led by star quarterback Arson Tense and the New Yuck Tyrants who are headed up by MVP receiver O’Hell Wreck’em Jr – neither of whom are injured in this game, fortunately. Matches play out at arenas such as London's Phlegmbley Stadium, which are littered with explosives and other obstacles such as giant sand worms. The twist here is that your roster will diminish quickly, as tackles literally send players six feet under; there’s no need for a concussion protocol here.
Balancing your roster actually becomes a key part of the Season Mode, as running out of quarterbacks will see you forfeit a match. There are ways to resurrect teammates – and you can turn off the whole death mechanic if you prefer – but it all adds to the chaotic nature of the game. Unfortunately, the title can be a little too hectic at times, as bribed referees and dirty tactics add to the insanity of the action. American Football can be a bit haphazard at the best of times, but here it often resembles a mush of character models as you smash buttons hoping to connect a play.
It is genuinely funny, though, with some great lines of dialogue from both the commentators and the star players. Not every gag lands, but the whole thing’s barmy enough to raise a smile, and it’s genuinely entertaining when you pull out a trick play – one that, for instance, arms your running back with a shotgun – to score an important touchdown. It doesn’t necessarily lend itself to competitive play, but this is a party game through and through – and it’s not exactly like the online servers are bustling. Local multiplayer for up to four players should more than suffice.
In terms of presentation, its heavy metal album cover aesthetic will ultimately divide. It’s a bit too grungy for our tastes, but the distinctive design of the various teams – like the Gundam-inspired Tokyo Terminators – will raise a smile. There are a few too many mohawks and hobgoblins for this particular author, but despite running on Unity the title maintains a sturdy 60 frames-per-second, and while the animation work is poor, there’s a good sense of scale to the various stadiums.
Like it or not, Madden NFL 18 is still by far the best American Football game on the PlayStation 4, but if you fancy something a little sillier then Mutant Football League is not a bad shout at all. It plays similarly to the iconic EA series, but its aggressive playbook and irreverent sense of humour make it a fun alternative for a few downs – just don’t expect the appeal to last long into overtime.